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New Drug Helps to Dampen Bad Memories

ScuttleMonkey posted about 7 years ago | from the reset-button dept.

Biotech 255

wile_e_wonka writes to tell us Researchers at Harvard and the Montreal-based McGill University are working on a drug that would allow psychiatrists to dampen painful memories in their patients when combined with therapy. "They treated 19 accident or rape victims for ten days, during which the patients were asked to describe their memories of the traumatic event that had happened 10 years earlier. Some patients were given the drug, which is also used to treat amnesia, while others were given a placebo. A week later, they found that patients given the drug showed fewer signs of stress when recalling their trauma."

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255 comments

Would this be the formula? (4, Funny)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | about 7 years ago | (#19744849)

Would this be the formula: CnH2n+1OH? At least it seems to be popular for dampening memories.

Re:Would this be the formula? (1)

Timesprout (579035) | about 7 years ago | (#19744857)

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, its all coming back to me nowwwwww!!

Re:Would this be the formula? (2, Informative)

bl8n8r (649187) | about 7 years ago | (#19744911)

> Would this be the formula: CnH2n+1OH?

acylic alcohol: http://alcohol.alto-infotech.com/ [alto-infotech.com]

I'd prefer a nice fat marley.. no hangover. Natural too.

Has "soma" been trademarked? (1)

baomike (143457) | about 7 years ago | (#19745015)

eom

Re:Would this be the formula? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745197)

depends on which alcohol you plan on drinking:
Methanol [blindness]
Ethanol
Propanol[toxic]
Butanol[tox ic]
ethanol is the only relatively safe alcohol since it metabolizes into acetylaldehyde then to acetic acid while methanol goes to formaldehyde [embalming fluid] and finally formic acid [formic meaning from ant, found in fire ant venom] the others either dont metabolize or become quite toxic.

Re:Would this be the formula? (2, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | about 7 years ago | (#19745223)

There's also the generics' formula, Cr4+Ck

60 Minutes piece (4, Informative)

artemis67 (93453) | about 7 years ago | (#19745245)

60 Minutes did a report on a drug (Propranolol) that has a similar effect, and is already available on the market (to treat a different symptom). What was interesting about the report was the relationship between adrenaline and the formation of memories; i.e., the bigger the adrenaline surge, the more powerful the memory that is created.

Here's the whole segment, chopped up into bite-sized morsels:

The Memory Pill [yahoo.com]

I presume it also reduces Déja Vu experiences (4, Informative)

ardle (523599) | about 7 years ago | (#19745681)

I'm not surprised that the drug described in the 60 Minutes show had similar effects; it's the same drug! [209.85.135.104]

FTFA (first sentence in second paragraph):

In a new study, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, the drug propranolol is used along with therapy to "dampen" memories of trauma victims.

Here's a Slashdot discussion on it from Jan 2006 [nyud.net]
And here's the most useful post from that discussion [slashdot.org]

Re:Would this be the formula? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745565)

For those who don't get it this is the general formula for alcohol: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol [wikipedia.org]

You don't look too happy... (1, Insightful)

joto (134244) | about 7 years ago | (#19744851)

Would you like a drug?

Re:You don't look too happy... (1)

Ed_1024 (744566) | about 7 years ago | (#19745097)

Well, it sounds like Rohypnol, only for the day after...

Re:You don't look too happy... (1)

sleigher (961421) | about 7 years ago | (#19745107)

So when people self medicate to forget painful events they are considered abusers ( alcohol / drugs ). But if the researchers give you something that does the same thing it is good? How's that?

Re:You don't look too happy... (2, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | about 7 years ago | (#19745341)

Self-medication is done without training or regard for potential damaging side effects. Self-medication with alcohol and other narcotics also generally has a social impact as well as a negative impact on the user's own life.

When a trained medical professional prescribes a drug, you have to assume that the drug itself has been through a rigorous testing and approval process, that the medic is well-trained and completely aware of what they're doing, etc. (I know that's not always the case, but it's far more likely than in the self-medication scenario)

Basically, if you self-medicate, especially with alcohol or narcotics, you're far more likely to fuck up than if you take a prescribed drug.

Re:You don't look too happy... (1)

sleigher (961421) | about 7 years ago | (#19745417)

I am not referring to long term self medication. When my dog died last week I drank whiskey and beer to help me deal with the loss of my best friend. The amount of alcohol that I drank would have put me in the binge drinking category and would probably have psychologists saying I have an alcohol problem. I don't have an alcohol problem. I agree with you that self medication is rarely if ever the right thing to do because of the risk of fucking up. However I do think that it's funny to have a doctor help you suppress stress and other emotions with a drug from a pharmaceutical company but say it is not ok to do the same thing yourself with alcohol. Put the risk of dependence and abuse aside.

Re:You don't look too happy... (1)

hedwards (940851) | about 7 years ago | (#19745451)

I wouldn't necessarily go so far as to suggest that trained professionals really understand the consequences of this type of treatment. Screwing with memory is an inherently risky business, one which should only be undertaken in the most severe of occasions. We already have therapeutic techniques which allow for the effective treatment of PTSD, and more recently a bump in the effectiveness and practicality of exposure therapies. This drug basically serves no meaningful purpose beyond the lining of the pharmaceutical corporations pocket books.

