Propranolol, cure for
June 24, 2007:
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Broadcast last week on 60 minutes, experiments
are currently underway to determine if a drug used
for other reasons, propranolol, does, indeed, elim-
inate the trauma caused (to many) by devastating
The early results are encouraging.
The memories aren't erased. They're simply placed
into a reasonable and non-trauma perspective that
enables a person to deal with them calmly, rationally,
Being that I suffered from such an event, a divorce,
an ongoing nightmare that lasted until I finally got
relief through anti-depressants (Wellbutrin XL -and-
Mirtazapine), relief I'm still enjoying even though I've
been off the medication for many months now, I'm
fascinated by the prospect that propranolol may
The particular trauma I experienced, a lover/best
friend turned into an ongoing nightmare, year after
year of hatred directed at me, and the memories
of those experiences, year after year, got both
stronger and worse as time went on, so bad that
at the end that they just cycled rapid-fire through
my heart and mind, and I couldn't stop them ... until
... finally, I stumbled onto help that worked ... that
help coming when I was very near the end of my
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An event becomes a strong memory, a traumatic
memory, when emotions are high, he explains.
Those emotions trigger a release of stress hor-
mones like adrenaline, which act on a region of the
brain called the amygdala -- and the memory is
stored or "consolidated," explains McGaugh.
Current studies have focused on propranolol, a beta
blocker commonly prescribed for heart disease be-
cause it helps the heart relax, relieves high blood
pressure, and prevents heart attacks. "Hundreds of
thousands, millions of people take this drug now for
heart disease," he tells WebMD. "We're not talking
about some exotic substance."
Studies have shown that "if we give a drug that blocks
the action of one stress hormone, adrenaline, the
memory of trauma is blunted," he says.
The drug cannot make someone forget an event, Mc-
Gaugh says. "The drug does not remove the memory
-- it just makes the memory more normal. It prevents
the excessively strong memory from developing, the
memory that keeps you awake at night. The drug does
something that our hormonal system does all the time
-- regulating memory through the actions of hormones.
We're removing the excess hormones."
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In reply to a poster who wrote:
> This is JUST what we need, science bent on
> manipulating how we think.
More accurately stated, the experiments
with propranolol suggest that traumatic
memories can become non-traumatic.
Certainly, I suppose that anyone wanting
to maintain the trauma, would do so. As
for those who would prefer to have the
devastating life event stop adversely im-
pacting them, emotionally, -if- propranolol
does, indeed, allow them that option, I'd
expect that it will be approved for that
purpose, and rightly so.
For the religious, I suppose a "Praise God"
would be applicable there. For the non-
religious, a "Thank Goodness" -or- "Thank
Science" would be applicable, and even
the religious could join in on those. (-:
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In rely to a poster who wrote:
> One wonders how humanity ever made it out
> of Paleolithic without therapists.
Not sure what aspect of propranolol you
oppose, or why. After all, the drug is used
to treat heart conditions, so if it also reduces
trauma, wouldn't that be welcome?
Put another way, if it also reduces trauma,
what about that do you find objectionable?
I suppose you wouldn't object to a mother
or father or doctor or psychiatrist or psy-
chologist comforting an individual stricken
with trauma, with words, nor would you
oppose any relief an individual might get
from said comfort, yet it would appear that
if the relief is in the form of a pill, it's the
method, not the relief, that discomforts you.
Words, not medicine, are the cure for all
that ails you, insofar as the brain or hor-
mones go? Hmmm, well, congrats if all
it takes for you to recover from trauma
or hormonal imbalance are words, but for
many, no amount of words, however care-
fully chosen, work, and for those, perhaps,
propranolol just might be a very welcome
and viable solution to a life-disabling or life-
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