Title: Memory Disruption Could Aid Addicts
Author: Alexis Madrigal
Scientists have done research showing that they can alter the memory of a rat by administering a drug that can upset the process of a memory-forming brain neurotransmitters when delivered alongside a conditioned response. In this case, the researchers conditioned the rat to receive cocaine when a light was switched on. Doing so became a conditioned response, activating the rats’ cocaine-craving manners. Only after a small dose of the memory disruption drug was given to the rats did they display reduced cravings when the light was enabled. Scientists at the University of Cambridge hope to reprogram harmful addiction memories to avoid relapses.
History and Progression:
It has been widely assumed that long-term memories were permanent, but recent research into the subject has suggested that memories can be chemically disrupted to break a conditioned response. Although the researchers have had limited success, it shows promise in developing new treatments for memory-linked habits.
Since the research is simply hypothesis-driven, human experiments with this method could be near. There are already several drugs available on the market with similar pharmacodynamics as the one used in the study, such as dextramethorphan and memantine.
This drug may be considered cheating to those who wish to beat their addiction without chemicals. This study has proven that addiction is a chemical process and that it may be impossible for someone to rewire their thought process effectively without chemical assistance.
Human trials have not yet begun, so it is difficult to anticipate exactly what will occur. While it seems like a basic test, we have to assume that the human mind is more complicated than a rat’s. It is possible that a simple drug administration given immediately after the conditioned stimulus won’t work as expected.
Addicts will still have to avoid situations that led to their addiction. They may forget their cravings, but I imagine that visual stimulation may reconstruct old memories. If they don’t, they will likely relapse and have done the therapy for nothing, just like in current rehabilitation techniques.
Destructive habits can be minimized with the help of simple pharmacotherapy.
Potential drug side effects could have long term damage as yet unforeseen. The drug had limited affects on rats, suggesting that continued therapy is required.
Government-sponsored rehabilitation programs may be able to save money by offering simpler treatments. This means that budgets can be potentially redirected towards other areas. I would support the use of this alternative measure to reprogram the ill habits of addicts, as it is yet another psychotherapeutic treatment.
I find it difficult to allow people to refuse chemically altering memories for religious reasons if they have a history of habitually abusing drugs. I personally believe that, regardless of religious beliefs surrounding pharmaceuticals as “toxic chemicals,” a little more exposure to a kind of drug won’t hurt an addict.