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Psychedelic Research for PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries: A New Era in Military Healthcare

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Medriva Correspondents
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Psychedelic Research for PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries: A New Era in Military Healthcare

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In a significant move towards progressive healthcare for U.S. military members, President Joseph Biden has signed a defense spending bill that includes provisions to fund clinical trials researching psychedelic drugs for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries. This legislation earmarks $10 million for psychedelics research and mandates the Department of Defense to establish a system allowing active-duty service members to participate in these crucial trials. The bill finds its roots in the Douglas Mike Day Psychedic Therapy to Save Lives Act and has garnered bipartisan support.

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Paving the Way for New Treatments

The defense spending bill, added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), was championed by Texas Republican Representative Morgan Luttrell. This act is based on the groundwork laid by fellow Texas Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw's Douglas Mike Day Psychedelic Therapy to Save Lives Act. The legislation aims to provide alternative treatment options for service members suffering from debilitating injuries.

The Douglas Mike Day Psychedelic Therapy to Save Lives Act

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This act is named in honor of Douglas “Mike” Day, a Navy SEAL who tragically died by suicide following multiple bullet wounds sustained while serving in Iraq. The act is a testament to the urgent need for alternative treatments for PTSD and traumatic brain injuries, conditions that many service members continue to battle.

Psychedelics as Potential Therapeutics

Psychedelic drugs such as psilocybin, MDMA, ibogaine, and 5-MeO-DMT are the primary focus of these clinical trials. Research and studies have shown potential therapeutic benefits of these substances in treating mental health conditions, including depression, PTSD, substance misuse disorders, and anxiety.

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Expanding the Scope of Psychedelic Research

Under the enacted legislation, the Department of Defense (DOD) will establish a process within 180 days, allowing service members with PTSD or traumatic brain injury to participate in clinical trials. The list of covered psychedelics will be expanded to include qualified plant-based alternative therapies. The DOD can partner with eligible federal or state government agencies and academic institutions to conduct these trials.

A Change in Perception and Policy

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This legislation signals a major shift in policy and perception towards psychedelic substances. More than 20 cities in the U.S. have relaxed enforcement of antidrug laws related to psychedelics. States like Massachusetts and Nevada have decriminalized the possession, use, cultivation, or distribution of certain psychedelic substances for adults. Only Colorado and Oregon have legalized some form of psychedelics so far, with Colorado voters approving a proposition to decriminalize the possession of psilocybin mushrooms for adults and supporting the development of state-licensed treatment centers for psychedelic drug use.

The Journey Ahead

As this journey into the therapeutic potential of psychedelics continues, the defense secretary will provide lawmakers with a report within one year of the enactment and every subsequent year for three years, offering information about trial findings and participation. This legislation could mark the beginning of a new era in military healthcare, offering hope and alternative treatment options to service members battling PTSD and traumatic brain injuries.

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