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Éliane’s blog led me this morning to an article in La Presse about an “amnesia pill.” An article about the same study can also be found on the AP wire. Happily this one’s title refers to easing traumatic memories, and not erasing them. There was also a New Scientist article last month about the research done at Harvard, on which there had been discussed in the university Gazette in March 2004. Almost old news.
One thing I found interesting was the grapevine effect. The first mention I read of the drug was on David Byrne’s journal, where he interpreted it as a pill that erases bad memories. This is also what the La Press title suggests.
As Dr Pitman explains, the drug “doesn’t put a hole in their memory. It doesn’t create amnesia.” What it does is weaken the link with the post-traumatic reflex –which reflex happens to be quite useful: if I nearly died from a lion attack, it’s nice to instinctively run away from that animal on subsequent occasions. However, in acute PTSD cases, this reflex becomes debilitating and the sufferer can no longer function. The treatment (together with psychotherapy) would establish a new balance.
The memory remains, and remains painful; but life can go on.