Over the course of the past year, several states across the US have taken legal action to expand access to psychedelic-assisted therapies for some citizens.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), as much as 20 percent of all veterans returning home from Afghanistan will suffer from symptoms of PTSD. It’s currently estimated that roughly twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day in the United States—almost one every hour.
Last year, Marcus (a veteran) and his wife, Amber Capone—together with their nonprofit, Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS)—played a prominent role in the passing of Texas’ House Bill 1802, which aims to make psychedelic-assisted therapies available to Texas veterans with PTSD.
The Texas bill was bolstered by the results of a groundbreaking phase three clinical trial, conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), that had been recently published in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine. The trial investigated the therapeutic effects of MDMA-assisted therapy for individuals with chronic PTSD and found that “67 percent of participants who received three MDMA-assisted therapy sessions no longer qualified for a PTSD diagnosis and 88 percent experienced a clinically meaningful reduction in symptoms.”
Though no clinical trials to date have investigated the effects of psilocybin—or any of the other “classic psychedelics”—for the treatment of PTSD specifically, researchers have been able to demonstrate its therapeutic potential for a range of other serious psychological disorders, including end-of-life anxiety, depression, and some forms of addiction (which, arguably may also be related to, rooted in, or comorbid with trauma).
One now-famous study conducted by a team from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in 2016 administered psilocybin to dozens of “cancer patients with life-threatening diagnoses and symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.” After two sessions, the vast majority of participants showed a decrease in their symptoms. Even more impressively, those changes were largely sustained after six months, “with about 80 percent of participants continuing to show clinically significant decreases in depressed mood and anxiety.” The Hopkins researchers concluded that psilocybin-assisted therapy can lead to “increases in quality of life, life meaning, and optimism, and decreases in death anxiety.”
Rick Perry, former Texas Governor and U.S. Secretary of Energy said “The idea that we have in our hands a way to positively affect their (Veterans’) futures is a powerful thing,”
States Expanding Access to Psychedelic-Assisted Psychotherapy
A similar push to expand access to psychedelic-assisted therapies has also been underway in Pennsylvania. In October 2021, the Public Health Benefits of Psilocybin Act was introduced into the Pennsylvania General Assembly, aimed at enabling “approved investigators” within the state to begin clinical trials using naturally grown psilocybin as a potential treatment for ten specific disorders: PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidality, bipolar disorder, migraines, chronic pain, traumatic brain injury, eating disorders, and substance use disorders.
- Lawmakers in Connecticut approved a bill in March allowing for the creation of “a Psychedelic-Assisted Therapy Pilot Program to provide funding for qualified patients to receive MDMA or psilocybin-assisted therapy” via the expanded access program.
- The Pennsylvania team is now partnering with a number of veteran-led groups, including VETS, and mental health advocacy organizations to push similar efforts in Florida, and New York.
- Maryland, for example, recently passed a bill allowing for the creation of a fund to provide access to psychedelics for veterans suffering from PTSD.
- Lawmakers in Georgia formed a committee earlier this year to investigate psilocybin as a potential treatment for PTSD in veterans.
- Initiatives to decriminalize or expand access to psychedelic medicines for some citizens have also been underway in New York, Washington, Utah, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, Colorado, Virginia, California, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Hawaii.
“We often do a very good job at teaching people not to die… the thing that we do not do as well in medicine and mental health care is really teaching people how to live… [Psychedelics] work so much more rapidly and so much more robustly than any of our traditionally available interventions… they seem to open the space or provide a foundation for people to really build the life that they want to be living.” –Dr. Lynnette Averill, the Baylor psychologist who will be leading the clinical research in Texas
Getting Support for Psychedelic Experience
If you’re looking for peer support during or after a psychedelic experience, contact Fireside Project by calling or texting 6-2FIRESIDE. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for support.
Above are excerpts of an article published June 23, 2022 in Doubleblind Magazine
IMHU has several courses on psychedelic-assisted-psychotherapy taught by healthcare professionals: Check it out!