Year after year, it seems there is some kind of new exciting research promising that we can use a pill or medication as a miracle cure for addiction. The shortcoming of these claims is that addiction is not purely a physical issue, but a complex multidimensional issue that involves a person’s mind, emotions, behaviors, and circumstances. Even if a pill can address the physical and chemical aspects of addiction, it does not actually solve the addiction.
However, an article from The Washington Post reports that researchers in Florida claim to have found a way to selectively wipe memories that only pertain to drug abuse.
Obviously, the idea of using a chemical to erase part of a person’s memory is a highly controversial one. How can the researchers really guarantee that only memories associated with drug use would be erased? What if the drug damaged other parts of a person’s memory? What if it accidentally erased good memories? How exactly is this chemical supposed to work? It seems like the procedure is so risky and unestablished that people would be afraid to use it.
Expert Opinion on the Procedures
Courtney A. Miller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Neuroscience at The Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Fl. She had this to say about the procedure:
“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.”
She went on to say that:
“Immediately following withdrawal, most substance users enter a ‘honeymoon’ phase where they report feeling physically and emotionally well, with few cravings. However, approximately 1–3 months into recovery, many abstinent individuals report hitting a ‘wall’. This phase of recovery is marked by anhedonia [the inability to feel pleasure] and strong cravings that often result in relapse.”
She proposes that conventional methods of withdrawal and detoxification are no longer workable, and that her research results are the future of recovery:
“A few, moderately effective replacement therapies exist for opiate, nicotine and alcohol dependence. However, no such options exist for psychostimulant [meth, cocaine, and MDMA] dependence, and further, there are no pharmacotherapies for the prevention of relapse associated with any drug of abuse.”
The Addiction Community Remains Skeptical
This approach sounds inherently risky and questionable ethically. A great deal of more research and testing needs to be done before this kind of treatment can be offered in any major way. Even then, it could best be a tool to help addiction recovery, but it will never be a cure for addiction. People need to not only address the physical and mental aspects of addiction, but address all of the underlying issues that resulted in the addiction in the first place.