Eternal Sunshine Of An Addict’s Mind?

Gladstones Clinic always endeavors to stay up-to-date on the latest scientific studies and research into addiction and recovery. Sometimes new findings look promising, and other times, like the following recently published study, they look decidedly disturbing. Have a read and decide for yourself.

Most people are familiar with the cult-classic 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. In the film, Carrey and Winslet’s characters go to extreme lengths to get over a difficult break-up. Eventually they opt to have their memories of the entire relationship mechanically and permanently erased in order to move on. Madcap non-linear cinematic hilarity ensues as the characters inevitably discover that some memories, even painful ones, are best left alone to do their jobs.

Back in the real world, research conducted at the Department of Neuroscience at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida and just published in this month’s Molecular Psychiatry  has revealed a method of using a specific chemical to wipe away memories. And they claim that the new procedure will only suppress memories of drug use.

“The idea is that someone would go into a rehab program with the typical abstinence therapies and while they are in the treatment program they would receive this medication one time and it should remove all of the associations with the drug,” said Courtney A. Miller, Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida.

These researchers are convinced that reducing memory invoked “triggers” will reduce relapses that can occur one to three months into recovery. They are also certain that they can show that addiction memories are different to ordinary memories and so can be excised from the brain safely..

“Memories that are storing associations with drugs like methamphetamine seem to be using different mechanisms in the brain than other, more mundane memories,” “When the [meth] memory is sort of sitting there in the brain it’s behaving differently than other memories.” according to Miller. This would allow that memory to be safely dumped.

Strategies to reduce triggers are certainly welcome, however we do wonder just how certain any one can be when declaring that memories of one’s first kiss differ enough from one’s memory of drug use that the latter could be safely targeted by a hunter-seeker chemical while ignoring the first kiss memory completely.

“The findings here are real game changers,” Gary S. Lynch, professor of psychiatry and human behavior at University of California School of Medicine, told Discovery News. “What this points to is a completely new strategy for treatment of addiction. For the past 10 years there have been many challenges to the notion that memories are cemented in. But this study shows that memory really is still a dynamic, malleable business and that there can be another way of dealing with dependency.”

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