Treatments available currently are slow, but they are known to be both safe and effective. Utilizing the natural processes already built in by design to correct the underlying dysfunction. Using drugs whether legally prescribed medications or illicit drugs is not something which promotes self awareness, nor does it teach an individual how to cope with sudden resurgences of symptoms and ways of avoiding similar problems in the future.

Most psychiatric medications have a purpose and proper formal testing, but they as of now have yet to prove that any of the medications do anything other than just cover over the existing problems. There is no actual evidence which demonstrates that the medications are actually doing anything related to the initial dysfunction.

Re:You don't look too happy... (1)

DarenN (411219) | about 7 years ago | (#19745139)

Hmmmm, it IS an interesting point you raise. It also raises the worrying spectre of this being used outside of the scenarios for which it was envisaged (e.g. in the case of a witness for trial, perhaps?).

The article mentions more detailed research involving rats. I suppose I've one question - does this actually remove memories (as in cause them to no longer be able to be recalled) or does it "smooth the landing", by which I mean disassociate the memories from the intense anguish/pain that they cause. I'd be broadly in favour of option 2, but not too happy about option 1.

I guess I'm just not comfortable with the thought of being able to alter someone's memories at will.

Re:You don't look too happy... (1)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | about 7 years ago | (#19745353)

"The article mentions more detailed research involving rats. I suppose I've one question - does this actually remove memories (as in cause them to no longer be able to be recalled) or does it "smooth the landing", by which I mean disassociate the memories from the intense anguish/pain that they cause. I'd be broadly in favour of option 2, but not too happy about option 1."

I'm not really happy with either one to be honest. Sure, there are some events so traumatic, and people so traumatized, that it can be treated as a disease and healed as such. However the ability to disassociate pain from memories, or even get rid of painful memories, just has way too much potential for abuse. Have a bad memory about ? (Replace with your favorite "seemed like a good idea at the time, I'll never do that again") Disassociate the pain, that way when you look back on it you won't feel bad at all and the next time you feel like doing it it won't seem like such a bad idea.

If, and this is a pretty iffy if if that makes any sense at all, this is only used for the most traumatic of events and people who can't handle the trauma then it may be a good thing. There are cases where this would be beneficial. However this is just far too dangerous in my opinion. Small traumatic memories are the best way to learn from your mistakes, if you do something stupid, and it hurts, you don't do it again. The day you can get rid of that pain is the day you never learn from your mistakes. We're already moving towards as a responsibility-free society, where many mistakes can be recovered from with only a little work, no where near the amount that should be done (debt and bankruptcy being a good example). This is a slippery slope, if these drugs can be kept in the hands of those who absolutely need them to function then fine, but they seem to dangerous to me, what if you could not only remove the problems of extreme debt through bankruptcy, but also the trauma of it. How would you ever learn to not spend to much?

Re:You don't look too happy... (1)

Original Replica (908688) | about 7 years ago | (#19745485)

disassociate the memories from the intense anguish/pain that they cause.

If we remove the association of pain with the memories that caused them will we begin to find those causes less abhorrent? Would torture or child abuse that doesn't do permenant physical damage become acceptable, because we can "make it all better"? If all the damage is psychological, and that can be fixed, where is the crime in the currently heinous crime of sexual abuse of minors? I'm not advocating any of this, quite the opposite, I'm trying to show the possible downside of disassociate the memories from the intense anguish/pain that they cause.

Re:You don't look too happy... (1)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 years ago | (#19745141)

I hate the idea of everybody being happily drugged up, but it works. I've heard several people say their lives are so much better with antidepressants, and why didn't they start them sooner. I would like to think that life is what you make it, but it seems some do not have an equal shot at happiness because their brains aren't wired for it.

Re:You don't look too happy... (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | about 7 years ago | (#19745237)

We already have that.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fluoxetine [wikipedia.org]

But my personal experience with it made me suicidal to the point of having to have someone sit with me and remove all objects I could hurt myself with. So maybe happy pills are a bad idea.

Re:You don't look too happy... (1)

Bemopolis (698691) | about 7 years ago | (#19745401)

Yes I would —I recently sat through Eps I-III.

Can it be used offensively? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19744861)

An old girlfriend who dumped me, I'd like to erase the memories she has of how painful it was to be with me, so she will give me another try.

Re:Can it be used offensively? (1)

kenjishikida (324233) | about 7 years ago | (#19745061)

sorry, we were talking about what? ;-)

Re:Can it be used offensively? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745281)

Instead, you use it on yourself to help find a new girl and move on. If there was a drug to assist in this type of endeavor 25 years ago, I surely would have tried it. Instead, I did it the old-fashioned way. With near-zero effort, I could easily have that girl back today. No thanks!

Re:Can it be used offensively? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745349)

Can I have some so I can forget those painful posts on Slashdot about the iPhone?

Do you remember GroundHog day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19744887)

The comedy about Bill Murray reliving the same day over and over until he found how to get the chick he was after. Now we can the same, but with drugs.

Yes, lock me up, and take me away, I'm a danger to society.

