Scientists at the National Institute of Drug Dependence at Peking University in Beijing researched a process called “memory reconsolidation” they say could decrease the likelihood of relapse in recovering drug addicts.
The study, which was published in the journal of Science, combines traditional extinction procedures that are usually used when attempting to treat those with addiction. These procedures are meant to sever memories tied with taking drugs to help patients control their cravings, but statistically they usually fail after the addict sees objects that cause a trigger.
According to Medical Daily, Lin Lu, of the National Institute of Drug Dependence, memory reconsolidation is different than simply using extinction procedures because it doesn’t attempt to sever the memory — it attempts to alter it for a short period of time.
Using cocaine and heroin-addicted rats as test subjects in the study, the rats that had been exposed to the memory altering technique exhibited less reaction to triggers both during the sessions and up to 180 days later, according to researchers.
“The (memory) procedure decreased cue-induced drug craving and perhaps could reduce the likelihood of cue-induced relapse during prolonged abstinence periods,” the authors wrote.
Dr. Amy Milton, who researches memory and addiction at the University of Cambridge, told BBC that the research was “very exciting” because it showed that “such a minor” difference from current therapies could tap into different memory processes and reconstruct the original memory.
“Full clinical studies are needed, but it could be really important for treatment of addiction. There is no theoretical reason it couldn't apply to other addictions such as alcohol. That's obviously very exciting.”
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