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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Veterans have taken up the role of unlikely lobbyists in the campaign to legalise psychedelic drugs

Former Army gunner Jose Martinez, whose right arm and both legs were amputated by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan, has found a new career as one of the most successful advocates in a push to legalise the therapeutic use of psychedelic substances across the United States.

On a Zoom call with Connie Leyva, a Democratic legislator from California who has long opposed relaxing drug laws, Mr. Martinez described how psilocybin, the psychoactive ingredient in “magic” mushrooms, had finally helped him to overcome the physical pain and suicidal thoughts that had plagued him for years.

Ms. Leyva claims that she changed her mind even before the conference call finished, and that she ultimately voted in favour of the measure, which is anticipated to become law early next year.

Her words in an interview: “We urge these men and women to go battle for our liberties.” “So if this is something that is assisting them in living a more normal life, I don’t see why I should stand in their way,” says the author.

Since psilocybin was decriminalised in Oregon, Washington, D.C., and more than a half-dozen municipalities in the last two years, veterans have emerged as leading proponents of the movement to legalise psychedelic medicine, which they attribute to its ability to alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression that are often associated with their military service.

The movement has been fueled by the pandemic of suicides among veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, but it has also been fueled by a national reckoning over the enormous imprisonment of individuals on drug charges, which has shifted public opinion away from prohibition and toward alternatives.

It is estimated that more than 30,000 service members have committed suicide since Sept. 11, 2001, four times the number of those who died on the battlefield during that time period. The Department of Veterans Affairs has struggled to deal with the crisis using the traditional arsenal of pharmacological interventions.

However, despite the fact that the United States has officially ended its “long war” in Afghanistan, the psychological impact from two decades of military warfare continues to resonate among many of the 1.9 million Americans who fought in the country.

A former Army Ranger who founded Heroic Hearts Project, a non-profit dedicated to connecting military veterans with psychedelic therapies available in Latin America, says the daily barrage of emails he receives from veterans seeking assistance is a good indicator of the desperation they are experiencing.

Anecdotal reports of benefit have been bolstered by recent research, which have assisted in quantifying the therapeutic efficacy of drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, and MDMA, better known as Ecstasy, among others. According to a research published in Nature Medicine, MDMA combined with psychotherapy provided significant alleviation to individuals suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in which the authors discussed the possibility of using psilocybin treatment to treat severe depression.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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