Home Opinion OPINION: How the government’s drug war hurt veterans with PTSD

OPINION: How the government’s drug war hurt veterans with PTSD

The drug war has been a disaster for a litany of reasons; it takes away self-ownership from individuals, creates a massive prison population that punishes nonviolent drug offenders, and has led to a rise in violent cartel activity on the black market, just to name a few.

But there is a lesser known, yet fatal consequence of the war on drugs that is finally coming to light.

A Tale of Two Wars

Every sixty five seconds, a veteran takes their own life.

Iraq War Veteran Jonathan Lubbecky came very close to becoming a part of this grim statistic.

Upon returning from war, he struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that negatively impacted every aspect of his life.

He sought help from Veterans Affairs, but all they offered him were medications that had proved to be ineffective in treating his condition.

One Christmas Eve, drowning in hopelessness, he held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. For some inexplicable reason, the gun failed to go off. Miraculous as it was, it didn’t improve the situation. Several more suicide attempts would follow.

At the end of his rope, he discovered a clinical trial being conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) testing the effectiveness of treating PTSD with Methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA), a synthetic psychedelic more commonly known as ecstasy.

MDMA was made illegal in 1985, after it garnered public attention for being a favorite club drug for the underground rave scene.

The substance gives users a sense of elation and openness. When consumed, they are able and eager to talk about trauma that may be too painful to address otherwise. They are also able to create distance between themselves and their trauma, allowing them to work through these mental barriers.

When combined with talk therapy administered by qualified psychiatric professionals, it’s much more than a party drug. The results can be life changing, as Lubbecky soon discovered.

The trial was supposed to span three sessions. After the second session, he no longer met the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. He never had another suicide attempt.

Lubbecky is not the only veteran who has used MDMA and other psychedelics to treat their PTSD.

In fact, thanks to organizations like MAPS, MDMA assisted talk therapy is in the final stages of clinical trials and is set to be approved by the FDA in a matter of years. Other studies working with psilocybin (magic mushrooms) have also yielded hopeful results.

If only we had known about the potential for psychedelics sooner, we could have prevented countless veteran suicides.

Well, the truth of the matter is, we did … but the government put the kibosh on psychedelic research as it ramped up its war on drugs.

The Government Vs. Psychedelics

Psychedelics and psychology have a rich history that began to take off in the mid-century.

Doctors and researchers were blown away by the impact these substances had on patients, who had psychological breakthroughs after just a few sessions, the magnitude of which are typically seen after several years of therapy.

Psychedelics and psychology pioneer Dr. Stanislav Grof once said, “Psychedelics are to the study of the mind what the microscope is to biology and the telescope is to astronomy.”

This research, however, was overshadowed by the government’s fear that these substances were threatening the moral fabric of American society because of their role in hippie and anti war circles.

In 1968, the government added psychedelics to the schedule one list of substances, which asserted that they had “no currently accepted medical use.” This was poor timing considering the epidemic of PTSD plaguing Vietnam War vets who were struggling to make sense of the atrocities of a war they never fully understood.

But the research never stopped, it just went underground. And thanks to this permissionless innovation by the hands of these renegade researchers, the government has now been forced to acknowledge the possibilities of using psychedelics to tackle mental health issues.


Correcting The Government’s Errors

The government has not only failed to take care of its veterans, it’s also failed to consider non-traditional methods to mitigate the PTSD issues caused by decades of perpetual and unnecessary war.

As Lubbecky and so many others had to learn the hard way, the VA did not provide them with the lifeline they had hoped.

But one man was determined to provide other options.

Rick Doblin has been MDMA’s greatest champion for decades. Just one year after MDMA was made illegal, Doblin founded MAPS.

For a while he was dismissed as a fringe MDMA-evangelical but after years of persistence, he played an integral role in the FDA’s eventual approval for researching MDMA’s use in psychotherapy in 2004.The first trial was carried out in 2011.

Thanks to Doblin and other MDMA warriors, these trials have already saved the lives of participants like Lubbecky.

Now a huge advocate for psychedelic medicines, Lubbecky says that MDMA is “the reason my son has a father instead of a folded flag.”

With so many positive results, the field of psychedelic research is booming.

Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research, is among many new centers working with MDMA, psilocybin, and other psychedelics as potential treatments for depression, anxiety, drug addiction, eating disorders, and a plethora of other ailments.

These psychedelic revolutionaries are correcting the government’s errors that prevented far too many from getting the treatment they need and deserve.

The government can no longer ignore the scientific evidence. And with the mental health crisis of veterans has become so extreme, they have no choice but to start paying attention.

Psychedelics’ day might have finally come, but it should have happened a lot sooner–and there is still much work to be done to bring these treatments to more people in need.

Brittany E. Hunter is the social media manger and editorial writer at Pacific Legal Foundation and former senior writer at the Foundation for Economic Education. She is also a contributing author to the book, “Skip College: Launch Your Career Without Debt, Distractions, Or a Degree” and co-host of the podcast, “The Way the World Works.” Republished from AmericasFuture.org.

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