Treating Drug Addiction by Altering Memory

A new study shows that reactivating the memories formed around substance use could provide a treatment for drug addiction.

This might sound like something out of a science fiction novel but it’s actually based around the theory of classical conditioning which dates back to Pavlov’s dog theory. Classical conditioning, also known as Pavlov conditioning is based on the understanding of memory and learning. It came to fruition by Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov, who initially began studying the digestion process of dogs. He later found that the dogs would learn to salivate when they heard a noise before their meal arrived.

Using the same logic, Mike Saladin, a research and clinical psychologist led a study to show that addiction is a disorder of memory and learning. Saladin’s goal was to reactivate memories of substance abuse so that they can be weakened enough to lose their power. This is not a quest to change a person’s memories, Saladin says, it’s “turning down the volume” on these memories.

Within the memory many sounds are associated with different actions. If someone pops a wine bottle, a person knows that they will soon have something good to drink. That is a memory and it’s quickly stored into the rolodex of the brain. Drug use stores within the same rolodex and for someone who has been addicted to drugs for years, there are many drug memories that are relentlessly nagging a person to use drugs again.

With drug addiction being an epidemic in America, thinking outside the box could lead to new treatment options that help to create a better, healthier society.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy outlined Thursday its main priorities for battling illegal drug abuse and distribution in the United States. This is the office’s first National Drug Control Strategy.

The report was released the same day that the drug control office’s first permanent director since the Obama administration, Jim Carroll, was sworn-in by Vice President Mike Pence.

There are many options when searching for help from substance abuse. Drug rehab directories can assist someone in finding a treatment center that best fits their particular needs. Research any and all options when searching for any medical help.