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It's not the right way to deal with stress or bad experiences in one's life, but we've all turned to alcohol at times to help us get through some tough times. And, while "drowning our sorrows" is thought to be the way to go, new research begs to differ, saying that it might actually be strengthening the memories of of people instead.
That's according to a study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, which discovered that alcohol consumption when used on mice didn't erase memories, leading researchers to believe that, if the same occurs in humans, binge drinking to relieve emotional stress isn't the way to go.
"If the effects of alcohol on memories to fearful responses are similar in humans to what we observe in mice, then it seems that our work helps us better understand how traumatic memories form and how to target better therapies for people in therapy for PTSD. In fact, binge drinking or other attempts to use alcohol to self-medicate could be sabotaging any therapy efforts," says Norman Haughey, Ph.D., professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
This is a wrinkle in the general theory that alcohol actually leads humans to forget things, using it as a coping mechanism to forget things—especially painful experiences.
To conduct the experiment, mice were split into two groups, with one group receiving water and the other served alcohol. With both sets given a controlled "fearful memory"—an electrical shock—then brought back the next day to do the same, mice in the alcohol group froze over 50 percent of the time, while the sober mice froze only 40 percent of the time.
While it's important to note that these results are still unknown in humans, it's important to note that, if the reactions in the mice are related to human behavior, drinking loads of booze to wipe away a bad memory is definitely not the way to go, as the alcohol may only trigger more details of the incident.