Researchers are currently testing the drug propranolol, a non-selective beta-adrenergic receptor blocking agent currently used mostly for
cardiovascular diseases, as a traumatic memory suppressant. The federal government has been impressed enough by a pilot study conducted by Dr. Roger
Pitman, a Harvard University psychiatrist, to invest in further studies. While these findings have created enthusiasm among many, there are those who
feel that all our memories are important to our sense of identity and that suppressing traumatic memories might make us less able to learn from
Dr. Roger Pitman, a Harvard University psychiatrist, did a pilot study to see whether it could prevent symptoms of PTSD. He gave 10 days of either
the drug or dummy pills to accident and rape victims who came to the Massachusetts General Hospital emergency room.
In follow-up visits three months later, the patients listened to tapes describing their traumatic events as researchers measured their heart rates,
palm sweating and forehead muscle tension.
The eight who had taken propranolol had fewer stress symptoms than the 14 who received dummy pills, but the differences in the frequency of symptoms
were so small they might have occurred by chance _ a problem with such tiny experiments. Still, "this was the first study to show that PTSD could be
prevented," McGaugh said, and enough to convince the federal government to fund a larger one that Pitman is doing now.
Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
We can easily understand why the federal government would be interested in this research. Reducing the effects of psychological trauma would be a
huge boon to those whose lives are forever changed for the worse and treating those who have such symptoms costs us all when the treatment is
However, there is a case to be made against giving everyone propranolol to suppress memories, if this effect is verified and is permanent, when only a
small percentage actually develop long-term symptoms of stress. Researchers remind us that the memories are not erased, but only suppressed to such a
degree that instead of reliving the experience, it is more like the person has only witnessed the event.
But, what happens if a rape victim's suppression of the rape memory makes her less willing to testify in court? Prosecutors might find that
convicting offenders without testimony from the victim impossible in some cases.
What if the drug was used by law enforcement or governments to blunt the memories of torture victims? Would the use of such measures escalate when
victims do not remember the anguish and therefore are less likely to provide meaningful details of the crimes?
I, for one, would welcome anything that would help trauma victims lead more normal and more productive lives. But likewise, I would hate to see
medications limit our abilities to adapt sufficiently to our environment and to have the wherewithal to protest victimization and abuse. There is
much to consider here.
Related News Links:
Related AboveTopSecret.com Discussion Threads:
"Marlboro Marine" faces New Challenge (moved from ATSNN)
VA to Review PTSD Claims (moved from ATSNN)
MSN article about PTSD and Abductees.
WAR: Emotionless Marine Look: The Private American War
[edit on 2006/1/15 by GradyPhilpott]
[edit on 25-7-2007 by asala]