Question.. (1)

ThisIsWhyImHot (1121637) | about 7 years ago | (#19744915)

If the memory couldn't be completely 'erased' wouldn't it still have negative effects on the person through their subconcious? It's also painful memories that help shape a person's personality so wouldn't eliminating them have negative effects on the person?

Re:Question.. (1)

jimbug (1119529) | about 7 years ago | (#19744975)

I'm sure we can make some personality-altering drugs. Side effects include losing your friends.

Re:Question.. (1)

beadfulthings (975812) | about 7 years ago | (#19745125)

You make a good point, but I don't think that's how it's supposed to work. If you sit back and call to mind some pleasant incident in the past--maybe a childhood picnic or family holiday--your recollections will be pleasant but somewhat hazy and lacking in details. Memories of the Christmas when you got some much-desired gift will be clearer but still not too sharply detailed. Because of the way they're collected, memories of traumatic incidents remain sharp, clear, and are often rendered in excruciating detail. You can try this for yourself even if you don't have a terrible trauma; it could be something bad that happened at school, some embarrassment or humiliation, or that broken arm you suffered in second grade.

What they're trying to do is to blunt the sharpness and clarity of traumatic memories, rendering them hazy or distant as other memories. Since the memories have a way of re-surfacing at any time and causing havoc in the mind of the sufferer, this might be a good idea. On the other hand, the old conventional wisdom is that when we experience a trauma or loss we need to re-process and work through it at various stages of our lives. So if you lost a parent in a terrible accident at age six, you might have to re-work the memories in adolescence, early adulthood, at the onset of middle age, and even in old age. Each life stage will bring a different perspective and help in remaining healthy and stable. People whose experiences are suppressed and swept under the rug tend to have worse problems as they go on. I can't help wondering if blunting the force of these kinds of terrible memories might interfere with that re-visiting.

Re:Question.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745437)

I've broken my arm, and been in two rather destructive car accidents, but i don't remember either very well.

I have no trouble remembering factual things, things i've read, things i've learned, but my memory gets hazy just after a week or so. I don't remember much of my childhood, school, and i'm only 22.

Meanwhile... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19744923)

Researchers at Hashcake and the Vancouver-based McBong University are working on a drug that would allow psychiatrists to dampen painful memories in their patients when combined with aroma therapy.

Eternal Sunshine (1)

creepynut (933825) | about 7 years ago | (#19744925)

Lacuna Inc. [eternalsunshine.com] anyone?

So let me get this straight, they give people a drug and it reduces their bad memories? Seems pretty dangerous to me.

Re:Eternal Sunshine (0, Flamebait)

megaditto (982598) | about 7 years ago | (#19745059)

On a positive note, rape might now be downgraded to a misdemeanor.

Re:Eternal Sunshine (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | about 7 years ago | (#19745345)

On a positive note, rape might now be downgraded to a misdemeanor.
How does that constitute a "positive note"?

Re:Eternal Sunshine (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | about 7 years ago | (#19745099)

It doesn't reduce the memories, it reduces the physiological stress associated with them. You can still remember, but your blood pressure doesn't go up to unhealthy levels when you do. Seems better to me...

Re:Eternal Sunshine (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745135)

It doesn't reduce the memories, it reduces the physiological stress associated with them. You can still remember, but your blood pressure doesn't go up to unhealthy levels when you do. Seems better to me...


Systematic Desensitization [wikipedia.org] achieves the same result, but no drugs.

Re:Eternal Sunshine (1)

s.bots (1099921) | about 7 years ago | (#19745179)

It would help me shed those painful memories of goatse... the horror... Any way to get that image out of my head is more than welcome.

Re:Eternal Sunshine (3, Insightful)

MikeFM (12491) | about 7 years ago | (#19745181)

Yeah, for some of us that'd set us back to prenatal mindsets. I think Eternal Sunshine was convincing enough that doing this is a bad idea. IMO there is just about nothing as bad as someone you cared about forgetting you.

Obligitory Brain Candy (1)

Mr. Flibble (12943) | about 7 years ago | (#19744929)

Mrs. Hurdicure: [looking at drug] What will this do?

Dr. Cooper: Well, it reaches into your brain "chemically," and then it locates your happiest memory "chemically," then it locks onto that emotion and freezes it "chemically," and then it keeps you happy, happy.

Baxter: Chris? She's depressed, not stupid!

Aldous Huxley would be proud. (1)

devilradish (637660) | about 7 years ago | (#19744943)

and this constitutes the mandatory Brave New World reference.

this just seems like a bad idea (5, Insightful)

jt418-93 (450715) | about 7 years ago | (#19744947)

it's important to remember the bad times, so you don't end up there again. something about those who can't remember history repeating it.....

Right... (5, Insightful)

p3d0 (42270) | about 7 years ago | (#19745075)

it's important to remember the bad times, so you don't end up there again. something about those who can't remember history repeating it.....
Yeah, those rape victims really should try harder next time not to get raped.

Oh, come on, mods... (2, Insightful)

zombie_striptease (966467) | about 7 years ago | (#19745557)

Pissed because p3d0 made a valid point? Fine, forget the inflammatory wording and concentrate on the content: there might be some traumas that aren't constructive or character building. Sometimes, bad shit just happens, without any sort of silver lining. Would you look down on someone for needing help coping and finding it in a treatment like this?

