The forgetting pill: would you take it?

 

If there was a pill you could take to wipe out a traumatic memory forever, would you take it?

If there was a pill you could take to remember something you’d completely forgotten but that was essential to your happiness, would you take it?

 

A recent research article in Wired   reports experiments on rats, that appear to have succeeded in wiping out a traumatic memory.

“For years scientists have been able to change the emotional tone of a memory by administering certain drugs just before asking people to recall the event in detail. New research suggests that they’ll be able to target and erase specific memories altogether.”

A report in the Sunday Times by Amy Turner this week reported on human trials being conducted into a commonly used beta blocker which also appears to delete distressing memories in sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Psychologist  Charles Fernyhough has pointed out that science is, as yet, a long way from being able to define the makeup and location of a specific memory, so a drug that can achieve this is probably decades away.

But would you take it?  An obvious application would be for the Armed Forces.  As the mother of an ex-soldier who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I am all too aware of the agonizing memories that a soldier must bear; I would certainly wish that such memories could be erased forever.

However, aside from the dramas of the battlefield, during the course of a normal life, which distressing memories, if any, would you choose to erase,  given that painful events can often lead to new learning and insights that are helpful, maybe even life changing?  What might you erase, along with the memory, that you might prefer to keep?  As the report in Wired points out:

It may be possible to zap rodent memories, but we can’t ask the rats how they feel afterwards. Maybe they feel terrible. Maybe they miss their fear. Maybe they miss their morphine. Or maybe all they know is that they miss something. They just can’t remember what.”

What if there was a pill you could take to remember something you’d completely forgotten but that was essential to your happiness?

This question is explored in my novel in progress, Honor’s Ghost when Doctor Honor Sinclair, a psychiatrist and psychotherapist takes part in clinical trials for a drug aimed at curing mild cases of depression and anxiety.  The effect of the drug is to induce a dream in which the dreamer remembers something about themselves that they have completely forgotten.

Would you take that drug?  Is there something you need to remember?

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