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.

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This research has, at 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. Would you want to forget?

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4 thoughts on “A pill to make you forget?

  1. As someone who is oftentimes crippled by several horrible memories, if a chemical treatment like this could work, I would be willing to take it. These waking nightmares are causing me post traumatic stress disorder, and they are from incidents that occurred when I was a child. They are crippling and I would do whatever it takes to get rid of them.

  2. Isn’t this what happens in the film ‘Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind’ and it all goes wrong? Just sayin’. Cx

  3. Following on from this. When I am treated by my homeopath she is always interested in any changes in appearence of my skin. One remedy she gave resulted in ringworm patches on my body which promptly disappeared in one day. Apparently in homeopathy if the symptoms are on the skin this means the ‘illness’ is at an acute stage. If you then suppress these skin symptoms with hydrocortisone etc this causes the acute stage to be suppressed and it then becomes chronic.

    What I am tring to say is that in homeopathy suppression of surface skin conditions can cause the ’cause’ to go deeper within the body. I thought this paralled the above use of drugs to ‘wipe out’ painful experiences.

  4. As Kate Andrews and Arne van Oosterum have said, ‘Because from failure we learn and grow,’ this lead me to think that this is not the best idea. I can understand how people would want to forget traumatic abuse or the loss of a loved one but it these experiences that shape who we become.

    There must be countless ways to overcome these situations, including hypnosis, and half the battle in getting over traumatic experiences is the battle in accepting that these things have happened.

    I believe that the health professionals and drug manufacturers have a responsibility to us to teach us more about the mind, but they have a bigger responsibility to ensure that our minds are not compromised in any way – I believe that this drug could have undesirable consequences and could erase more than just ‘bad’ experiences. Also, if you choked while taking the pill, would you forget that it happened?