Re:this just seems like a bad idea (4, Insightful)

dave420 (699308) | about 7 years ago | (#19745279)

Or what about folks who kill themselves because they can't live a day without being caught up in bad shit that's happened? They won't have a chance to learn from their bad times, as their bad times will have killed them. I'm not having a go at you, but bad memories aren't always afterschool-special-type memories, but often some really fucked up shit that reaches down to every atom in your body and flatly refuses to let go, even slightly. Stuff like this drug might actually help some folks try to live a normal life again.

Re:this just seems like a bad idea (0)

AutopsyReport (856852) | about 7 years ago | (#19745609)

Stuff like this drug might actually help some folks try to live a normal life again.

Or how about a drug called "Time"?

Re:this just seems like a bad idea (1)

aukset (889860) | about 7 years ago | (#19745593)

Yeah, except, you really have no idea what trauma does to a person psychologically and physiologically. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a big deal for a reason. For these people, they have no choice but to remember, and remember chronically. Its not just a painful memory, but it includes the ENTIRE fight or flight response from the body when these memories are triggered (and triggers are everywhere). It does absolutely no good for a PTSD sufferer to retain these memories.

In any case, I do not believe the drug actually "deletes" memories as per the headline. The summary itself mentions that the rape victims still recalled their trauma, and were able to relate it to others, but showed fewer symptoms of stress while doing so. You might say the drug decouples the traumatic memory from the stress response mechanisms.

Re:this just seems like a bad idea (1)

thePsychologist (1062886) | about 7 years ago | (#19745667)

So you're saying rape is the victim's fault?

File this under B... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19744953)

Tag it 'braincandy'. ;)

Oh yeah (3, Funny)

SpiffyMarc (590301) | about 7 years ago | (#19744955)

I saw this movie. While they are administering the procedure, Elijah Wood steals your underwear and Kirsten Dunst hits on an old guy.

Count me out.

Suicide is painless (-1, Troll)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | about 7 years ago | (#19744971)

Why not give patients a cyanide capsule and "help" them not feel any more pain, ever?

But at what cost to your soul? (3, Interesting)

decipher_saint (72686) | about 7 years ago | (#19744973)

So, you take a drug and make something traumatic in the past go away. My philosophical question of the day is thus:

If reality is perception, and the basis of perception is memory and you can alter memory, are you changing your personal reality and in effect, changing who you are? Is the only cure for trauma personal metamorphosis?

I can understand that there are people who are so traumatized by past events that they require medical attention but is effectively erasing those events from memory the best solution? I guess a follow up question is a drug like this something that will be abused and furthermore, how can I get some of this to dab on past potential girlfriends I said stupid things to?

Re:But at what cost to your soul? (1)

Turn-X Alphonse (789240) | about 7 years ago | (#19745065)

I doubt it would work as such, since rape victims often have other effects which the pills won't deal with. Eating disorders and insomnia are both common side effects.

Re:But at what cost to your soul? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745183)

What a concept! The perfect addition for date rape drug cocktail! Lemme ask you if you don't know you were assraped in an alley did it really happen?

Re:But at what cost to your soul? (1)

capologist (310783) | about 7 years ago | (#19745239)

If reality is perception, and the basis of perception is memory and you can alter memory, are you changing your personal reality and in effect, changing who you are? ...is effectively erasing those events from memory the best solution?

The events aren't erased from memory. The subject can still recall and describe the event. However, certain stress/trauma symptoms are reduced.

I'd put it in the same category as other psychoactive drugs that address emotional problems. Now there are those who say that any such drugs that may lead to emotions being other than what they would "naturally" be somehow undermines the user's individuality, but I certainly don't feel that way.

Re:But at what cost to your soul? (3, Insightful)

stonecypher (118140) | about 7 years ago | (#19745507)

If reality is perception
It isn't. This is easily demonstrated by beating a coma victim to death. They won't perceive your actions, but they'll still die. If you really want to try the schroedinger's cat falling in a forest line of things, make a robot do the beating. The coma victim will in fact die without being measured.

and the basis of perception is memory
It isn't. There are a variety of individuals with brain injuries that impede or destroy memory. They can still perceive you, and remarkably, they're often still able to function to a degree in the real world.

are you changing your personal reality
There's no such thing as a personal reality. Put down the Led Zeppelin, and if you're well educated in Philosophy, climb out of the barrel. You can make all the solipsisms you want, and yes, it's particularly difficult for me to convince you that I exist, when you can just claim that every sense by which you're detecting me is faulty.

That said, this isn't The Matrix, and you can be affected without being aware of it. As the old saying goes, the bullet you don't hear is the one that killed you.

and in effect, changing who you are?
This ... is a difficult point. On the one hand, yes, in many ways we are created and defined by our experiences. On the other hand, though, in many ways we aren't. Consider for example that thing that Ripley's Believe It or Not always does when they're out of material, where they find two twins who were seperated at birth, and point out how they wear the same kind of clothes and the same teeth are missing and their girlfriends both have the same weird deformities and whatever.

