London: A prescription drug used to treat anxiety may soon be able to beat alcoholism, a new study has claimed.

Scientists at Cambridge University believe that Propanolol, a beta-blocker drug, obstructs certain memories in the brain that are known to trigger relapses among alcoholics.

The breakthrough followed earlier research, which showed that the drug could delete a stimulus in rats' brains if the animals had a craving for drink.

The study will be the first to look at the effects of disrupting drug memories on alcoholics.

Researchers believe the drug may help prevent what they call "cue-drug memory" - when memories of certain people and places that are closely linked to with the craving for alcohol prompt an unconscious impulse to drink.

Propanolol targets the beta-adrenergic receptors in the brain which help to create a strong emotional memory. Scientists believe the drug may work by stripping emotion from the memory. The discovery could revolutionise approaches to the treatment of chronic alcoholism.

"Traditionally, memory was viewed as similar to a book, which can be shelved but never changed once printed. We now think that memory is more like a word processing document - you can save it and then recall it, at which point you can adapt or even delete its contents," the Independent quoted Amy Milton, the study leader as saying.

The initial findings of the study will be presented at this week's Cambridge Science Festival.

(Agencies)