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Research finds Botox may help people with anxiety

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talented cosmetologist in white uniform going to perform botox injection in the clinic. close up portrait, studio shot, skin, health, face care

By Georgia Lambert via SWNS

As well as smoothing out wrinkles, Botox injections may help people who have anxiety, according to new research.

Botox, or Botulinum toxin, is a medication derived from a bacterial toxin that is known for easing signs of aging, migraines, muscle spasms, excessive sweating, and incontinence.

Adding to its long list of benefits, researchers from the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, have worked together with two German physicians to find a new use for the popular drug.

The team used the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)'s Adverse Effect Reporting System (FAERS) database, to find out what effects Botox had on nearly 40,000 people who had received treatment using the drug for different reasons.

The study found that the people who had received Botox injections in four different places - not just in the forehead - reported suffering from anxiety less often than patients undergoing different treatments for the same conditions.


Dr. Ruben Abagyan, a professor of pharmacy, was the lead author of the study and said: “A large number of diverse adverse effects are being reported to the FDA and the main objective usually is to find those harmful side effects that had not been identified during clinical trials.

“However, our idea was different. Why don’t we do the opposite? Why don’t we find beneficial effects?”

Dr. Abagyan and his team scoured the database for the absence or reduced frequency of anxiety and anxiety-related disorders as a health complaint.

They then compared their findings to a control group when taking Botox.

The team then applied a mathematical algorithm to look for statistically significant differences between Botox users and patients who received different treatments for the same conditions.

What they found was that the reported anxiety risk was 22 to 72 percent lower in Botox-treated patients for four of eight conditions and injection sites.

According to Dr. Abagyan, these sites included the facial muscles for cosmetic use, the face and head muscles for migraine, the upper and lower limbs for spasms and spasticity, and finally, the neck muscles for torticollis.

According to the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, anxiety disorders are the most common class of psychiatric disorders, and about 32 percent of the US population are affected by anxiety at some point in their lives.

While in any given week in the UK, Mind found that generalized anxiety disorder affects every six in 100 people.

Although the disorder is common, the treatments are not always accessible, which is why clinicians and researchers are seeking to explore other therapeutic options.

However, the data used in this study was not collected for the purpose of exploring the association between Botox use and anxiety exclusively and the FAERS data represents only the subset of Botox users who experienced negative side effects.

The researchers also excluded reports in which a person was also taking antidepressants and they admit that other prescriptions and over-the-counter medications could have been underreported in some cases.

It is not the first time Dr. Abagyan has stumbled upon a finding like this one.

In July 2020, he and his team published a similar study that used the same database and they found that people who received Botox injections reported depression significantly less often than patients undergoing different treatments for the same conditions.

Both of the studies found a decrease in reported symptoms regardless of the injection site but the researchers believe the specific molecular mechanisms by which Botox reduces depression and anxiety — while not known — may be different.

Dr. Abagyan said: “They may be related, but there are different pathways responsible for anxiety attacks versus depression."

Dr. Abagyan and his researchers have given thought to what could be behind the anxiety and depression-reducing effects.

Firstly, the botulinum toxins could be transported to the regions of the central nervous systems involved in mood and emotions.

Alternatively, the Botox-affected neuromuscular junctions could directly communicate with the brain.

And finally, the researchers think that since Botox is commonly used to treat chronic conditions that may contribute to anxiety, its success in relieving the underlying problem may indirectly also relieve anxiety.

For now, more research is needed to determine which mechanism is responsible for reducing anxiety and Dr. Abagyan has confirmed that clinical trials will be necessary to work out where the best injection site would be and what dose to administer specifically for anxiety.

The study's findings were published in the Scientific Reports journal.

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