Are you removing part of who you are? Maybe. But, look, what about if you lose your fourth toe? You lost a little bit of who you are there, too, and you're a different person for it. Sure, it's a trivial tiny difference, but it is a difference. These things have a scale. I was changed as a person when I got my elbow injury. Not in a huge way, sure, but it's real. I stopped working out because the stress on my elbow is no longer safe. I used the scar to impress each of two different girls.

So, you remove a traumatic memory. Does that change a person? Sure. But, then, change isn't always a bad thing, and there's such a thing as changing back - or, at least, there may be now. Consider the case of someone coming back from a brief tour in war, with shell shock. They can't talk, they can't sleep, they scream every time there's a loud sound, and seeing a gun on TV leaves them crying for hours. Don't laugh; there are people who were wounded psychologically in just such a way.

Say you could remove those memories. Say that turns them back into (almost) who they were before the war. Is that a change? Yes. But maybe you might do better to think of it as a "change back." This drug is apparently thought of for trauma. Rarely is it the case that those changes caused by trauma are beneficial. I'm no psychologist, but can see the case for this maybe becoming an important tool in repairing serious psychological damage.

Is the only cure for trauma personal metamorphosis?
Of course not. People come back from trauma every day. That there are other ways, though, doesn't mean that this way isn't important. There are something like 30 ways to remove an ulcer. Half of them are in use today. One might expect there to be only one, but the human situation is complicated; sometimes you need to do it through the mouth, sometimes through the butt, sometimes with a remote control robot, sometimes by just opening the stomach.

Different situations need different solutions.

I can understand that there are people who are so traumatized by past events that they require medical attention but is effectively erasing those events from memory the best solution?
Nobody knows yet. It was pretty helpful in the electroshock era, but electroconvulsive therapy causes a whole lot of other damage. If this is more precise, then yeah, it might become pretty important.

I mean, it's a bit like amputation. You almost never amputate. It's a last resort. But, occasionally it's important (necrotizing fasciitis, poison, republican larvae, whatever.)

Again, I'm no doctor. That said, I tend to see this as an opportunity to develop a new last measure, like amputation. Sure, try to talk them through it. Counsel them. Teach them. Help them understand. But, when it comes down to it, some trauma is so horrible, and some people are so fragile, that no matter how much you talk to them, they just keep trying to kill themselves.

I'm going to avoid making an example, because they're all so ugly that they turn my stomach. That said, if you had a person who was so completely traumatized that they tried to end it every single day even after a year of intensive therapy and antidepressants, wouldn't you start thinking that this was a reasonable approach? In that sort of situation, that part of your memory serves the same role as the leg with the Flesh Eating Disease. You either remove it, or it kills the host.

Yes, this is barbaric and brutal and terrible and scary. Yes, it raises ethical concerns and would give Orwell three years of material.

All that said, there are times at which even something so severe could be better than the alternative.

Shortsighted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19744979)

Doesn't it seem to anyone else that this is a shallow and unhealthy way of dealing with traumatic experiences? It is extreme stress and trauma that we grow the most from. Rather than try to grasp and accept painful experience, this is only a way of dodging it. One more step in the perpetual extension of adolescence we are experiencing in our society.

Imagine how much wiser and healthier a person could be, if only by finding the strength to accept and rise above past trauma rather than bury it in a drug-induced amnesia. Consider this one vote for replacing amnesia drugs with counseling(not necessarily from a psychiatrist), followed by MDMA when the 'victim' is ready.

Re:Shortsighted? (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about 7 years ago | (#19745571)

Doesn't it seem to anyone else that this is a shallow and unhealthy way of dealing with traumatic experiences?

Look more carefully: the general public has been reared by TV to believe that shallow and unheathy is good.

What planet are you from? Can I go there cheaply?

You're not going to get very many good comments... (5, Insightful)

Himuanam (852822) | about 7 years ago | (#19744983)

The most traumatic thing most of Slashdot has experienced is having their parents turn off their internet connection, come on, all we're going to get is comments about alcohol or how we're becoming a drug-obsessed culture. Experience something *really* traumatic or know someone who has, and you'll see the benefit of research like this.

Re:You're not going to get very many good comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745517)

Really traumatic???

Well, yeah, you might have been an, umm, solider in a war or raped or something, but come on! We lived through The Phantom Menace!

I was wondering... (1)

flar2 (938689) | about 7 years ago | (#19744985)

Could this accidentally erase good memories? During the times when I'm suffering or in pain, I've often wondered, if I had my memory erased afterword, would I actually have suffered?

It doesn't erase ANY Memories... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745063)

It reduces the patients stress level when recalling the painful/traumatic memories.
It reduces the trauma of the event, it doesn't erase the event entirely (or at all).

Theory debunked (1, Funny)

Nazlfrag (1035012) | about 7 years ago | (#19745009)

"They treated 19 accident or rape victims for ten days, during which the patients were asked to describe their memories of the traumatic event that had happened 10 years earlier."

Well that's hardly scientific, perhaps it only helps the people involved in this mysterious decade old mass accident/rape.

Great - More consciousness altering drugs (0)

unity100 (970058) | about 7 years ago | (#19745055)

and that is psychological treatment ?

some of you have modded me down when i criticized psychology and its applied branches for being reliant on drugs that altered consciousness of the individual. now come see, another drug.

if you clear the symptoms with mind numbing drugs, it means you just suppressed the symptoms, not removed the actual cause.

