You are here
Home > News > Veterans Affairs Researchers Embrace Psychedelics for Military Vets

Veterans Affairs Researchers Embrace Psychedelics for Military Vets

According to The New York TimesThe last time Veterans Affairs (VA) looked into psychedelics for medical purposes was 1963. This was around the same time that the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Army was testing LSD as a way to “mind-control” enemies. These four veterans are now bridging the gap that has existed for decades between veteran mental health care and psychedelic assisted therapy. VA clinical staff are conducting the studies. The results of these studies could be used to guide future research.

Shannon Remick conducts a study in Loma Lola, California with 10 vets. In the VA clinic in Loma Linda, California she became the first doctor to permit the use of psychedelics for treatment. She is currently overseeing the recovery of post-traumatic stress disorder sufferers. The volunteers will have three sessions with MDMA to help them explore their condition. They’ll also be able to begin every session by engaging in calming activities such as poem readings or breathing exercises. Patients lead the sessions. However, therapists are there to help them.

“We are alongside and with the patient as they are exploring a kind of excavation site,” Dr. Remick said. “Ultimately, it’s not for us to point and say, ‘Hey, look at that,’ because what I’m seeing may not be the same from their angle.”

Rachel Yehuda waited until her retirement in order to pursue psychedelic therapy. The permission was granted to allow her to treat PTSD sufferers using MDMA. She began the research in January. She is currently studying the effects of MDMA in PTSD patients. The goal of her study is to find out whether three or more sessions can be as beneficial.

Yehuda participated in an MDMA training trip for 2019 therapists. “It made me really understand what it is you’re supposed to be doing in psychotherapy,” Dr. Yehuda said. “I’ve never quite understood what it means to have a breakthrough.” She also noted the importance of doing such a process with “the right therapists.”

Dr. Leslie Morland has over two decades worth of experience with PTSD therapies, and is also exploring how MDMA could help veterans after they return home from duty—specifically as a way to make couples therapy more successful. The clinical trial will be conducted in San Diego and it is scheduled to start at the end 2022. It will include eight participants as well as their partners.

“A lot of our military learn to emotionally disconnect in order to be effective in combat,” Dr. Morland said. “And then we’re bringing them back and saying: Now we need you to open up with our talk therapy.” With the help of MDMA, Morland hopes to see an increase in bonding and empathy in her patients. “How do they work together to really sustain the improvements that have been achieved in therapy?”

Christopher Stauffer, a Dr. Christopher Stauffer, has explored the efficacy of psilocybin in combating substance abuse. He will be examining how psilocybin may help veterans addicted to methamphetamine. One-half of them will get conventional treatment plus two psilocybin therapy, the other half only conventional therapy.

Stauffer also led another study to examine the effects of MDMA on group therapy for veterans. “[MDMA is] brand-new to a lot of people and yet it’s been around longer than most of our psychiatric medications have been around,” Dr. Stauffer said. “But it feels like we’re approaching it this time with a lot more knowledge and a lot of more rigorous research practices that didn’t really exist back in the ’50s and ’60s.”