VA: Psychedelics Show Therapeutic Promise for Veterans

Written by Lydia Kariuki

About 1 in 4 U.S. war veterans suffer from a mental health condition; the highest reported cases being severe depression, alcohol misuse disorder, and PTSD. Other cases include suicidal tendencies, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and interpersonal violence. A new report by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Evidence Synthesis Program (ESP) has demonstrated that psychedelics such as psilocybin and MDMA can offer significant reprieve to war veterans suffering from severe depression and PTSD.

VA’s ESP reviewed over 2.500 articles relating to psychedelic-based therapy and out of these 38 studies were identified as relevant for the review. Here are the key observations that were made:

  • MDMA-assisted psychotherapy can improve symptoms and cause short term remission of PTSD

  • Psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy may offer some relief for depression and alcohol abuse disorder

The researchers did not find any evidence that the psychedelic ibogaine can relieve opioid-related withdrawal symptoms. They concluded that evidence generated from the review was “very preliminary and several critical gaps need to be addressed by future research.”

VA’s report made the following recommendations for future studies in psychedelic therapy:

  • More veterans with combat related trauma should be included

  • Broader diversity in studies in terms of race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and rurality

The report also recommended that future studies evaluate the impact of discontinuing traditional therapies prior to initiating psychedelic therapy and weighing the risks versus the benefits of this approach.

About the author

Lydia Kariuki