An idea for a drug treatment that focuses on erasing memories linked to drug-taking could be used to treat post-traumatic stress and phobic anxiety disorders, researchers claim.
Scientists have been able to reduce drug-seeking behaviour in rats by using a chemical to block a memory molecule in the brain.
The research, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, could lead to memory-control drugs that would be taken when addicts are most at risk of surrendering to their cravings.
Memories exist in different states, depending on whether they are being recalled or not.
During recall, they can be altered or erased through a process called “reconsolidation”.
Cambridge scientists hope that employing this technique to block recollections of drug-related memories may help stop reforming addicts falling back into drug-taking. Such relapses are often triggered when addicts summon up drug-associated memories.
Professor Barry Everitt, who led the Medical Research Council-funded scientists, said: “The results suggest that efforts should be made to develop drugs that could be given in a controlled clinical or treatment environment in which addicts would have their most potent drug memories reactivated.”
Co-author Dr Amy Milton added: “This might also be used to treat other neuropsychiatric disorders characterised by maladaptive memories, including post-traumatic stress and phobic anxiety disorders.”
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