Memory Effects Of Drugs On

Research investigating the effects on memory of ALCOHOL (ethanol) and drugs of abuse is dispro-portionally small in relation to the widespread use of these substances worldwide. The available evidence clearly indicates that ethanol and abused drugs significantly affect memory processes. Much of current knowledge of the effects of such commonly used substances on memory is based on experiments using laboratory animals. In typical experiments, the animals are trained in a learning task and given a memory retention test after a delay of one day or longer. In experiments on commonly used learning tasks, the animals are trained to acquire responses that provide escape from, or avoidance of, aversive (negative) stimulation. Appetitive motivation (food or water reward) is also used to train animals in mazes and other types of spatial learning.

When investigating acute (single treatment) influences on learning and memory, drugs can be administered before the training, shortly after the training, or before the memory test. When drugs are administered before training, it is difficult to distinguish effects on memory from other influences on sensory, motivational, and motor processes. When administered within a few minutes after training, but not after a delay of several hours, drugs of many classes can enhance or impair memory. Such findings are interpreted as indicating that the drugs can modulate memory-consolidation processes occurring after a training session. The drug effects are typically dose-dependent. For example, drugs that enhance memory when administered in low doses may impair memory when administered in higher doses. Experiments examining the effects of a drug administered prior to memory testing are difficult to interpret, since drugs can affect many processes affecting behavior other than memory. For the same reasons, the alterations in memory performance that are produced by the chronic (long-term) administration of drugs are also difficult to interpret.

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