back to article Beta-blocker 'erases' unpleasant memories

Dutch scientists claim to have shown that the beta-blocker propranolol can "erase" unpleasant memories - a discovery which "opens up new avenues for providing a long-term cure for patients with emotional disorders". Professor Merel Kindt and her team from the University of Amsterdam first subjected human volunteers to a "fear …


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  1. Liam


    "those who'd taken propranolol were simply less afraid than those who hadn't." less affraid doesnt equate to not affraid at all. and since there was obviously SOME fear from something it simply doesnt work! and giving people betablockers just makes them numb anyway.

    thats like saying 'wow, heroine can stop people getting stressed out'

  2. Marvin the Martian

    Alcohol has been shown to do the same!

    (and it tastes far better and you can get it without prescription or 7.20quid NHS part-payment.)

    That's what the eminently named prof DoraDuka has been saying for a while, anyways:

  3. Simon Cresswell

    Do you reckon...

    .. I could get some to erase the memory of my Ex?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Prescribed propanolol for anxiety...

    Obviously this is my subjective experience, but I was prescribed propanolol for anxiety (note: not hypertension) in my twenties. It seemed a little unconventional but previous treatment with SSRIs hadn't been terribly helpful. My experience was generally quite positive with minimal side effects. Obviously the paper reports a very specific set of circumstances where propanolol is given and a memory reactivated - but this seems quite a promising avenue to pursue.

  5. Mike Crawshaw
    Black Helicopters

    How long

    before NuLab makes it mandatory to make us all less afraid of their latest crack-brained schemes?

  6. richard

    I lost three years...

    Prescribed Propranalol for regular migraines in my late teens and always put my hazy memories of my college years down to ingestion of... other substances.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Useful information, but...

    The reaction to unpleasant situations is part of the learning experience; suppressing it could leave someone more vulnerable to the real world.

    I take a similar beta blocker (bisoprolol) to control a cardiac arrhythmia, and have found that, for an hour or two after my daily dose, I am less bothered about unpaid bills and the like. This has sometimes led to problems.

    This use of beta blockers may have some function in the treatment of people who are badly distressed by a very serious incident, but I hope it will not be used as a panacea, as too many drugs are.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Could have it's uses.

    Would this help me when I forget to pay my tax bill - have less or no fear of being taken to jail :-)

    Mines the one with the bottle of pills in the pocket.

  9. Tawakalna

    didn't do that for me...

    I was on this stuff for 3 years a while back and it didn't erase any unpleasant memories for me, if anything it made more because it gave me wild mood swings and monged me out. Not in a nice way either. Dreadful stuff. Bl**dy quacks.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    How long before...

    After every government cock up they put a dose in the water supply ?

    Ah you say ! But then they would have to be dosing the water everyday !

  11. Simpson
    Thumb Down

    @Simon Cresswell

    ".. I could get some to erase the memory of my Ex?"

    But then you might date her again...

  12. Robin Baker

    I wonder?

    I was prescribed beta-blockers after a particularly stressful time in my life. Recently I have been asked to remember various things that happened around then (1996/7 ish) and have found it very difficult to do so. Perhaps this is the reason/excuse I need to explain why?

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Is it that...

    ... the subjects were less afraid, or just didn't care?

    Having been also prescribed propanolol as a migraine prophylactic I could testify to the latter...

  14. evilbobthebob

    It must be helpful

    It has lol in the name!

    I'll get my coat.

  15. Jim


    I'd love to lose most of highschool.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    I feel a great disturbance in the lulz...

    ... It was as if millions of trolls suddenly cried out in anguish ... and were suddenly silenced.

    It will spoil all the fun of trolling people into clicking on a link to goatse if there's now a way that they *can* un-see it after all!

  17. Aaron

    Re: Anonymous Coward: could the problem be your doctor?

    You cite being given SSRIs, and an extremely off-label prescription of an antihypertensive drug, for an anxiety problem. Were you ever prescribed an anxiolytic?

    No, I don't think it's a good idea for anyone to be researching how to edit human memory. Who do *you* feel you can trust with that power? Why?

  18. Anonymous Coward


    I too was proscribed propanolol for anxiety and had very much the same experience as the other anonymous coward above...

  19. yossarianuk

    Need some for after work.

    I could do with some of this after every single day at work.

    It might help to block the nightmares....


  20. Nebulo
    Thumb Up

    Erases unpleasant memories, eh?

    Hmmm. Sounds interesting.

    So, roughly, how much do I need to take out about 30 years of watching my country being broken up, flogged off and the remains turned into a police state?

    And don't tell Jacqui, or it'll be bloody Class A by the weekend.

