Researchers in Cambridge have found that laboratory rats, given the beta blocker drug Propranalol, have fewer cravings. Therefore they suggest that this drug could cure alcoholism in humans.
The researchers found that Propranolol could erase a stimulus in an animal's brain. They are now hoping that it can prevent 'cue-drug memory' in humans, when recollections of people or places or events associated with alcohol lead to a subconscious impulse to drink. They hope that the drug will strip emotion from the memory.
Alcoholic mice: There are some fairly large differences between mice and men
Propranolol has been around for years. It is used to calm the heart and calm the mind. In moderate or high doses it lowers the blood pressure. In low doses it reduces anxiety. It is used by vast numbers of people. Some of them will have been alcoholic. By now they would have reported any effect it had on reducing cravings. But they haven't.
It would not be difficult to do a simple search of medical records to see if it has worked already in reducing cravings. More complex research looks to me to be unnecessary and, perhaps, more related to marketing than to clinical care.
But there is a more serious flaw in this research. Rats are not humans.
Our capacity to experience our feelings is much more developed than in animals. In many ways it is precisely what makes us human.
Also, just imagine that Propranolol does strip emotion away from memory.
What a terrible thing that would be in a drug that is so widely prescribed.
Again, would that not have been noticed already
And imagine a life that does have emotion stripped away from memory.
Last night I heard The Brodsky Quartet playing in The Wigmore Hall.
Their music was inspiring, beautiful, wonderful. I remember the experience very well. Without the associated feelings, it would have been merely an interesting collection of notes.
Today I see that Arsenal are catching up Spurs in The Premiership. This threatens my belief in what life is all about.
Is an emotionless life what these researchers want for us? Heaven forbid.
Dr Robert Lefever, The Daily Mail