According to Wired magazine’s latest cover story, scientists are in the process of designing a series of drugs which will erase specific memories, dull emotional responses associated to memories, and dull physical pain associated with memories.  However futuristic these claims seem, neuroscientists have long known that the key to easing suffering related to painful or traumatic memories lies in reconsolidation.  Every time you “remember” a memory, your brain must restore that memory.  That means reprocessing it.  It also means that every time you recall a memory, that memory is forever altered. Your present emotional state, physical state, and knowledge will change the way you remember the memory.  Using chemicals and molecules which inhibit this reconsolidation process, scientists can erase memories.

 

Before the Big Brother warnings begin, we need to consider the ethical implications of such chemicals.  For people who have experience horrendous events or traumatic situations, erasing these memories may help them survive and actually live life.  These memories are a cancer to survivors of such events.  They spread throughout the body, affecting every system.  Just like cancer or any other medical disease, shouldn’t these people have the opportunity to attempt pushing their “virus” from their body?  As Dr. Karim Nader points out in the article, “If you’re in a car accident and you break your leg, everyone agrees we need to give you treatment and painkillers, but if something terrible happens and your mind breaks, people conclude that treatment is a dangerous idea.” Shouldn’t we allow people who are disabled from their memories to rise up again in triumph?  Some may argue that talk therapy is the treatment for these memories.  However, although psychiatrists and psychologists try their best to aid those with mental health difficulties, their results will never be anywhere near where the drugs results are.  Dr. Alain Brunet, a clinical psychologist, states regarding the field of psychiatry, “We never cure anything. All we do is try to treat the worst symptoms.”

 

Obviously the ways in which we treat mental health today are not as efficient as they should be.  Every day thousands of Americans walk around and try to live their lives as only part of themselves.  Whether it is a diagnosed disorder or a memory to painful to deal with, people with these difficulties cannot live fully.  They are stunted and forced to fold under the pressures of their mind.  For example, survivors of sexual assault often experience a wide array of emotional, physical, and mental problems as a result of the constant bombardment of recollections from the event (s).  Their minds never let them forget or move on.  They are trapped in one moment, reliving the terrible act over and over.  Every thought and every behavior is analyzed in the context of this memory and scripted.  Even with therapy, survivors still deal with the invisible scars from their assault.  With these new medications, however, survivors of events such as sexual assault can find relief.  Their memory of the event can be dulled, or even erased, as well as their emotions toward the event.  In these drugs may live the power to free so many of the world’s most tortured souls; people who are not tormented by others, but by their own body and mind.

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