Re:Great - More consciousness altering drugs (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745283)

Quote: "if you clear the symptoms with mind numbing drugs, it means you just suppressed the symptoms, not removed the actual cause."

I hate to say this, but you can't change the past.

Re:Great - More consciousness altering drugs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745315)

Great, more ignorance and faulty reasoning.

Tom Cruise would be proud.

Re:Great - More consciousness altering drugs (1)

shawnap (959909) | about 7 years ago | (#19745339)

if you clear the symptoms with mind numbing drugs, it means you just suppressed the symptoms, not removed the actual cause.
see: Foundation of modern medicine. [wikipedia.org]

It's good but.. (1)

Archades54 (925582) | about 7 years ago | (#19745073)

The pain and trauma of events in life also build character and strength. Would this mean we would become weaker and more dependant on pills/etc to make life easier?

It would certainly lower the creative power of many artists etc.

Re:It's good but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745193)

Past a certain point pain and trauma don't build character or strength, they destroy them instead. The pain of banging your shin on the side of a table help you to learn to be more careful. The trauma of being tortured and gang raped rips your emotions and personality into little shreds from which a functional human being may never reemerge. It's all a matter of degrees.

Wait... (1)

kollywabbles (645848) | about 7 years ago | (#19745077)

C21H30O2? That's new?

Take a pill, Jill (1, Funny)

canUbeleiveIT (787307) | about 7 years ago | (#19745079)

Funny, if you do this with alcohol or heroin, it's considered drug abuse and problem-avoidant behavior.

Personally, I find this compulsion to "reduce stress" through pharmacological means to be slightly disconcerting. We seem to always talk about stress as if it were a bad thing when, in fact, it is one of the organism's primary protection mechanisms. Stress is the organisms way of prompting change. You know, the old towards pleasure/away from pain thing.

In the example of the accident victims, maybe they need to learn to be more careful. In the case of the rape victims, maybe they need to learn to avoid people/situations in which they're vulnerable. Stress will help you with that. When I was in middle school, I got jumped by a bunch of kids from another school and beat up pretty badly. I was super-stressed about it for months, but--due to the stress--I also kept away from the area where these kids hung out, thus avoiding another beating.

Re:Take a pill, Jill (1)

CrackedButter (646746) | about 7 years ago | (#19745169)

Big difference when somebody who is addicted to alcohol or/and heroin sticks a knife in you for your wallet.

Re:Take a pill, Jill (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745261)

We seem to always talk about blood circulation as if it were a bad thing when, in fact, it is one of the organism's primary protection schemes. Instead of applying ice to a swollen ankle, why don't we just leave it alone and let it grow to the size of a beach ball? Maybe it will help people learn to stop spraining their ankles.

Actually, I like your method. We'd save a fortune on health care costs. Instead of getting health care, we'll just get NO HEALTH CARE AT ALL. Then people will REALLY learn to never get sick.

Re:Take a pill, Jill (1)

canUbeleiveIT (787307) | about 7 years ago | (#19745405)

Actually, I like your method. We'd save a fortune on health care costs. Instead of getting health care, we'll just get NO HEALTH CARE AT ALL. Then people will REALLY learn to never get sick.


Wow, now that is an classic example of a strawman argument [wikipedia.org] .

Why avoid pain? (1)

PPH (736903) | about 7 years ago | (#19745091)

Zeus is credited with saying 'Only through suffering comes wisdom'.


This might be a god cure for phobias and memories that trigger panic atttacks, but the sum total of ones personality includes the bad memories as well as the good. I'm afraid some parents are going to drag their kids to the clinic after losing the homecomming king/queen title.

yeah...lets pretend it didn't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19745123)

let's concentrate effort to stop the rapes and accidents....

more logical

thnx

The drug has... (2, Funny)

niceone (992278) | about 7 years ago | (#19745175)

...been in use round here for a while, it's called Dupesol(TM).

Somalicious!!! (1)

gorehog (534288) | about 7 years ago | (#19745191)

Got a traumatic memory? Take this drug for ten years or so. Really. Nothing sinister or societally altering here. And if you OD we can just change your blood.

Dampening Memories (1)

whisper_jeff (680366) | about 7 years ago | (#19745213)

I know a bunch of old drugs that are great for dampening memories and I didn't even have to go to school to learn what they were.

Well, going to school helped introduce me to the drugs...

Expensive Escapism Aid (1)

bunburyist (664958) | about 7 years ago | (#19745217)

In my opinion, this society is too concerned with escapism, weather chemically or through entertainment. The general population is highly enthralled in things like nightclubs, alcohol and expensive luxuries all primarily used to escape from the problems that they face or the insecurities that they feel.
People who undergo traumatic events cannot escape the painful memories through a chemical solution. While this drug probably can induce some sort of semi-comatose happy state, it really won't solve the original problem, that being the trauma suffered. I'm not a psychologist but I don't see how a chemical that supresses feelings that need to be felt is going to be at all beneficial to a trauma victim.
D

Re:Expensive Escapism Aid (2, Insightful)

trolltalk.com (1108067) | about 7 years ago | (#19745359)

"I don't see how a chemical that supresses feelings that need to be felt is going to be at all beneficial to a trauma victim"

Past a certain point, the feelings don't need to be felt - they're a barrier, not a character-builder. By reducing the associated stress, maybe the person is able to be less afraid look closer at what happened, and gain new insight?

