A drug that could erase drug-associated memories for recovering addicts sounds like something you would read in a sci-fi novel. But, a recent study that was conducted on mice addicted to meth shows that this science fiction scenario could be a reality for humans in the near future.
When a person is addicted to a drug (for example, meth), relapse is one of the biggest risks for those in recovery. A positive memory of the drug triggered by any number of things could cause the person in recovery to relapse. For those who have struggled with a meth addiction, a new drug (blebbistatin) could help the patient from relapsing.
Those struggling with a meth addiction have one of the hardest times recovering from their addiction, with 93 percent falling back into relapse. This means that only 16 percent to 20 percent of those addicted to meth make a full and sober recovery.
A big part of these relapses are due to triggered memories that associate the drug with pleasurable experiences in the past. And some of these memories can last a lifetime. A drug such as blebbistatin might be able to increase the success rate for those recovering from their addiction to meth.
Of Mice And Meth
To be clear, researchers are still trying to determine if the drug blebbistatin could be safe for human use. You cannot purchase this drug right now or use it alongside your current treatment (at least not yet). In the future you might be able to take advantage of this drug, but right now, researchers have only tested it on mice that were addicted to meth. But the preliminary trials of the drug look promising.
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The Scripps Research Institute neuroscientists are aiming to stop addiction at its source: the brain. Their goal is to go into the brain and erase the memories associated with meth use to prevent relapse. These neurosurgeons took mice that were addicted to meth and administered blabbistatin to them.
They found that the drug can erase dangerous memories associated with the addiction. Blabbistatin is a drug that targets and selects specific memories linked to addiction.
How Does Blebbistatin Work?
By now you are probably wondering how a drug could target specific memories. How does the drug’s selective nature on erasing only meth related memories work? Can it erase other non-addiction memories?
Our minds are very complex. Memories are stored in brain cells called neurons. Inside the neurons is a substance called actin (a structural protein) which helps store the memories. Any memory is created when the actin detaches and reattaches itself onto the neuron.
For those struggling with addiction, for visceral memories (memories associated with drug addiction), the actin attaches and detaches more quickly. This creates a memory that is dynamic and lasts longer than other memories that were formed.
With new research, neuroscientists found that with these specific addiction related memories, they could prevent the actin from re-attaching itself to the neuron, therefore blocking the memory altogether. Proteins for regular non-meth memories stabilize quickly, but proteins for meth induced memories last longer. The researchers were able to use blebbistatin to target the dynamic proteins specifically.
Blebbistatin is used to specifically target actin in the brain. This drug blocks a molecular motor protein that supports actin activity. With just one injection of blebbistatin in the laboratory mice addicted to meth, the researchers found it blocked meth related memories in the mice for 30 days or longer.
Despite the drug “erasing” the memories associated with meth, blebbistatin did not seem to alter or erase other memories in the mice’s brains. It also did not harm any new memories that were formed.
A New Medical Frontier
While the drug is still in its preliminary stages, researchers must find out if such a treatment could be a possibility for humans. The idea that a drug could help erase memories associated with drug abuse seems both intriguing and a bit controversial. We do not yet know how such a drug will affect the human mind.
Altering and erasing drug related memories could be a welcome new recovery method for those who have been struggling with a drug addiction for years. In fact, the neuroscientists envision a future where a patient will be administered blebbistatin just once to erase the drug related memories (alongside other current forms of treatment).
Researchers think that if this drug could work for humans, by the time they are done with treatment, when they enter the “real world” again, their drug related memories will be erased. No memories of the drug will prevent triggers from allowing the patient to relapse. Or at least that is the hope.
While this drug could soon be a reality, there are still questions that remain unanswered. In some regards, it certainly is a controversial topic. Would the drug really erase a patient’s drug related memories completely and permanently? What if the erased memories have unforeseen consequences?
For example, what if erased memories give patients a blank slate where they have no recollection of their past drug abuse? Could it be possible that no memories (positive or negative) associated with past drug abuse could cause a patient to “try” or “experiment” with a substance again because they forgot what it feels like? It’s a scary thought. Hopefully because the patient would also be undergoing other forms of treatment to address the addiction, scenarios like the one listed above would not happen.
Treatment For Your Addiction
Regardless of what treatment you receive for your addiction, always talk to your psychologist/doctor or rehab facility if you have any concerns or questions. Erasing positive or negative memories by a drug could have many unintended consequences, which is why much more research needs to be done before the drug is put on the market.
Perhaps this drug will lead to many more success stories, but only time can tell. Until then, if you or someone you know is struggling from a drug addiction, there are many treatments available right now to help you.
Contact us at Vertava Health for more information about this topic or others. There is hope. Reach out to us today at Vertava Health to start your new future.