Tag: memory loss

Would You Let Someone Erase Your Memories to Save You From Relapsing?

Seriously, This Drug Can ERASE Your Meth Memories

It’s kind of an insane question, right? Would you let a doctor literally erase memories if they promised it would help prevent relapse and they’d only erase memories associated with meth use?

Start coming up with an answer because, according to top scientists, there’s a real possibility this type of treatment may soon be coming to a drug rehab near you.

An article published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry in early August explored how scientists in Florida are working to create a “meth memory eraser” and how they’re gearing up to start running human trails.

Without going into a bunch of technical jargon (don’t worry, that’s below), researchers at The Scripps Research Institute have been studying how memories and addiction interact for a number of years. Then, in 2013, they made a breakthrough.

They found that by blocking a common protein called actin they could actually erase memories associated with meth use in mice while, at the same time, leaving other memories untouched.

This project is the brainchild of Courtney A. Miller. Miller is an Associate Professor of Neuroscience at Scripps. She’s been exploring the intersection of substance abuse and memory for the past 15 years.

In a recent interview, Professor Miller stated,

“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…It’s exciting” (The Washington Post).

Learn exactly how this meth memory erasure works – and whether it’s safe for humans to try – below!

How Drug Memories Are Formed

In 2013, while conducting research that involved giving lab mice copious amounts of methamphetamine, Miller discovered something groundbreaking. No, it wasn’t that mice love meth – memories involving meth and “normal memories” are physically different, according to Miller.

To explain the difference, it’s important to explore how memories are formed. Although this is pretty scientific and dense stuff, The Washington Post explained it in pretty straightforward language.

Basically, our memories are nothing more than electric and chemical connections in our brains. In other words – our memories are made up of neurons and the connections between them.

The actual connections are named dendritic spines. They “held up” by that protein actin we mentioned above. It acts as support and framework for the dendritic spines spanning our brain.

what our memory neurons look like
this is what our memories actually look like

Once we experience something – anything – actin stabilizes around new dendritic spines. After a few minutes, it’s stable and the memory is cemented into our minds.

When it comes to meth, though, this isn’t what happens. Rather than stabilize around the dendrite, actin actually remains instable.

This leads the memory to behave differently than a normal memory and may, scientists believe, account for the euphoric recall associated with meth addiction.

This also may have something to do with anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure that many recovering meth addicts experience in early-sobriety.

Okay, so scientists now know how meth memories are different than regular memories. They know how they’re formed and how to selectively target, disrupt, and effectively erase them.

Sounds pretty good, right? Well, there’s a bit of a problem.

Actin is one of the most prevalent proteins in the human body. It’s responsible for a host of necessary functions, including “…how muscles contract, [how] the heart works, [how] cells divide…So if we inhibited actin it would probably kill a person” (The Washington Post).

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Is There a Way to Erase Memories Without Killing Us?

That, readers, is the billion-dollar question.

Well, Miller and her team at Scripps weren’t ready to give up. They went back to the drawing board and tried out some new ideas. After a year of hard work, they believe they’ve come up with a way to erase meth memories without also killing someone.

Instead of targeting actin itself, they’ve switched their focus to something called blebbistatin. This is a chemical that inhibits something called a nonmuscle myosin II (also known as a NMII). NMIIs support memory formation and by blocking them Miller was also able to block meth memories from being formed in mice.

meth causes intense drug cravings
meth? what’s meth?

Don’t worry if you don’t get exactly what that means. I’ve been reading scientific studies about NMIIs and blebbistatin all day and still don’t understand exactly how they work!

What matters here is the practical implication of Miller and her team’s research. After injecting mice with one dose of blebbistatin, they were able to block meth memories from being formed for 30 days. At the same time, the mice’s other memories were left untouched and intact.

That sounds like a win to me!

There’s one major thing to remember though. These tests have only been performed on mice. It remains to be seen whether the effect will be the same in humans. Miller and The Scripps Institute are in the process of applying for federal grants and hope to start human trails within the next five years.

When asked about her research, Professor Miller remained hopeful. She said,

“We now have a viable target and by blocking that target, we can disrupt, and potentially erase, drug memories, leaving other memories intact…The hope is that, when combined with traditional rehabilitation and abstinence therapies, we can reduce or eliminate relapse for meth users after a single treatment by taking away the power of an individual’s triggers” (Gizmag).

What do you think? Let us know on social media!

Short and Long-Term Effects of Inhalants on the Brain

The Deadly Effects of Inhalants

What Do Inhalants Do?

When someone huffs computer duster, does whip-its or any other inhalant, the effect on the brain is immediate, intense, and short-lived. The user feels drunk or dizzy, is unable to concentrate, and isn’t able to speak properly. The user may also hallucinate, black out, or even die. Inhalants can cause hostility, headaches, and rashes. Inhalant use can also cause sudden death when the chemical replaces oxygen in the lungs, essentially suffocating the individual.

Over time, the effects of inhalants on the user’s body adds up.[1] Long-term effects of inhalant abuse and addiction include:

-Muscle weakness

-Disorientation

-Loss of coordination

-Irritability

-Depression

-Brain damage

-Memory loss

-Hearing loss

-Bone marrow damage

-Heart failure

Long-term inhalant use has also been shown to damage the lungs, liver, and kidneys.

effects of inhalants

Why Inhalants Are so Dangerous

At their very core, inhalants work by depleting the body of oxygen. What makes inhalants so dangerous, beyond the numerous side effects, is that they’re accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

A can of hairspray, whipped-cream, glue, gasoline, paint thinner, household chemicals…all of these can be huffed. For a group of kids who’re mildly bored, huffing glue might start to sound like an okay idea. This is especially true when they’ve found information about the high they produce on the internet.

Read about other legal gateway drugs like Kratom and Kava

The Real Short-Term Effects of Inhalants

What’s actually going on when someone huffs is hypoxia (the medical term for when the body is depleted of oxygen). Oxygen doesn’t just allow us to breathe, it keeps our brain functioning. Hypoxia is particularly damaging to the hippocampus, the part of our brain responsible for memory.

The effects of inhalants over a period of time can destroy myelin (the tissue that protects nerves). Nerves carry messages throughout our body and brain. When you couple hypoxia with the destruction of myelin, well, it’s no wonder that huffing damages basic motor functions like walking and talking.

Read about the dangerous effect of alcohol and “Wet Brain”

Why the Long-Term Effects of Inhalants are Often Overlooked

Inhalants abuse is tricky because they’re often viewed differently than drugs. A normal parent doesn’t look at a can of whipped-cream and see a heroin addict, but the reality is that inhalant abuse often leads to other drug abuse. Even if it never leads elsewhere, inhalant addiction itself is deadly.

The reality of huffing is that it can kill you. Sudden Death Syndrome (often called Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome) and the short and long-term effects of inhalant use make them just as dangerous as any street drug.

The insanity of inhalant abuse lies in the short-term high. Within moments of getting high, the user has to start inhaling again. In doing so, users continually increases the amount of oxygen depleting chemicals in their body. The brain damage caused by such intense use is often irreversible. Inhalants are one of many drugs that need increased awareness as to their potential for harm and addiction.

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[1] http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/inhalants/effects.html

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