Beta Blocker 'Erases' Bad Memories

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 15, 2009 6:44 PM CST
Pfc. Joseph Dwyer, 26, from Mt. Sinai, N.Y., carries a young Iraqi boy in this March 25, 2003 file photo near Al Faysaliyah, Iraq. Dwyer died of an accidental overdose after struggling with PTSD.   (AP Photo/Warren Zinn, Army Times)
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(Newser) – A drug usually prescribed for high blood pressure can relieve people of painful memories, the Telegraph reports. Taking the beta blocker drug propranolol, subjects in a Dutch study experienced less fear when reminded of a shocking memory. Researchers said millions of people suffering from emotional disorders or "self-perpetuating memories" could be relieved by the drug.

One analyst cast doubt on the findings, saying memory removal "will change our personal identity since who we are is linked to our memories." Another warned that it could cause "psychological discontinuity," or help witnesses forget crimes. They would "render themselves unable (with a good excuse for being unable) to give evidence," he said. (Read more memory stories.)