A Pill to Make You Forget?
Is there a now a magic pill to help you forget a painful experience? Dutch researchers are testing the waters with beta blocking heart pills with the belief that these pills alter how we remember and react to difficult memories.
During the study, 60 people were given an unpleasant memory by combining photos of spiders with mild electric shocks to their wrists. A day later the group was split and half were given the pill, and half given a placebo. Both groups were shown the same spider pictures from the previous day and their shock and fear levels were monitored. The group that had the heart pills showed less fear than those given the placebo.
The following day, once the drug was out of their system, the volunteers were retested. Once again, those who had taken the beta blocker were less startled by the images.
Study leader Dr Merel Kindt explained that although the memories are still intact, the emotional intensity of the memory is dampened.
Dr Kindt stressed that using the procedure for complex conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder was still many years away.
This research has, a its heart a variety of ethical issues. Altering the mind to forget certain experiences, be they traumatic or wonderful is something to be extremely cautious of. While it is a step forward in helping scientists and doctors to understand the mind more fully, is it something we really want to be medicating for? Trauma can be dealt with time, diligence and proper psychiatric care. I'm not so sure that medicating is the answer.