Memory-Erasing Drug May Help Prevent Meth Addicts From Relapsing

For many people struggling to overcome drug addiction, relapse is a dangerous part of the road to recovery. It can be triggered by a passing memory of the drug’s pleasurable effects — sometimes even after years of sobriety.

But what if scientists could hack into the brain to stop relapse at the source, by erasing that powerful memory?

A team of neuroscientists from The Scripps Research Institute have tested a new drug called blebbistatin on mice addicted to methamphetamine. Preliminary findings indicate that it can selectively erase dangerous addiction-associated memories.

“When people come out [of a treatment program], unfortunately one of the really big relapse factors are these memories, and they can last for a person’s entire life,” Dr. Courtney Miller, one of the study’s authors, told The Huffington Post. “So they always have the risk of relapse when they encounter those triggers.”

The findings could have enormous implications for individuals struggling with meth addiction, which is one of the most difficult drug addictions to overcome. The relapse rate for meth is an estimated 93 percent. Only 16 to 20 percent of meth addicts ever make a full recovery.

The researchers envision using a one-time memory-erasing treatment in conjunction with traditional treatments such as in-person rehabilitation and abstinence.

“When the person is in-patient, they’d use this treatment once and it would target those drug-associated memories that could be triggers for them,” Miller said. “Later on when they’re back in the real world, the memories wouldn’t serve as triggers because they’d be gone.”

The new findings, published in the online Journal of Molecular Psychiatry, build on a 2013 discovery made by the same research team.

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