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Could Erasing Drunken Memories Help Treat Alcohol Addiction

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Alcohol Teenage AddictionScientists have long understood that certain memories can trigger someone to drink but until now there was very little they could do about it. A new study from researchers at Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UC San Francisco can now find and deactivate a pathway in the brain that is connected to memories that cause alcohol cravings in rats.

This could mean the first step towards creating a pharmaceutical treatment for relapse in alcohol addiction.

"One of the main causes of relapse is craving, triggered by the memory by certain cues - like going into a bar, or the smell or taste of alcohol," said Segev Barak, PhD, the lead author of the study. "We learned that when rats were exposed to the smell or taste of alcohol, there was a small window of opportunity to target the area of the brain that reconsolidates the memory of the craving for alcohol and to weaken or even erase the memory, and thus the craving."

“The smell and taste of alcohol were such strong cues that we could target the memory specifically without impacting other memories, such as a craving for sugar,” said Barak.

While this could become a great new method for treating alcohol addiction, it is not a complete treatment method. The new research shows any treatment would only block memory based cravings. It would not treat the underlying issue that caused someone to start drinking to excess in the first place.

That is not to say this treatment is without value, but it is important to understand its limits.

Currently, scientists are administering the drug right after the initial stimulus in their tests with rats.

“We learned that when rats were exposed to the smell or taste of alcohol, there was a small window of opportunity to target the area of the brain that reconsolidates the memory of the craving for alcohol and to weaken or even erase the memory, and thus the craving,” said Dorit Ron, PhD and co-senior author of the study.  

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I am a passionate writer on the topics Drug & Alcohol Addiction, Eating Disorders & a range of other Mental Disorders and love sharing the information I find. I'm always interested in new opportunities to write & love to share other people's content with my social audiences.   

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