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Psychedelic therapies considered

In the new podcast series, New Horizons in Health, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, VA under secretary for Health, leads a candid discussion on psychedelic assisted therapies for veterans experiencing a number of mental health conditions. Photo credit: VA News

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Not all current therapies for PTSD and other traumas work for all military service members, which is why, once again, Congress is looking into allowing psychedelics into the military health system.

The use of these substances currently remains illegal in the United States, prompting interested individuals, including veterans, to seek treatment in more permissive nations or on the black market.

The therapeutic potential of psychedelics is gradually gaining recognition. Proponents argue that these substances can offer long-term relief, if not cures, for certain psychological illnesses. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted "breakthrough therapy" designations to psilocybin and MDMA (ecstasy or Molly), acknowledging their therapeutic potential.

In the current legislative landscape, there is a growing interest in exploring the use of psychedelics to treat PTSD among active-duty service members and veterans, according to a recent story published at Proposals include directing the Defense Department to study the efficacy of psychedelics in treating PTSD and related illnesses. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Daniel Crenshaw, R-Texas, have submitted a proposal to this effect in the fiscal 2024 Pentagon policy bill, representing a significant shift in congressional attitudes toward the therapeutic use of psychedelics.

Ocasio-Cortez has tried to change the law since 2019, when she unsuccessfully (91 for, 331 against) attached an amendment to an appropriations package.

"Every time we bring this issue up we gain ground. When I first introduced an amendment on this, people were laughing at it. Fast forward a couple of years and it's now actually taken very, very seriously," Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with

Ocasio-Cortez said her first attempt sparked a national conversation on the topic.

"When people saw how out of step Congress was with the general public on this issue, that's when we started seeing the outpouring of support from veterans and survivors of sexual trauma," she told

Additional legislative efforts have included amendments to military appropriations bills, pushing the VA to conduct large-scale studies on the use of drugs like psilocybin and MDMA, reported The momentum for these initiatives is building, with advocates highlighting the positive outcomes witnessed in studies on psychedelics, particularly in reducing PTSD symptoms.

While legislative efforts progress, reports there is still some hesitancy among lawmakers, with concerns about introducing drugs into the complex landscape of mental health treatment. However, the shift in attitudes is evident, and advocates argue that the compelling stories from veterans who have benefited from psychedelic therapy are contributing to this change.

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