A prescription for ‘the spotless mind’
Spoiler alert: 'The Hangover Part II'
Published: Sunday, June 5, 2011
Updated: Sunday, June 5, 2011 16:06
If you're debating whether or not you want to read this column, fear not. If you hate it, soon enough you will be able to pop a prescription tic-tac and erase it from your memory.
Neuroscience researchers from the University of Montreal have conducted a study that suggests that the drug metyrapone, a medication that lowers stress hormones, also lowers your ability to recall negative emotions.
They came to this conclusion after showing 33 men a slide show and then medicating them to forget the worst bits.
The slide show depicted the story of a girl that goes to visit her grandparents. They attempt to build a birdhouse, but she gets seriously injured; great job, grandma and grandpa. There are scenes with lots of blood, and they go to the emergency room.
Three days later the men were given the medication or a placebo and then asked to recall the story. The majority of the medicated men did not recall the bloody parts, but if they did, it evoked less emotion.
How this was clearly evident, I have no idea. Perhaps the men that were not medicated cried the entire time they retold the story and the medicated ones used a Darth Vader voice changer while telling the gruesome tale.
They never tell us the best parts about these scientific experiments, like who came up with the slide show in the first place and where can I find it online?
Days after the medication wore off they were asked to recall the story and it remained the same.
This was the most significant finding: taking the medication only once has a lasting effect on how you access the memory in the long term.
This discovery could seriously improve the lives of patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and they should be allowed to use it, marijuana or anything else to improve their condition. Pleasant recurring thoughts can be a burden; I can't imagine the torture from a traumatic recurring thought.
I don't, however, see the drug working well for me. I'm a good secret keeper, but I would never be able to keep a secret from myself. So when I found out I had taken the drug, the first thing I'd do is go to therapy to find out what it was that I wanted to forget. Then, when the therapist uncovered the memory, I'd take the medication again.
Subsequently, when I came across the mysterious pill bottle for metyrapone under the seat of my car next to a petrified French fry, I'd go back to therapy to uncover it again; it would be beneficial, but a vicious and expensive cycle.
A good example of the negative effects of this mind-altering idea is the movie "The Hangover Part II". This film, conveniently, revolves around the bad things that happen when you forget what happened the night before. Once you do remember, all you want to do is forget again, like when the dentist found out that he had sex with a she-male stripper. An amused Bradley Cooper consoles him, saying that someday he'll forget it ever happened.
Ed Helms stares into the distance and unconvincingly replies, "Yeah, I'll just forget it happened." Seconds later, Cooper got shot in the arm, causing him to get eight stitches. "Eight stitches!," my brother, who was high on pain pills and saw the irony that he too just received eight stitches, whispered in excitement from the wheelchair next to me in the movie theater. About seven hours prior to this, he was standing in a puddle of blood that poured from his Memorial Day foot injury.
"Yay, eight stitches!," I whispered back. The pain pills did a good job of helping my brother forget this trauma, but I can definitely see how someone in Ed Helms' shoes would need something more powerful, especially if it took place the night before you tied the knot. It would truly be difficult to enjoy the honeymoon with such a graphic image dancing around in your head, unless that happens to be your thing.
There's a need for this drug: for the people that really need it, and for the guys that need to sincerely tell their wives and girlfriends they don't remember what happened at the bachelor party. It could be crushed and dusted over Las Vegas and Bangkok.