Uncle Sam to Veterans: Take a Trip!
If you’re a veteran suffering mental anguish, Uncle Sam thinks that maybe you need to take a trip.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on January 5 released a call for proposals to conduct comprehensive research on the application of psychedelics in treating depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The VA’s move is a milestone in the years-long campaign among veterans groups and lawmakers to broaden the availability of psychedelic-assisted therapy for U.S. military veterans. The development also underscores the mainstreaming of psychedelics as drugs and as investment opportunities.
For the first time since the 1960s, the VA is allocating funds for psychedelic research. In an official statement last Friday, the VA expressed its intention to amass conclusive scientific evidence on the potential effectiveness and safety of psychedelic compounds including methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA, aka ecstasy) and psilocybin, coupled with psychotherapy, for the treatment of veterans grappling with PTSD and other mental ailments.
In remarks to the press, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough emphasized the nation’s commitment to providing top-notch care for our nation’s veterans, stating: “This is an important step to explore the efficacy of a potential new set of promising treatments that could improve the health and quality of life for veterans.”
Although VA researchers have previously conducted a limited number of small studies on psychedelics in VA facilities using non-VA funding, the forthcoming research aims to directly assess the effectiveness and safety of using MDMA and psilocybin-augmented psychotherapy in veterans.
The VA is one of the few agencies in Washington that enjoys rock-solid bipartisan support, even in this politically fractious era. The VA’s embrace of drug policy reform has persuaded several conservative members of Congress to re-evaluate their opposition to the legalization of psychedelics and marijuana.
In a notable event in September 2023, over 75 VA and other federal clinicians, scientists, and policymakers convened in Denver to evaluate the existing scientific evidence concerning psychedelic-assisted therapies. Working groups provided advice to VA leadership, ultimately recommending the initiation of VA-funded studies into these compounds.
Bipartisan co-founders of the Congressional Psychedelics Advancing Therapies (PATH) Caucus in Congress celebrated the news as a significant and positive development. The following post on the social media site X (formerly known as Twitter) tells the story:
In the U.S., psychedelics such as psilocybin (the psychoactive ingredient in magic mushrooms) and MDMA remain illegal at the federal level as Schedule I substances. But state laws are rapidly changing to legalize these substances.
For traumatized veterans and others with psychological disorders, psychedelic therapy combines drugs like psilocybin with traditional psychotherapy to re-boot the brain and create new neural pathways.
The military is often in the forefront of social and political change, as last Friday’s VA announcement on psychedelics shows.
Lawmakers in Congress have introduced a series of drug policy-related bills, including proposals to expedite research on the benefits of psychedelics for active duty military personnel. They’ve also introduced provisions to make it easier for marijuana businesses to access financial services.
Other proposed amendments would prevent the VA from denying home loan assistance to veterans because they work in the marijuana industry and require the VA to perform clinical research into the medicinal benefits of marijuana for veterans with chronic pain and PTSD.
Military leaders have generally voiced their support for all of these drug-related initiatives.
Accordingly, several biotechnology firms that seek to develop medical treatments from psychedelic drugs have recently gone public on Canadian stock exchanges. Most of them are focusing on psilocybin.
According to a recent report by Global Industry Analysts, the psychedelic drugs market is set to reach a value of $6.3 billion in 2026, up from $3.2 billion in 2021. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 14.5% during the five-year forecast period.
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John Persinos is the editorial director of Investing Daily.