  21. David Eddleman


    "The reaction to unpleasant situations is part of the learning experience"

    Err, so what you're trying to say is that people who were rape victims, or suffering from PTSD or from any myriad number of disorders should not be allowed to seek treatment from an event that by all accounts should not have happened to them?

  22. kain preacher

    Tech support wounder drug

    At least for management. Hand them out at will and you will forget why you want to leave the crappy company you work for .

  23. Nick L

    More years-old news

    Whilst it's always valuable to have research peer-reviewed, this is by no means the first discovery of this effect. Researchers at Harvard were studying it five years ago: and in Montreal three years ago:

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    drug to erase memory

    want blue smarties want blue smarties want blue smarties Now!!!

  25. Alan Ferris

    Off label ?!

    Not off label at all. The British National Formulary says quite clearly under Indications and dose:

    "Anxiety with symptoms such as palpitation, sweating, tremor, 40 mg once daily, increased to 40 mg 3 times daily if necessary"

    Section 4.1.2 on Anxiolytics says

    "Beta-blockers (e.g. propranolol, oxprenolol) (section 2.4) do not affect psychological symptoms, such as worry, tension, and fear, but they do reduce autonomic symptoms, such as palpitation and tremor; they do not reduce non-autonomic symptoms, such as muscle tension. Beta-blockers are therefore indicated for patients with predominantly somatic symptoms; this, in turn, may prevent the onset of worry and fear. Patients with predominantly psychological symptoms may obtain no benefit."

    It sounds like entirely appropriate prescribing to me... most other anxiolytics are of the same family as Valium

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @David Eddleman, re: learning experience.

    If you read my post all the way through, you would find I did not exclude any appropriate treatment for traumatised patients. I merely suggested that beta blockers should not be used as a panacea, as some drugs have been with unfortunate consequences,

    As for the learning experience, it is, at all levels, the basis of our lives. Starting with our parents (or carers), siblings, then childhood friends, teachers, more friends, colleagues, strangers (friendly or otherwise), work, vehicles and other machinery, the media, world politics, whatever has shaped our view of the world.

    For myself, I hate the idea of losing any of that, but I can also see that it may sometimes be necessary to help some who are distressed. I merely advised caution against yet another magic pill.

  27. Pete "oranges" B.


    But let's say I /do/ want to see how far the rabbit hole goes, where's the red pill?

    Mines the long, black one with the Micro Uzi's in the pockets.

  28. David Wilkinson

    Memory vs Conditioning ...

    No one is forgetting anything ... they are just breaking the subconscious association spider = electric shock.

    After that the spider triggered discomfort which was enough to at least partially sustain the conditioning without the shocks.

    This shows that taking a beta blocker will speed up desensitization. This could be very useful when someone is trying to overcome a traumatic event or a phobia.

    I just miss the part where memory is affected?

  29. Steve Roper

    You can't do a goddamn double implant!

    He has really been there [to Mars]! Someone has erased his memory!

    Use your head you dumb bitch! He's just acting out the secret-agent portion of his ego-trip!

    I'm afraid that's not possible...

    Why not?


    (gives nod to Arnie :) )

  30. David Kairns

    Hello "Brave New World"

    Drugs, the "aware" way to live a life.

    Soon: A drug to make you forget you're on drugs (also deals with pesky independent and creative thought).

  31. James Halliday
    Thumb Down

    From my very limited memory of a lecture a long time ago.

    I believe Beta blockers worked by 'relaxing' your heart (well stops it responding to stress and keeps it autonomic) , basically stops it racing - and therefore the nervous cascade a racing heart kicks off. You know the feeling, you get nervous, you feel your heart rate go up, you feel even worse, your heart rate goes up - basically panic.

    Even when you've just had a shock and then you realize you're fine - you still have that little period where you don't feel right as you wait for your heart rate to go back down.

    Anyway, response that was seen here, as has been pointed out, is f'in obvious. What would be more useful is if it carried on having an effect days, weeks, months later after the pill was taken. Or more interestingly if taking them whilst looking at the pictures and being shocked, caused the fear to be 'less imprinted' on the subject.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Well.../@Jim

    " I'd love to lose most of highschool. "

    Are you, perchance, a teacher?

    On another note -- why hasn't anyone mentioned Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?

    Buy it, rent it, download it, whatever.

    True must-see cinema.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Well.../@Jim

    Oops - just "spotted" the URL!

  34. Vlad The Impugner

    Imagine the possibilities....

    ......if you could autodose this on being rickrolled.

    The fun would never end ldo

  35. Anonymous Coward

    @ Re: Well.../@Jim

    >"On another note -- why hasn't anyone mentioned Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind?"

    For some mysterious reason no-one can remember it...

  36. Michael Dunn
    Thumb Down

    @Mike Crawshaw

    They'll just put it in the water.

    Water? Never touch the stuff!

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