At No Fallen Heroes we are dedicated to the reduction and then prevention of all veteran suicides. Suicide among veterans of military service has taken more lives than military combat since 9 11 and the beginning of the war on terror. A new treatment modality that we at No Fallen Heroes are excited about is prevention of veteran suicide with psychedelic medicines. This is a bit ironic when one thinks back to the Vietnam era when psychedelic drugs were used recreationally by anti-war protesters and today, they are being considered for treatment of military veterans.
How Do Psychedelic Medicines Help Prevent Veteran Suicide?
Two specific psychedelic medicines, MDMA and psilocybin, have been granted special status by the US Food and Drug Administration. This is the government agency that oversees testing to make certain that medications are safe to use and effective. Both of these drugs are passing through drug trials to make sure that they help and don’t hurt the patients who take them. Neither of these drugs works directly to prevent suicide. Rather they work to treat depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse disorders. All three of these are major predisposing factors for suicidal thinking and suicide.
Are Psychedelics Safe for Treating PTSD, Depression, and Substance Abuse?
When we think back to the 1960s with lots of recreational use of psychedelics it does not seem likely that such drugs could be of any use except for getting “stoned,” experiencing weird hallucinations, and disconnecting from reality. The first thing to realize is that psychedelics used for therapy are pharmaceutical grade in prescribed doses without the often-dangerous contaminants and additives found in street drugs. They are taken in therapeutic settings and not at loud rock concerts. And they are effective in relatively small amounts and frequency. Taking psilocybin for PTSD is not like taking pills daily every day of your life for high blood pressure or taking pills several times every day for months or years for depression. Rather just a dose or two is commonly all that is needed to be effective. The bottom line is that before these drugs are cleared by the FDA for standard use, they will have passed rigorous testing both for effectiveness and safety.
The Setting Is Important For Psychedelics to Work
The “magic” of psychedelics in treating depression, PTSD, or substance abuse is that they allow a person suffering from these issues to reach back into their past and recall painful memories without having those memories overwhelm them in a wave of anxiety and panic. For treatment, psychedelics are always used as an adjunct to psychotherapy, so-called talk therapy. The patient works with a professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counsel experienced in dealing specifically with the conditions being treated. A level of trust is obtained in the relationship and this level of trust is enhanced by the use of psychedelics. Psychedelics are powerful agents with the ability to change how the brain organizes thoughts and emotions. For psychedelics to be most effective they are used at just the right time in treatment with just the right follow-up in therapy.
Are Psychedelics Addictive?
The answer is that, with the exception of LSD, they are not. When people take drugs like MDMA and psilocybin they do not develop a tolerance. In other words, unlike alcohol, heroin, and the like, the person does not start to crave the drug and does not need more and more to achieve the desired effect. In the use of MDMA or psilocybin, we are talking about one or two doses and not repeated use. And people do not develop a “hunger” for these drugs. Rather they often look back on their treatment experience as having opened their mind, taking away their fears, and done other positive things that have allowed them to get out of a rut in their mind and move forward.
In short prevention of veteran suicide with psychedelic medicines is possible and these drugs are likely to be in use in appropriate settings with a year or two.