House lawmakers push bill to create psychedelic research grant for active-duty troops
Stars and Stripes June 14, 2023
WASHINGTON — Rep. Dan Crenshaw said Wednesday that effective treatments for active-duty service members suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder have stalled and a new approach is needed to help them.
“The truth is, we have not made much progress in treating it,” the Republican congressman from Texas said. “We need to think outside of the box. We need to do something new.”
He thinks psychedelic drugs might unlock some answers and he’s pushing legislation with 12 other lawmakers, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., that would direct the Pentagon to create a grant program for research into new drug treatments for troops struggling with PTSD.
The bill, which is called the Douglas “Mike” Day Psychedelic Therapies to Save Lives Act of 2023, would create a $75 million grant program to support research into therapeutic treatment for PTSD, as well as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or traumatic brain injury.
Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, introduced the bill in the House on May 25. This is the second year in a row that he has urged Congress to support research into the effects of the drugs such as MDMA, psilocybin, ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT.
It passed in the House last year but failed in the Senate.
PTSD affects roughly 16% of troops who served in the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
When an active-duty service member wants to pursue psychedelic treatment now, they must travel abroad, which puts their duty status at risk, Crenshaw said.
“All this does is direct the Department of Defense to begin the research and allow service members to keep their status if they participate in those trials. It is a simple but very positive step in the right direction,” he said.
The bill is named after Navy SEAL Douglas “Mike” Day who died by suicide on March 27, 2023. Day received the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award, for his actions in Iraq, where he was shot 27 times during a mission in April 2007.
Day served 21 years in the Navy before retiring in 2010. He also received the Navy Cross, two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. He spent the next seven years working as a care coalition provider for the U.S. Special Operations Command to give insight into recovery for veterans and connect them with other resources that they might need.
Rep. Morgan Luttrell, R-Texas, who is also a former Navy SEAL, said he knew Day because he was Day’s care provider when he left the service.
“Everyone focused on the physical wounds, how could you walk around with 27 rounds? And I think we missed the mark because no one really focused on the invisible injuries,” said Luttrell, who is a co-sponsor of the legislation.
Luttrell said, when he left the Navy, he had a hard time adjusting to civilian life. He did not suffer from PTSD but was aggressive. He researched the use of psychedelics for years before finally going overseas to try ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT. Luttrell was hesitant to try because he had never taken drugs, but it changed his life.
“I was reborn. It saved my marriage,” he said. “It is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me.”
Research into the use of MDMA to treat PTSD found 88% of trial participants had significant symptom reduction and 67% were essentially cured, according to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS, a nonprofit research and educational organization on the uses of psychedelics and marijuana.
This was the case for Jonathan Lubecky, a Marine and Army veteran. Lubecky, who attended the news conference, said he medically retired after being diagnosed with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Within two months after returning home from Iraq in 2006, he made the first of five suicide attempts.
He said the VA tried everything, but nothing worked. Lubecky said he discovered psychedelics for mental health because an intern at the VA slipped him a note that said, “Google MDMA PTSD.”
He managed to get into a clinical trial that MAPS conducted using MDMA treatment.
“That was eight and a half years ago. I haven’t had PTSD or suicidal ideology since,” Lubecky said.
Crenshaw said he wants the legislation to be part of the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, the annual Pentagon policy and spending priorities bill. He said based on some conversations with members on the House Appropriations Committee and other lawmakers such as Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., Crenshaw believes they will be successful this time.