Drug Helps People Forget About Alcohol. And No, It's Not More Alcohol.

Illustration for article titled Drug Helps People Forget About Alcohol. And No, It's Not More Alcohol.

Can blackouts help treat alcoholism? In a word: yes. Sort of like how spending a sunny Saturday hugging the toilet can treat wanting to drink rum ever again.


As counterintuitive as that sounds, blocking certain memories can actually help in the treatment of alcoholics, whose fond memories of imbibing can spur relapses, or at least make treatment more difficult. Researchers have found that a drug normally used to aid recipients of transplanted organs can turn off the part of the brain that is triggered by reminders of their bygone extracurricular activity of choice.

The UC-San Diego team discovered the transplant drug's other application by getting a bunch of lab rats wasted every day for "several weeks." (For some reason, I'm imagining the rats downing tiny rat-sized vodka shots while jamming out hard to the music of The Hood Internet, since that group's music has accompanied me on many a joyful journey to Festivetown in the past. But I digress. BACK TO THE RATS LIVING LIKE COLLEGE FRESHMEN.) After the rat bender, the animals were forced to abstain from alcohol for 10 days. Following their mini-cleanse, the rats were given a drop of alcohol and researchers noted what portions of the brain were activated. Fortunately for the sloppy rats, the drug Rapamycin proved effective in preventing a return to alcohol for the duration of the study, as it interrupted the brain pathways down which fond drunken memories normally travel. This is great news for those of us whose fathers are literally rats with drinking problems.

Drug-induced blacking out, in a weird twist of fate, can help keep addicts sober, which is a lot more socially useful than what happens when I black out (fall asleep in my clothes while watching Futurama on my laptop/eating an entire pizza/send regrettable text messages).




So, forcing rats to go on a 10-day bender and then withdrawing alcohol for another 10 days is really our experimental substitute for alcoholism? I don't know if I buy that. I mean, just because someone has a wild spring break week featuring test tube jello shots and too much pino grigio, followed by a mid-term week of agonized studying doesn't make that person an alcoholic, right? Hypothetically speaking, of course