What could I "use" to cause a population wide long-term memory loss.

So far all chemicals that I have read about cause future memory loss. That is to say, if you are exposed to it today, tomorrow you won't be able to form new memories.

But what I need is a chemical of sorts that will cause a population to forget anywhere between a few months to a year in the past, depending on how strong the exposition to the chemical was.

It needs to be propagated by air so that not everyone will suffer the same effects, preferably.

Does such a thing exist or should I just make-up one?

  • $\begingroup$ If you were aiming at hours, I'd suggest reading about date rape drugs, aka roofies. But your title is misleading. Months are long-term memory. Not short term one. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 12 '17 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot oops, big mistake. Didn't even notice that. must have short term something or other myself. Thanks $\endgroup$ – shieldedtulip Oct 12 '17 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ try propranolol but seriously I doubt such a convenient prescription exists(over the counter) $\endgroup$ – user6760 Oct 12 '17 at 2:10
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760 doesn't have to be over the counter, I need it under the chopper ;) $\endgroup$ – shieldedtulip Oct 12 '17 at 2:23
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    $\begingroup$ Well established idea in fiction. Don't think you need to invent a real molecule first. Most if not all readers will be fine with that idea. It's also an unwritten rule that one never names chemicals that could actually do stuff like that because criminals do exist and can read $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Oct 12 '17 at 2:41

The answer, as far as I can tell, is that there aren't any existing drugs that would do what you want.

Drug-induced amnesia is, of course, a real thing. In your question, you alluded to drugs that cause anterograde amnesia, which involves a reduced ability to form new memories. Alcoholism can cause this, but some drugs - mainly benzodiazepines - can, too. That said, you don't want anterograde amnesia, but retrograde amnesia.

However, there aren't really drugs that cause retrograde amnesia for the time periods you're looking at. Some infamous date rape drugs can cause memory issues, but nothing that long-term; additionally, these only affect memories formed after the drug was administered. Even if you could find a drug that would do this, though, it would still be hard to make it airborne and still reasonably potent for a wide range of people.

  • $\begingroup$ AFAIK there are drugs preventing / impairing memories transfer from short to long term memory. Will consult with MDs today. Still, it can only get rid of last few hours, maybe a day max. $\endgroup$ – Mołot Oct 12 '17 at 7:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Mołot guess it'll have to be a strange new chemical that is used on my population. $\endgroup$ – shieldedtulip Oct 12 '17 at 11:50

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