MEDs, Memory Enhancing Drugs

This story was featured as an audio short on In Print Radio, WBOM, Best of Mendehlssohn

Memory Enhancing Drugs


Audio log: Project Onero
This is Dr. Miriam Mathis, Assistant Director of Neurocognitive Pharmacodynamics Studies at OLA.
It is 12:54 pm on August 17, 2018

Where to start? Since the end is near, perhaps the beginning is best.

I remember when the drugs first hit the market. What am I saying? Of course I remember. Let me begin again.

What if your memories, your every thought and experience, could be kept? Logged, referenced, cross-referenced…Facts, details, knowledge…all available at your mental fingertips…

In the beginning, the memory enhancing drugs were welcomed with open arms…or should I say, open minds? MEDs were a happy byproduct of years of lab studies on a drug originally developed to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and later provided to assist in the failing memories of Alzheimer’s patients. When the drug first hit the market it seemed like a godsend. The public ate them up and touted their benefits as if they were the cure for cancer. Of course, there was every chance they would be. The future was bright.

Memory has always been an inexact science. There have been plenty of studies that theorized this system or encouraged that process, but there’s never been a fool-proof method to choose what you will remember and what you will forget. MEDs fixed half the problem.

MEDs allowed you to remember everything. Memory binding on multiple levels created this phenomenon which kept all new memories and reinforced existing ones.

They could not be abused, though many tried. In the end, the minimum dosage had the same affect as an over-dosage, so why waste them?

Voracious for an academic, social or personal edge, people were clamoring to read anything—everything. He who ‘knew’ the most was surely the smartest.

Within three months of over-the-counter release, the cumulative IQ of the nation soared by 25 points. There was a revamping of the entire education system, pre-k through college. Standardized testing was no longer relevant. Not only were students paying attention, they were recalling what they’d been taught. Teachers were invigorated. We were all invigorated! Businesses prospered, great advancements were anticipated. A modern miracle of science–finally a drug to benefit society.

Unlike the steroid athletic scandal of the last decade, MEDs were encouraged. The advantage they provided was not seen as unfair, but equalizing.

We should never have put them in the water. That was our arrogant intention.

The benefits of a perfect memory ranged from restaurant orders to never misplacing your keys again to always knowing important dates and checkbook balances. You didn’t get lost, you nailed that report, aced that test, and wowed that crowd with your perfect speech.

No longer could you ‘forget’ to pay a bill, miss an appointment, or avoid the dentist.

MEDs popularity was never more obvious than when the First Lady endorsed them with her, “JUST SAY KNOW” campaign.

Of course, she was soon ravaged by public outrage due to the skeletons in her closet.

Forgive my digression. It is nearly impossible to tell a linear tale when you remember every detail. And the details’ every detail. The devil truly is in the details.

The health benefits of MEDs were much greater than just total recall. Simply put, they slowed blood pressure, allowing blood flow to remain equalized. With no additional stimulants added, they allowed patients to focus, relax, sleep regularly…and remember.

MEDs were not addictive, but their abilities were. Once you had experienced 100% total recall, it was nearly impossible to go back to ‘blue-collar’ memory. MEDs went from prescription to OTC. Available globally, MEDs became a daily staple.

Of course, there were negative side effects. People on MEDs didn’t actually ‘learn’ anything. Their recollection was mostly rote. Mimicry. Watching or reading and recalling do not a doctor make. Or chef…or mechanic…or lover. An experience lived is worth a thousand witnessed.

We’d studied the drug for years. Testing. Perfecting. Side effects were minimal, oftentimes purely psychological; agitation, exhaustion, excitement. We were too controlled. Our subjects overly sheltered. We did ourselves–and society–a grave disservice.

With all of our scientific expertise, we neglected to note that memory is potentially 90% emotion and barely 10% fact. We’d bypassed passion for logic.

Memories hold incredible power. What we remember is what we know. What we know is who we are. They are the ultimate in personal. You may ‘share’ a memory with another, but theirs is not yours, it’s not the same.

With MEDs there came a sense of entitlement. I remember, therefore I am. Nobody said, “I believe” or “I think” anymore, because they didn’t. We knew things, regardless of fact or perspective, and that seemed enough.

Then things went from tea time at the Country Club to power hour on Jerry Springer.

Lawsuits that had become civil and nearly unnecessary since the distribution of MEDs suddenly turned ugly and vindictive. People used found knowledge as fact and reiterated it as so. Relationships dissolved. Never forgetting an anniversary became never forgetting a quarrel. All wrongs, however slight, were remembered. Forgive and forget? You couldn’t.

Society imploded.

There is a world war waging just outside my lab. They will be here any minute I’m sure. I’m the last of the responsible. My head is desired on a platter.

What should have been a boon to civilization has become an intolerable bane.

We tested for years. We were dedicated. We were thorough.

We were shortsighted. We were wrong.

My time is limited; my memories go with me. And still I leave you with words oh so familiar, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” To that I say, “Those who remember are condemned.” Audio log: out.