Monday, April 8, 2013

Forgetting Therapy

There is ongoing research into the use of propranlol to treat those with Posttraumattic Stress Disorder. Propranolol is a pharmacological agent that, when used straight after a traumatic incident or during recollection of the stress, blocks beta-adrenergal stress horomones such as glucocorticoids and adrenergic signals (epinephrine and norepinephrine), affecting emotional response to memories. Studies have been done in the areas of acquisition, formation, and encoding of memories, emotional response and consolidation of events and retrieval and reconsolidation of memories. The use of propranlol was tested in both lab environs and in emergency rooms to threat sufferers of PTSD in the former case, through retelling of their experiences and in the latter to treat rape victims straight after the experience occurred. In both cases, those who were treated with the agent had a far lower subsequent response to the stress than those who either refused the treatment (in the latter) or were given a placebo (in the former). The memories are not forgotten, despite what the name suggests. Only the intensity of the emotional response is lowered.

There are many questions raised in the article regarding this treatment. Opponents of the use of propranlol state that the memories and emotions people have dictate that person's sense of self - altering these would be the same as changing the person. The author argues that propranlol would only be used in severe cases, when the intense emotional response would interfere with daily life and relationships, the examples used being a veteran who spends an hour crying over the decorated graves of comrades on the fourth of July or one who drives miles and miles out so he wouldn't have to hear the triggering sound of fireworks.

Another issue is the illegal and immoral use of propranlol - specifically to turn a person into a mindless killing machine by injecting the agent into his or her system before an otherwise stressful event as well as the abuse of the agent by people taking it before every event in their lives they believe might possibly lead to a stressful or unpleasant memory. It is something that can be taken out of the realm of war and trauma and into the every day life, if someone would take it right before going to break up with a significant other. It is possible that an overdoes could lead to retrograde amnesia. Like anything else it can be a dangerous drug. However those with debilitating PTSD also deserve treatment, even more so after the several wars and many tragedies such as 911 and all of the school shootings in recent years. It should be kept out of the easy reach of the public however, and out of reach of those who would like to capitalize on the legal and illegal sales of the agent. If it is going to be widely prescribed to treat PTSD since it does have positive effects in the long run, it should be tightly controlled.

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