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After decades of federal prohibition prevented the research and medical use of psychedelic drugs, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is now considering opening the door to psychedelic treatments for veterans.
Research in the 1960s first revealed that psychedelics had therapeutic properties, but prohibition made it impossible for researchers to study hallucinogenic drugs. A recent surge in psychedelic research has shown that psychedelics such as ketamine, ayahuasca and psilocybin, can treat mental disorders, including treatment-resistant depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
This makes these substances perfect for military veterans who have an elevated risk of developing conditions such as PTSD and depression during and after deployment. However, the fact that federal law still outlaws psychedelics makes it difficult for veterans to access psychedelic-assisted therapies even though they stand to gain significantly from these therapies.
Pharmaceutical remedies for mental disorders such as depression and PTSD don’t always work, leaving plenty of veterans grappling with severe symptoms plus the side effects of psychiatric medication.
Retired Army Ranger mortarman Jesse Gould is one of the few veterans who have been lucky enough to benefit from psychedelic therapies. After being diagnosed with PTSD and failing to find any relief from traditional remedies, Gould turned to psychedelic drugs. Hallucinogenics “changed his life” by helping him cope with his traumas more effectively and constructively.
Now that the VA is taking part in at least six clinical trials of psychedelics in Oregon, California and New York, more veterans such as Gould will be able to access potentially life-saving psychedelic treatments.
Dr. Josh Siegel at Washington University’s Healthy Mind Lab says that while previous research has shown that psychedelics can successfully treat a myriad of mental health conditions, researchers aren’t entirely sure how the psychedelics work. The VA’s increased involvement in psychedelic studies has delighted Siegel and his colleagues.
Washington University psychiatrist Dr. Ginger Nicol stated that with the VA’s resources and access to a large network of clinics, consistent and accurate collection of data will be quite easy now that it is involved in psychedelics studies. Furthermore, it will also make it easier to address one of the main issues preventing mass acceptance of psychedelic-assisted therapies: the lack of doctors and nurses trained in psychedelic therapy.
The VA’s involvement in psychedelic research could potentially result in the creation of standardized training protocols for medical professionals interested in psychedelic therapy.
In the meantime, advocates for psychedelic therapy are hoping that regulators will remove hallucinogenics from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act to avoid ending up with a patchwork of different state regulations, much like medical cannabis.
Industry players such as Mind Medicine Inc. (NASDAQ: MNMD) (NEO: MMED) (DE: MMQ) would also work in a more predictable environment if federal laws clearly streamlined how the field of psychedelics should operate while addressing the needs of patients.
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