We do it with mood-altering substances all the time, from "comfort food" to chocolate to booze, etc. All legal. Sugar has a tremedous impact on your mood - just look at any hyper kid on a sugar high - and yet I don't see people recommending we starve people because food can alter your moods.

I'd say lets do some more testing and see what happens.

CIA has wanted something like this for a while. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 7 years ago | (#19745233)

It brings a whole new meaning to "debriefing".

Just these memories? Or all? (2, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 7 years ago | (#19745285)

How does a drug target specific memories? Or does it simply make you an emotional brick?

I'm always wary when I hear things like that. Drugs that change your mental framework. We don't know jack about the brain, to be blunt. LSD has been out for decades now and we still don't have a clue just how that stuff works. Yet we keep cranking out more pills for "mental" problems.

Why do I also have the feeling that this pill would only suppress the traumatic experience instead of making people deal with and resolve it? Is that the new medicine? Instead of curing, we treat. Which is incidentally also more profitable, because a cured person is just that, cured. Doesn't need more medication. Treatment, though, can take months, years, decades or however long you want. And for the whole time, he keeps swallowing tablets and gets his shots.

Re:Just these memories? Or all? (2, Informative)

stonecypher (118140) | about 7 years ago | (#19745617)

How does a drug target specific memories?
There are quite a few substances which are already known to target memories. This just happens to be the first one which isn't somewhat poisonous. I don't know the underlying mechanism for this one, but several derivatives of hemlock reveal a toxin which is both highly polar and ferromagnetic. It's quite simply attracted to the cells of the brain that are currently in use; you tend to start losing what you're thinking about during the poison's course through the body. Read about the Roman Senate; that kind of toxin was blamed repeatedly for the change of several specific Senators' positions.

Now, granted, that particular substance does a lot of other damage to the body and brain too, but if you were to combine that kind of mechanism with a molecule dependent on some surface receptor on the parts of the brain responsible for memory storage...

We don't know jack about the brain, to be blunt.
Actually, most current brain medication was designed from scratch. We know quite a bit about the brain. There's a lot left to learn, but several antipsychotics in current use were put together by an engineer who wanted specific results. Don't confuse that you don't know jack about the brain with that the rest of us don't.

LSD has been out for decades now and we still don't have a clue just how that stuff works.
Actually, we've understood LSD for about a decade. Try keeping up with the literature if you're going to feign familiarity.

Yet we keep cranking out more pills for "mental" problems.
And most of them replace something older, and almost all of them are an improvement on what they're replacing. What, precisely, is your point?

Why do I also have the feeling that this pill would only suppress the traumatic experience instead of making people deal with and resolve it?
Probably because it's blatantly obvious that you can't resolve something you don't remember. Y'know, that whole common sense thing.

Instead of curing, we treat. Which is incidentally also more profitable, because a cured person is just that, cured. Doesn't need more medication.
People who argue based on assumptions are tiresome and boring. This is a permanent effect. Try reading about the pill before assuming it's a lifelong commitment; it isn't.

Also, I'm not sure if you knew this, but if the treatment isn't permanent, it's not a treatment. I realize the semantic difference you're trying to make, but perhaps you should spend some quality time with a dictionary. Treatments are permanent. That's why it's called "treated wood."

Treatment, though, can take months, years, decades or however long you want.
Wrong. It's not a treatment until the day it's successfully, permanently over.

aid to therapy (1)

ubrgeek (679399) | about 7 years ago | (#19745305)

As someone who has gone through therapy, there are always tools that therapists use to "enhance" the experience. Could this be something as "simple" as retraining the brain to have less of a response to the recollection of the event? By asking the patient to retell the event again and again while taking the drug, the mental pathways that have been formed by the drug can be deadend (for lack of a better word) or have their receptors rendered less active and that could help reduce the stress associated with the event.

Yeah, this'll last. (1)

stonecypher (118140) | about 7 years ago | (#19745319)

For those of you paying attention, this is the specific reason that Ecstasy was originally developed by Merck. Also, Ecstasy does a damned good job of it. Unfortunately, ecstasy also makes you feel good, which got it banned.

Yeah: this'll last. Legal for three months, maximum.

Re:Yeah, this'll last. (1)

nystul555 (579614) | about 7 years ago | (#19745511)

Actually that is not the reason MDMA was developed. It was patented in 1914 as a chemical used to make a kind of drug that controls bleeding. The first research on it for human use was in the late 1950's as a possible stimulant. It wasn't until the mid 70's that it began to be used in therapy when psychotherapist Leo Zeff began using it with some of his patients.

Re:Yeah, this'll last. (1)

stonecypher (118140) | about 7 years ago | (#19745709)

Uh huh. And when you find that patent, and read it, lemme know. By the way, it doesn't say anything about bleeding except in the brain, and you've got the year wrong. You're looking for German Patent 274,350 (12/24/1912). Also, the person in the mid 1970s was Alexander Shuglin, not Leo Zaff. I suspect you mean Shuglin's third patient, Leo Zeff, who promoted what he was taught by Shuglin; his role in the history of Ecstasy has been wildly overstated by drug advocates, probably for the same reason that Bill Packard is seen as having founded Silicon Valley (Shuglin was a jerk and nobody wanted to credit him.)

