Psychedelic Therapy for Veterans: A Path to Healing and Recovery

Psychedelic therapy offers a promising new approach for Veterans struggling with PTSD and depression, addressing the unique aspects of their trauma when traditional treatments fall short.

Psychedelic Therapy for Veterans: A Path to Healing and Recovery

Since 9/11, suicide has claimed the lives of over 30,000 US military service members and veterans—more than four times the number of those who lost their lives in combat during the same time period.

Returning from the front lines of war and transitioning to civilian life brings unique challenges. Around 1 in 5 Veterans are affected by depression, and PTSD rates in Veterans are about five times greater than in the general population. These conditions are notoriously difficult to treat, and often, true healing only comes when the root causes and core experiences underlying symptoms are addressed. Even after multiple rounds of therapy and medications, many Veterans still struggle to find meaningful relief. 

Psychedelic therapy is one emerging treatment option that has sparked new hope in the battle to improve mental health support for Veterans. Keep reading to learn how psychedelics can help Veterans find healing and get up-to-date on the latest efforts to advance research and expand access to psychedelic-assisted therapies for the Veteran community. 

The Promise of Psychedelic Therapy

Recent studies have shed light on the promising role of psychedelic-assisted treatments for Veterans facing various mental health conditions. 

To date, much attention has centered on the use of MDMA for the treatment of PTSD. The organization leading the charge in this research, Lykos Therapeutics (formerly known as MAPS PBC), submitted an application seeking FDA approval for this treatment last December. If successful, approval for MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD could come as soon as this year. 

Another major player is ketamine, which has demonstrated positive results in treating various mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, and substance use disorders. As the only psychedelic that is already FDA approved, ketamine is available to patients now, giving it an important edge in terms of accessibility. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has sanctioned the use of ketamine for treatment-resistant depression and suicidal ideation since 2019, and VA coverage for this treatment continues to expand.

Psilocybin is another promising compound, with numerous studies demonstrating therapeutic effects on conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

Other substances currently being explored include ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT, which have been shown to reduce symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety in combat Veterans when taken in combination. Research has also found ibogaine to be beneficial for patients struggling with substance use disorders and addiction.

Why is Psychedelic Therapy Beneficial for Veterans?

Psychedelic therapy represents a groundbreaking approach to mental healthcare, particularly for those who have served in the military, allowing individuals to address and heal from their traumas in a supportive, therapeutic setting. 

Psychedelics work by creating a heightened state of emotional and psychological openness, offering an opportunity to process traumatic memories or feelings that are difficult to access in ordinary states of consciousness. The process typically involves a combination of guided sessions with trained therapists and periods of introspection to allow Veterans to explore and address their innermost thoughts and feelings.

This therapy is not just about symptom management but about fostering a deep, transformative journey. For Veterans, this can mean reconnecting with lost parts of themselves, rediscovering purpose, and finding a renewed sense of camaraderie and belonging, fulfilling a longing for connection and understanding that many seek post-service. 

Recent Wins

Significant strides have been made towards embracing psychedelic-assisted therapies for Veterans in the last few months alone. Recent policy wins and research progress paint a hopeful picture for a future where we can more effectively meet the mental health needs of those who have served.

One recent milestone occurred last October, when The American Legion National Executive Committee (NAE) passed a resolution calling on Congress to fund research of emerging psychedelic therapies for Veterans. The resolution also urged the VA to ramp up funding to support training of VA clinicians on how to safely and effectively deliver these treatments to patients.

Momentum continued through November, when Congress members Lou Correa and Jack Bergman launched the bipartisan Congressional Psychedelics Advancing Clinical Treatments (PACT) Caucus, which aims to address the national mental health crisis by advocating for thorough clinical investigations into the therapeutic applications of psychedelics for brain health conditions.

In December, Congress directed the Pentagon to start studying whether psychedelics can help soldiers recover from the trauma of experiencing war. The VA also announced it will begin funding psychedelic-assisted therapy to treat Veterans with PTSD and depression.

The VA is actively conducting research on the use of psychedelic therapy for Veterans. Studies are also underway at several prestigious universities, including Johns Hopkins and Imperial College London.

How to Access Psychedelic Therapy as a Veteran

Currently, access to most forms of psychedelic therapy is limited in the US. However, Veterans interested in receiving this treatment have a few different options.

Participating in a clinical trial is one of the most direct ways to access investigational treatments that have not yet been approved by the FDA, such as MDMA- or psilocybin-assisted therapy. To search for clinical trials in your area that are currently recruiting participants (or beginning recruitment soon), you can use the website, which provides a searchable database of listings for upcoming and ongoing trials. Another free tool to check out is Psychedelic Support’s Psychedelic Clinical Trials Database, which allows users to browse and filter trials by substance, location, condition, and enrollment status.

Organizations like Heroic Hearts Project, which helps connect Veterans with psychedelic therapy retreats, and Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions (VETS), which helps Veterans access safe, clinically-guided psychedelic therapies, are another helpful resource for Veterans seeking access to these treatments.

Another option for Veterans interested in psychedelic therapy to consider is ketamine treatment. Unlike other psychedelics, ketamine is currently available by prescription, making it the most accessible form of psychedelic treatment available to patients today. 

Ketamine treatment is available in a variety of different forms, from intravenous infusions at specialized clinics to oral tablets or sublingual lozenges prescribed for at-home use under a healthcare provider's supervision. The best form of treatment for you depends on your unique individual circumstances — such as the condition for which you’re seeking treatment, the severity of your symptoms, and factors like cost and accessibility. 

To show our appreciation for those who have served, Wondermed is proud to offer 20% off the cost of our at-home ketamine treatment program to all Veterans. Learn more about the Wondermed program and how the Veterans discount works here.

We're committed to introducing new benefits and tailored integration programs designed specifically for our Veteran community. Stay tuned as we continue to build out our Wondermed for Veterans program with additional offerings and benefits to uplift and support the heroic individuals who have served our country.

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