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Botox is commonly used to hide the signs of aging, but Dr. Eric Finzi, a dermatological surgeon is using it to treat his patients with depression.
"This has been replicated in Germany, in Texas and here in Maryland, so there's actually quite a bit of published data," Finzi said.
Finzi hopes that data will soon help Botox for depression gain FDA approval, which could take years. He said he's seen Botox dramatically improve anxiety and depression in some patients, but he's not sure why.
"No one's sure about the exact mechanism but we have some pretty good ideas," Finzi said. "What the Botox is doing is sending this signal to your brain saying, 'hey you haven't frowned in the last month, life must be pretty good.'"
When you're sad, you generate an facial expression. That expression tells the brain you're not happy and can prolong feelings of depression, anxiety or sadness. Finzi said the idea is to stop those muscles from creating the sad expression and Botox does just that by paralyzing the frown muscles.
"When you frown, that sends a signal back to your brain saying hello you're not feeling too well, you're mad at something," he said.
Finzi also points out that while using Botox to treat depression is a relatively new theory, the popular looks-enhancing drug also successfully treats other diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, cerebral palsy and migraine headaches.
He hopes depression will soon be added to that list, a disease he says is crippling millions.
"Although there's a lot of treatments for depression and drugs, at least half of all people who try the conventional therapies are still depressed," Finzi said.
Chris Raimondi is one of Finzi's patients. He suffers with dysthymia, a severe and long lasting form of depression.
"I've tried pretty much any pharmacological treatment, I've tried therapy, I've probably been on every major class of anti-depressant," Raimondi said.
It was never enough.
"I guess I've been on somewhere between 20 and 30 different anti-depressants," he said. "I've tried fish oil, I've had my DNA. It's you know, frustrating. You kind of feel hopeless and you every once in awhile get on Google and search in desperation for what else could be out there."
Then Raimondi found Finzi's research online.
"It's one of the only options that has some science behind it for people who've tried drugs," Raimondi said.
Using Botox doesn't mean you wont feel sad, anxious, depressed or mad, the Bortox simply prohibits the face from making those expressions that tell the brain you're unhappy.
"You will get angry, but what I've observed is that the anger doesn't seem to last quiet as long," said Finzi.
But Finzi says like everything else, it doesn't work for everyone.
"There's no guarantee it's going to help," Finzi said. "But if you're suffering and you've tried regular, standard therapies, my feeling is it's an off label therapy, what do you have to lose?"
Finzi has faced his share of skepticism and encourages patients to consult other doctors before considering the treatment.
"Tell your psychiatrist, tell your family doctor, internist, what you're doing and have just go online and Google the latest research," he said.
One advantage to Botox is the lack of side effects and the convenience.
"Like anything else, everything has a side effect but in terms of side effects Botox is extremely well tolerated and where we're using it the dosage," said Finzi.
And while Botox may not be the miracle cure he's searched so long to find, he says it's definitely improve his quality of life.
"For me it hasn't been a cure but it's been a tool that helps me go on. I expect to always have depression, I'm not expecting to be happy, I just want to be content and i think this will help me do that," Raimondi said.