The original development premise for the chemical family was as an appetite suppressant; under that guise Merck got as far as MDE. Then there was a fourteen year pause, until 1927 when the effects of the chemical were tested on rats to see whether they'd help deal with starvation by lowering the metabolism. Under that guise, the family was manipulated until methylsafrylamin was created, which is relatively close to what we now know as MDA. This actually increases the metabolism, but the psychological effects were noted, and the family was further explored, locating MDMA.

Please stop pretending to know things you don't. Crack a book.

Maybe not such a bad thing. (1)

Wordsmith (183749) | about 7 years ago | (#19745323)

There are going to be a lot of posts about how this would mean suppressing a natural and beneficial process for dealing with tragedy - the more typical course of facing up to a trauma and learning to live with it, learn from it, and heal. I'm not saying those posters are wrong.

But how do we know they're right?

How do we know that the mechanisms for dealing with trauma we know now are really the best one? What' inherently wrong with chemistry be an aid in this? What's to say that's inferior?

My suspicion is that the best course is going to vary from person to person, and from trauma to trauma. In many cases, coming to terms with grief naturally, and with emotional support, is probably best. But What do we do with people who suffer such extraordinary grief that it wholly consumes them - and drives them into self-destructive behavior, or worse yet, suicide? Might something more chemically modern not be a better option?

ob (1)

Conspiracy_Of_Doves (236787) | about 7 years ago | (#19745351)

"I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain!"

Ever wonder if the original author reads TFA? (5, Informative)

TheMohel (143568) | about 7 years ago | (#19745357)

It's not a new drug that was tried by Harvard and McGill, it was an old favorite, propranolol. This is a nonselective beta blocker that has anti-adrenaline actions (oversimplifying radically) in the CNS as well as across the body, and it's used for a dozen purposes other than this one. This was actually fascinating research, because they're basically using an old standby drug to help desensitize certain traumatic memories. There was no assertion in the original article (other than the Star Trek pandering at the end) that the memories were eliminated entirely, although eliminating emotional tags to memories would have the side effect of making them harder to recall.
 
We know that the beta blockers have significant mood and activity side effects. In fact it's a common limitation on their use. In this case, though, it looks like the researchers are capitalizing on these side effects to make people's handling of trauma better. Cool. This is a use that will probably see more significant human clinical trials in the short run. Propranolol is a very cheap and very well-understood medication.
 
In the case of the rat studies with the actual new drug, it's early but interesting work that might or might not have human implication in the future. I'll be nervous about it without a lot more research, and I suspect that the greater degree of wiring in the human brain and the relative resilience of memory are going to be harder nuts to crack, at least in the short term.

PACIFY (3, Insightful)

hoggoth (414195) | about 7 years ago | (#19745373)

'Ok, Mr. Jones. How do you feel now?'
'I feel wonderful...'
'Do you still feel outraged when you think of our government controlling your life?'
'No, it really doesn't bother me that much.'
'What about this protest meeting you are organizing?'
'Oh, that. I know it should be important, but I really don't feel like going anymore. I think I'll stay home and plant some flowers.'
'Good, Mr. Jones, you may go now.'

My Drug For "Bad Memories"? (1)

morari (1080535) | about 7 years ago | (#19745447)

A good dose of get the fuck over it!

Re:My Drug For "Bad Memories"? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 7 years ago | (#19745613)

Although your solution is a little bit harsh, I can see this kind of thing being over prescribed. While I wouldn't say "get the fuck over it" to somebody who is a victim of rape, I would say it to somebody who had just broken up with their girl/boy friend, or failing an exam or something. Some people get way to worked up over little things like this, and almost have a breakdown. However, I would hope that they'd seek other kinds of help to learn how to deal with small problems that everybody encounters, rather than try to use a drug so they never have to learn to deal with problems.

hmmm (1)

drDugan (219551) | about 7 years ago | (#19745459)

Sounds just like what many people do with alcohol and cigarettes now without therapy, for years. Hopefully this one will have less hangover.

I'm definitely broken somewhere (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 7 years ago | (#19745597)

The majority of people I know seem to enjoy being drunk. I do not. A majority of people prefer happy fiction over the plain truth. I do not. If a memory is corrupted in any way for any reason, it's corrupted and inaccurate. One could argue that memories are inherently inaccurate, but making them more inaccurate doesn't make them "better"; just more inaccurate.

Why not have some Happy Happy first (n/t) (1)

Nuitari The Wiz (1123889) | about 7 years ago | (#19745639)

(n/t)

Genius (1)

goldcd (587052) | about 7 years ago | (#19745651)

Now if only I can get the office water cooler laced with this stuff.

the brilliant thing about this drug (1)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 7 years ago | (#19745717)

You can just start beta-testing it willy nilly with people. Cuz even if you botch it horribly with the first dozen or so formulations, you can make them all forget once you hit the right one! Imagine if they had that for the poor people who beta-tested Preparations A through G.
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