Curious possibility

Something I was reading a while back that I thought was a fantastically interesting possibility was the notion of using Propranolol (a beta adrenergic receptor blocker drug, most commonly used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease) to treat PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

I first saw it on 60 minutes (which is of course always such a bastion or journalistic reliability and cautiousness), but afterwards I had a look on Pubmed for any published scientific articles on the topic, and while there weren’t many, and they were mostly case studies or case series, it did seem that this was not as unsupported and crazy as I had initially suspected it might be.

The 60 minutes article and several papers talked about using the drug for short courses (days to weeks) at what seemed like comparatively high doses, in conjunction with cognitive therapies and emotional stimulations relating to their specific PTSD situation.

The patients reported that while it did not remove the traumatic memories, there was no longer the intrusive emotional and physical responses associated with the memories.

There were some “experts” (philosophers and some psychiatrists) who were voicing concerns about the use of drugs to effectively modify memories, arguing that it was a dangerous precedent, since we formed bad emotional associations to stop us making mistakes repeatedly, but those who were researching this treatment made the counter argument (which I agreed with) that PTSD is not a normal response, and if we see someone with a broken arm we don’t deny them pain killers because it will cause them to miss out on the full experience of having broken a bone, so why would we consider it any different to contemplate withholding treatment for someone’s emotional pain?