Sign up FAST! Login

Memory-Erasing Drug Blebbistatin Could Change the Way We Treat Addiction


Stashed in: Addiction, Brain, Awesome, Medicine, Addiction, Memory, Memory!, PTSD, Brain

To save this post, select a stash from drop-down menu or type in a new one:

Apparently memories formed while on meth are PHYSICALLY different, encoded using a wack form of a certian protein. Scientists have come up with a drug that can erase ALL of these memories for about 30 days at a time.

One weird thing I learned from this article: a common hypertension medication that I've taken apparently can help "re-set" emotional associations with traumatic memories.

So could it be useful as a PTSD treatment?

Basically it stops your body from making the "fear response" and linking it to memories. So if you take it before going on stage for a big speech or performance, it allegedly helps you avoid stage fright. If you take it right after a PTSD event, it allegedly helps you not form traumatic memories.

I can definitely testify that it stops your body from that whole amygdala epinephrine thing. You just CANNOT have an elevated heartbeat, higher blood pressure, or the other "fight or flight" responses. I once almost passed out trying to run for a bus!

In terms of PTSD, I think this particular drug is best if you get it BEFORE you "consolidate" the memories. Dunno how effective it is trying to break the mind-body connection years after the event.

Nothing in the article mentions that it can wipe out memories from years earlier.

Fascinating that it prevents elevated heartbeat. Definitely do not run if you are on this medication!

Blebbistatin, the memory drug currently making headlines, one-ups most of these existing theoretical or practical treatments, in that it allows one to knock out an entire drug memory, not just reprogram it. 

This is a bit of a breakthrough, because previous efforts by the same Scripps team to selectively target and destroy memory-association proteins had a nasty habit of messing with the ability of muscles (including the heart) to properly function. Blebbistatin manages to target meth-related memories without that side effect. And it can do so without one having to directly recall the memory and associated cravings. Using the drug also doesn’t require an invasive procedure—it can be injected into a peripheral body part and still take its full effective course, making it exceptionally versatile, low-impact, and powerful among memory treatments.

That said, the Blebbistatin discovery is not a sign that memory-based cures will be at your pharmacy tomorrow, nor that they are the silver bullet for meth addiction or any other ailment. For one thing, the drug still needs to go into human trials, which researchers suspect could take at least five years. And once there, there’s always only a slim chance that what works for mice will work the same way and just as effectively in our bodies. Plus, we still need to figure out what other drugs or conditions this might interact with and whether it or a related chemical can target memories other than those created on meth (or if meth memories turn out to be a chemically peculiar phenomenon with a powerful but non-transferrable memory treatment).

Even if Blebbistatin proves to be a functional and safe method for eliminating meth or other drug- or trauma-linked memories, it can only work so far back in time, making it impractical for long-term addicts seeking help. Plus psychologists point out that memory and addiction are complex and diffuse, meaning that many other factors could still drive an addict back to abuse aside from direct memories. (An Eternal Sunshineanalogy is actually apt here: like how the protagonists are still somehow drawn to each other even after losing their memories of each other.) And none of this gets into the infinite ethical concerns we’d need to address regarding the selective power to destroy memories, which might allow someone to delete memories in another person, or even commit a crime on meth and then erase his or her own memory after the fact.

Would this be useful as a treatment for grieving, refractory to conventional treatment?

I don't think so -- see Joyce's response above. It's more for inhibiting the fear reaction. 

You May Also Like: