Nowadays, xenon therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat drug addiction, alcoholism, psychological and neurological disorders.
Xenon (Xe) is inert gas found in the oxygen you breathe every day. It cannot be bio transformed, but because it is slightly soluble in body fluids, it can be rapidly eliminated through the lungs. Xenon is an inert gas, and doesn’t possess toxic buildup in the body. Xenon’s narcotic affinity was discovered in 1946, and it was used in the field of anesthesiology for the first time in 1951. However, the mechanisms of its narcotic effect have not been thoroughly studied until recently.
Xenon’s Effectiveness as an Anesthetic
Several theories regarding xenon as anesthesia abound. According to the Meyer-Overton Lipid Theory of anesthesia, xenon acts as a hypnotic by inhibiting excitability in cellular membranes. The Polling Molecular Anesthesia Theory supposes that xenon forms microcrystals in nervous tissue, which helps to block synaptic transmission. Miller’s Theory suggests the possibility of dipole formation, which slows down cell’s excitability due to membrane stabilization. Currently, the predominant theory is that anesthetics interact with specific proteins, in particular with receptors and ion channels, but not with lipids.
As for the analgesic effect of xenon, research has proposed that the analgesic action is realized not through the opiate system, but that xenon affects mostly the postsynaptic membrane. Xenon is an antagonist of NMDA-receptors and is believed to inhibit the hyperactivity of neurons.
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Postsynaptic NMDA-receptors take part in memory formation and study processes, and may be involved in acute and chronic neurological disorders, psychological diseases, and realization of pathological pain syndrome. These receptors also take part in formation of Psychoactive Substances (PAS) addiction. Therefore, the usage of xenon in anti-PAS addiction therapy and for relief of abstinence is pathogenically justified.
Research on the influence of xenon on neuro-endocrine systems reveal that xenon inhibits both parasympathetic transmission and, largely, sympathetic peripheral neurotransmission, which allows us to call xenon a relative vagotonic (its able to reduce the heart rate to 55-60 beats per minute). It has been proven that different concentrations of xenon do not change the level of dopamine and norepinephrine in blood, although it does lower adrenaline levels. In below- narcotic concentrations, xenon also lowers the level of hydrocortisone in plasma and improves insulin production. According to some researchers, xenon increases the index of growth hormone/cortisol and reduces the adrenocorticotropic hormone/growth hormone, which proves the relevance of anabolic effects on organisms, but it doesn’t influence the level of TSH and thyroid hormones.
Xenon Usage Then and Now
In the past 30 years, xenon gas has been actively used as an inhalation anesthetic. Despite its high cost, xenon is an ‘ideal’ means for anesthesia, for it’s not only harmless to the brain and organism as a whole, but also shows pronounced neuro-protective and neurotropic properties. In surgery, xenon anesthesia is applied to the most difficult, urgent conditions such as surgeries on pregnant women, child operations (including newborns), to the treatment of expressed pain syndrome
Xenon inhalations cut pain quickly, eliminate anxiety, relieve symptoms of acute stress, and improve perception and memory. Identification of these effects triggered active scientific research in order to study all medical qualities of xenon, and the possibilities of its usage in drug and alcohol abuse treatment, psychology, neurology and other related fields.
As a result, extensive scientific and practical materials have accumulated in the last 10-15 years. Various techniques of xenon therapy were worked out and recommended for clinical applications in the following scenarios:
a) The application of xenon to relieve symptoms of acute abstinence by those addicted to various drugs and alcohol.
According to modern beliefs about pathogenesis of dependencies, one of the main roles is assigned receptors in the brain that play a crucial role in the development of cravings. Excessive stimulation of these receptors triggers cell death resulting in chronic depression, apathy, reduced mental capacity, and degradation of the individual.
Xenon possesses great abilities to interact with these receptors, and can exert a regulatory influence on them. Clinically, it’s been shown to provide rapid and safe relief of craving for the drug, relief of manifestations of abstinence, rapid recovery of mental abilities, better sleep, and disappearance of depression. Therefore, xenon therapy is one of the most important components in the treatment of drug abuse and alcoholism.
b) Relief of acute anxiety and panic.
Another very important property of xenon is its ability to relieve acute anxiety, panic, and emotional excitement. One of the important advantages of xenon in contrast with medicinal therapy is the speed of its anti-anxiety effects, the absence of sedation, improvement of cognitive functions, maintaining a clear conscience.
c) Depression treatment.
Xenon therapy of depression and emotional surges is a new and promising direction. Inhalation of xenon includes reduction of stress hormone level and the creation of physiological conditions for the rapid relief of depressive syndrome, which lessens the pharmacological load of the body.
d) Restoration of brain function.
Xenon therapy is successfully used for the treatment of organic brain lesions and their consequences, such as the effects of the TBI (traumatic brain injury), post-stroke conditions, ischemic injuries, and toxic damage caused by the opiates, amphetamines, methamphetamines, alcohol and other psychoactive substances.
Presently, xenon is a promising medicine and studies are under way regarding the application of xenon to very different pathologies and conditions. Licenses have already been received on its appliance in psychiatry, drug addiction treatment, neurology, cardiology, surgery, regenerative medicine. The relatively high cost of the medication is compensated by its versatility and almost absolute safety.