Last week, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued a request for applications to carry out in-depth studies on the use of psychedelic substances in the treatment of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The VA revealed that it was the first time since the 1960s that the agency would be funding psychedelic research, adding that it intends to collect definitive scientific evidence of the potential safety and effectiveness of psychedelic compounds such as psilocybin and MDMA.
When administered together with psychotherapy, these compounds may help treat veterans with depression and PTSD.
The department also highlighted in its press release that researchers were focused on supporting innovations that would deliver the best care to veterans. It then noted that exploring the effectiveness of new and promising treatments that could improve the quality of life and health of veterans was an important step.
The in-depth research to be conducted will permit the VA to directly evaluate the effectiveness and safety of these treatments.
Representatives Lou Correa and Jack Bergman, who cofounded the Congressional Psychedelics Advancing Therapies (PATH) Caucus, noted that this milestone by the VA was a huge development. Correa stated that this was the first step toward tackling the national mental health crisis head-on, noting that these treatments held the promise of being the biggest breakthroughs in mental-health treatment in nearly five decades.
Bergman also pledged to continue fighting for the advancement of promising treatments that could save the lives of countless veterans.
The VA’s announcement was also applauded by Representative Morgan Luttrell, who publicly admitted to using psychedelics to help treat a traumatic brain injury in the past. In an emailed release, Luttrell noted that this was great news for veterans, made possible by the House Committee on Veterans Affairs’ commitment to finding new solutions for veterans and Secretary McDonough. While discussing his own treatment with 5-MeO-DMT and ibogaine, Luttrell noted that it changed his life.
In 2023, Luttrell advocated for the inclusion of psychedelics research provisions in a federal defense bill that was signed into law by President Joseph Biden in December.
The VA then noted that the expansion of psychedelics research for veterans was in line with calls from veterans service organizations such as Disabled American Veterans and American Legion, as well as other groups that provide mental-health services.
Steps toward expanded access are also supported by military members, the general public, a huge majority of family members of veterans and veterans themselves. Recent figures show that about 64% of active military respondents and veterans supported permitting VA doctors to legally recommend psychedelics to veterans if they believed it could benefit the patient.
The news that the VA is seeking to fund research into the potential benefits of treating health complications prevalent in the veteran community could be music to the ears of startups such as Seelos Therapeutics Inc. (NASDAQ: SEEL) because it shows how seriously major governmental entities are looking at psychedelics.
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