Propranolol is the main memory changing drug and most literature on the subject of memory altering drugs refers to propranolol. The drug works by decreasing associations between an experienced event and the emotions attached to that event. The drug is usually given within a few hours. Propranolol also reduces the effects of stress hormones. Propranolol is also used to treat high blood pressure, problems with heart rhythm, heart disease, anxiety, migraines, and glaucoma.
Propranolol was created by Sir James Black in the 1960s. Sir James Black was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1988 for his creation. Although the main debate about the drug surrounds memory and performance, the drug was originally designed to treat problems related to the heart. A small sample of people who have taken the drug for various conditions have reported that the drug is moderately effective in treating their conditions.
In terms of the use of propranolol for altering memories there are several points of concern. One concern is that the drug must be given within a few hours of a traumatic event. Studies have shown that propranolol is highly effective if given after a few hours of trauma, the drug is not typically issued as a long-term treatment. An argument is made that our memories are part of our journey through life and to lose these is unnatural no matter how bad the memory is. Loss of an accurate perception of reality due to the alteration of a memory is another concern. These last two arguments focus on the notion that our memories make us who we are and teach us how to deal with life.
The benefits of the drug are numerous. Once given studies show that the drug has shown a significant reduction in symptoms associated with traumatic events. The drug is also been so effective in treating performance anxiety that it is banned from the Olympics and many competitive performing events such as music, and speech for example.
This drug should be allowed and it should be up to the individual to decide to use the drug. Although one’s life experience may be changed this is one’s choice of how to experience life. More studies need to be conducted to determine lifetime outcomes of people who have used propranolol.