Psychedelic medicine is an issue increasingly visited by lawmakers, clinicians, researchers, patients, and advocates across the USA. This week, House Committees in both Missouri and Georgia heard testimony from varied sources on the potential therapeutic effect of these substances for one of the subgroups of people commonly suffering from mental illness: veterans.
The hearing on Tuesday September 6th marked the first time since 1963 that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has studied whether or not psychedelic-assisted therapy was an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Missouri And The Right To Try
As the state of Missouri continues to grapple with their drug laws, a new bill is being proposed that would allow certain patients to access currently banned entheogenic medicines.
The bill, which was originally introduced by Republican Rep. Tony Lovasco in March 2022 but was unfortunately dismissed, will be presented again this time around with new language that will address Missouri’s current standpoint regarding the application of Right To Try (RTT) laws to include Schedule I drugs for those with severe health conditions.
RTT laws are U.S. state laws and federal law created with the intent of allowing terminally ill patients access to experimental therapies that have completed Phase I testing but have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. While PTSD and C-PTSD may not be considered terminal illnesses, it is most certainly life-altering and requires significant and complex treatments in order for those who suffer to retain any degree of normalcy in their lives.
House Interim Committee on Veterans Mental Health and Suicide chaired by Rep. Dave Griffith (D) (Missouri) heard testimony from a medical professional and people who have experience with psychedelics within a therapeutic treatment setting. At the August 31 hearing, the physician and head of a ketamine clinic treating people with severe depression (TRD), Rahul Kapur, shared his learnings on the specific traumas veterans have to deal with.
Dr. Kapur said the nation has “an obligation to keep exploring and providing them with any resources” and to make certain that “psychedelics are a key resource in this fight.”
Georgia And Psychedelics
The Georgia House Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony from veterans and medical professionals who have been using psilocybin to treat PTSD in the state.
Veterans Ethan Whitfield and Marcus Capone went abroad searching for counseling and treatment for their PTSD with psilocybin after standard drugs didn’t help their severe depression. What they found was instant results following just one dose: “My negative thought patterns and my self-destructive habits of thought changed overnight,” said Whitfield. “I’m experiencing a new way of dealing with stress in my life. I still experience anger, sadness, anxiety, [and] negativity. But they don’t imprison me.”
After a two-year study, Emory University’s Healthcare Veterans Program has found that psilocybin therapy is an effective treatment for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The study was the first of its kind to use psychedelic drugs as a treatment for PTSD in veterans. The committee hearing was set with the aim of considering state funding for a proposed study by Emory University on psilocybin for veterans with PTSD.
In addition to the testimony from two veterans who have been treated with psilocybin, Emory’s Healthcare Veterans Program medical director, Boadie Dunlop, shared studies demonstrating psilocybin’s efficacy in treating major depressive disorder (MDD), while also noting that none of the studies conducted with any psychedelic drug so far has specifically focused on veterans.
Committee chairman Rep. Heath Clark (R) admitted “Even though people have abused this recreationally… this is a discussion we need to have. For people who served their country and suffered dramatically for that, we ought to do everything we can to make sure those people have an opportunity to be normalized in some fashion.”
Other Republicans seem to be very much in favor of allowing psychedelic treatment for veterans. Rep. Bill Hitchens (R) said “They served their country and if they incur injuries or damage in some fashion, I think the government has a responsibility to take care of them.”
With so much compelling evidence regarding the efficacy of psychedelic treatment, it seems only fair those suffering from complex health issues are able to receive the benefits of this treatment.
We hope lawmakers will consider this evidence and make a decision in January as it could be huge not just for veterans but for all those suffering from complex health issues that could benefit from psychedelic treatment.
We will continue to advocate for the legalization of psychedelic therapy and hope lawmakers keep in mind the compelling testimonies given by patients at both hearings when making their final decision.
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