Frustrated with VA, US Veterans Go Overseas for Psychedelic Treatment

November 10, 2022 10:43:35

In recent years, emerging studies involving psychedelics have found that hallucinogenic drugs can be effective at treating a variety of mental health conditions. These clinical trials and studies have revealed that when paired with psychotherapy, psychedelics can result in positive and profound long-term outcomes for patients suffering from conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Coincidentally, these mental health issues have plagued military veterans for decades and resulted in the deaths of countless vets. Some studies show that around 14% to 16% of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from depression or PTSD.

Although psychedelics could be used to treat such conditions, the fact that they are illegal under federal law limits more comprehensive research and makes it nearly impossible for veterans to access psychedelic-assisted therapies via the government’s Veteran Affairs agency. The result is that military veterans who desperately need such treatments simply cannot access them on American soil.

Marcus Capone, for instance, is a former U.S. Navy Seal who spent nearly a decade unsuccessfully trying to treat PTSD he had developed due to a mild traumatic brain injury. After talking to a fellow Navy SEAL who told him about a psychedelic called ibogaine, Capone went to Mexico to begin psychedelic treatment.

The results were immediate, he stated, adding that the drug alleviated his symptoms so fast that it was “kind of scary.” The experience forced him to confront traumatic experiences that he had suppressed for years. Marcus and his wife founded a nonprofit called Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions soon after to help connect other military vets with psychedelic treatments.

US Army veteran Tom Slattery spent 20 of his 26-year military career in Delta Force and battled with mental issues such as PTSD for a long time. Like Capone, he spent years taking a variety of mental health treatments that were barely able to treat his symptoms. It wasn’t until he first tried a psychedelic called 5-MeO that he saw a concrete change. He says that his psychedelic experience allowed him to find joy for the first time in three decades.

Army vet Phil Sussman also traveled down to Peru earlier this year to take part in three ayahuasca ceremonies. He says it was the most difficult but ultimately most rewarding thing he has ever done.

With veterans unable to access psychedelic treatments through the VA, many of them have begun traveling overseas where hallucinogenic drugs are legal. Nonprofits such as Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions and Heroic Hearts Project have been instrumental in connecting veterans such as Sussman to psychedelic retreats in Latin America and providing crucial resources for preparation and psychedelic integration.

Going abroad to seek treatment has its own challenges and risks, and efforts by companies such as Mind Medicine Inc. (NASDAQ: MNMD) (NEO: MMED) (DE: MMQ) to see therapeutic psychedelic formulations approved by the FDA could give military veterans some relief as these treatments become locally available.

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