Snails on meth have better memories


Snails that are high on methamphetamine remember simple "this happens when I do that" lessons longer than sober snails put through the same trials.

Interesting for somebody like me, who takes Ritalin to treat the symptoms of ADHD. Studies have shown that ADHD is linked to lower levels of dopamine in the brain and that stimulant drugs—in low, keep-your-teeth, no-turning-tricks-behind-a-7-11 doses—bring those brains back up to into the "normal" range. I've long wondered whether the improvements I see when I take Ritalin have more to do with getting around to doing certain tasks, or simply remembering to think about doing them at all (it's sometimes hard to tell a difference).

The researchers on this snail study are hoping for some insights into the biology of addiction, but I'd imagine there's something to learn about ADHD treatment from this line of questioning, as well.

Image courtesy Flickr user, via CC


  1. Gotta say, I’m surprised you have ADHD. Your posts are always measured in tone–calm, even, in comparison to the other BBers. That’s not a criticism of any sort, it’s just that the others are more of a ‘Hey, lookit this! And this! But wait, over here!’ sort of feel. And not that posts are a good measure of anything at all, except for Cory’s obvious obsessive-compulsive disorder with bananas. Probably something Freudian mixed in there, too.

  2. That’s why meth is prescribed for severe cases of ADHD in the form of Desoxyn. Strangely, it’s Schedule II, along with opiates, cocaine, morphine, and heroin. Marijuana, LSD, and psilocybin are schedule I, i.e. more illegal. Ain’t it great!

  3. Maybe that’s how it starts out, but before you know it they’re out at the truck stops, asking grandmothers and little kids if they’ve ever done it with a gastropod, and methodically amassing a really impressive arrowhead collection.

  4. We (my wife and I) are struggling currently with our 9 1/2 year old daughter who exhibits symptoms of both ADD and OCD. The possible dx of ADD from a psych. surprised me since I thought it was rare in girls. If I may inquire, how old were you when you first began to exhibit symptoms? Any suggestions?

    1. Joel, drop me an email (maggie dot koerth at gmail dot com). I’ve got a couple of thoughts for you.

    1. Damn You!

      Two minutes later…..
      Snails on Meth
      on Meth
      on Meth
      on Meth

      Drum Solo.

      Gotta wonder if the snails mucus wrestle in the video (with their shells off, bow chicka bow wow)

  5. Seriously, folks, ADD or ADHD is not a real diagnosis. There are many different explanations that do NOT involve medicating children. Or adults, Maggie. This is the biggest boondoggle ever, worse than the anti-vaxxers. Give it up. And yes, I have dealt with this with my son who has mental health challenges but ADD or ADHD is bullshit. Its the easy way out instead of finding out what the real problem is — or most likely isn’t.

    1. Yasminah,

      A lot of very smart scientists disagree with you. I’m inclined to believe them. Particularly when the whole “ADHD isn’t real” thing is championed by a lot of the same people that push anti-vax ideology and useless/placebo alternative remedies.

    2. ADD and ADHD are probably over-diagnosed. That does not by any means equate to them being fake.

      1. I’d remove one word from your sentence “probably”. Then you’re spot on.

        ADHD is certainly over prescribed. There are a lot of kids that are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD simply because they’re slightly hyperactive and poorly disciplined.

        This does not mean ADD/ADHD is bullshit.

  6. Wow, amazing, reminds me of a similar study I read about on the internet somewhere. . . now where was it. . . ? Oh yeah, I saw it on some site with the silly name “”

  7. Interestingly enough, “snails on meth” has been moved to the top of BP’s “how to cap the frickin’ geyser” list.

  8. “Snails that are high on methamphetamine remember simple “this happens when I do that” lessons longer than sober snails put through the same trials.”

    Oddly humans that are high on methamphetamine don’t seem to remember simple “it hurts when I set myself on fire, crash my bike etc.” lessons longer than sober humans put through the same trials.

    That said, I find that drugs help my ADD. I prefer to think of it as an attention surplus , I can’t stop paying attention to everything all at once , and my train of thought is more like a gang of clowns on vespas.

  9. it’s been my contention for quite some time that nootropic drugs should be considered for treating ad/hd, hydergine, vinpocetine, piracetam, etc. and from personal experience, meth’s ability to increase memory recall improves synthetic thought as well because it allows you to draw from a bigger dataset to generate new ideas, and, i should add, the newly learned information that comes from the greater memory access it allows sticks, at least the important scaffolding of new concepts. on the flipside, excessive amounts of meth cause a loss of time awareness, hours can pass and seem like no time passed at all, and you can find yourself doing the same stupid thing over and over again for hours before your body says ‘enough!’. it also impairs judgement in a way that i found very closely resembled the impairment from alcohol, as well as increased impulsivity and emotional lability.

    the thing is, meth is pretty much the primordial asymmetric N-substituted alpha alkyl phenethylamine. ethyamphetamine, methyl propyl, and many other asymmetric substituents have hardly even been studied and there is probably at least one or two substances not yet studied or very little studied that have all the benefits and very little of the problems of methamphetamine but whether they will ever get studied and developed into useful medications is of low probability in the climate of drug prohibition.

  10. I diagnosed an adult with inattentive type ADHD today :) Yasminah, I can tell you ADHD is very much a real diagnosis, and it many cases people have lived with it for decades before being properly diagnosed and finally finding a treatment that works for them.

  11. Actually, many commercially available prescribed ADD/ADHD drugs are amphetamine analogs such as methyphenidate, though oral use eliminates some of the side-effects of things like methamphetamine. Such drugs include Adderall, Concerta, and Ritalin. (Strattera, interestingly, is one of the few big ones that’s not amphetamine-related).

    ~Annika (Neuroscience PhD Student)

  12. actually, it’s got nothing to do with dopamine. meth is also an alpha 7 acetylcholine agonist as well and as anyone who knows about neurochemistry would recognise, this is a neurotransmitter associated with memory and coordinative signalling.

    none of the other amphetamine analogues in use have this effect, the nearest legal drugs that are similar are nicotine and a number of nootropics such as vinpocetine. i should also note that ketamine has the opposite effect on this memory related neurotransmitter.

    dopamine agonism, in fact, is very problematic, and is the primary neurotransmitter associated with all of the bad effects of cocaine and alcohol. this is why i talked about much closer analogues that are asymmetric substituted amphetamines, SAR would suggest that a better drug that targets this synaptic receptor type would be very closely similar in shape but have little to no effects on catecholamines. none of this information is that hard to find with a medline search and i might be hazy on details but alpha 7 acetylcholine receptors should, in my view, be the target for AD/HD treatment, at least for inattentive type. hyperactivity IS reduced by all of the dopamine agonists, because motor impulse control is regulated by dopamine.

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