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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Scientist Dose Snails With Meth to Understand Memories in Addicts

Recovering addicts are advised to stay away from the people, places, and things that were associated with the using. People just starting down the road to recovery are extremely fragile and highly susceptible to relapse which is why it makes sense to remove those elements of one's past that remind the addict of the way things once were. Sometimes the smallest of triggers could start a chain reaction that will bring the addict right to active use, highs achieved from drugs and alcohol can leave lasting memories in the brain; it is those memories that remind the addict of how good they could feel if they just used one more time, it is as if the memories of how bad it was, at once, disappear.

Methamphetamine addicts have difficulty with their memories of the highs they once had, prompting many meth addicts to be chronic relapsers. The dynamics of methamphetamine and the total effects that the drug has on the brain is not fully understood, so, combating methamphetamine addiction has proved quite difficult. There are scientist all over the world who are working to understand the drug's effects so that they can help provide guidance regarding treatment. One interesting study was just released dealt with pond snails, where scientists dosed the little creatures with methamphetamine in order to help us understand how certain "pathological memories" form in human addicts.

"It's hard to get rid of those memories in addicts," says Barbara Sorg at Washington State University in Pullman. Methamphetamine is such a powerful drug in how it affects memory, that when used in low doses, it acts as a "cognitive enhancer" in treating attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Ritalin, Dexedrine, and Adderall are all amphetamines that are prescribed to kids to help them stay focused in school, meth and those medications are all part of the same family."To probe the drug's effect on memory, Sorg's team placed pond snails in two pools of low-oxygen water, one of which was laced with meth. In low-oxygen conditions snails will surface and use their breathing tubes to access more oxygen. By poking the snails, Sorg's team trained them to associate using the tubes with an unpleasant experience, and so keep them shut. Only the snails on speed remembered their training the following morning, and in a separate experiment it took longer for them to "unlearn" the memory".

The goal is to work out how to diminish specific memories in order to better assist addicts in their recovery.

New Scientist

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