Jun 24, 2022 - Health

VA clinical trials exploring psychedelics to treat PTSD in "watershed moment"

Image of the Department of Veterans Affairs community based outpatient clinic.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Community Based Outpatient Clinic. Photo: Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

The Department of Veterans Affairs has begun offering psychedelic substances to patients in a series of clinical trials that may shed light on the therapeutic value of such drugs, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: MDMA, psilocybin and LSD — combined with psychotherapy — have been touted as a potentially revolutionary tool in treating addiction and other mental health conditions, Axios' Alison Snyder reports.

Driving the news: Government clinicians seeking to explore such therapies to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse and other conditions commonly experience by veterans have at least five trials currently underway or in the works, per the Times.

  • The first trial began at a Veterans Affairs clinic in California last summer, where researchers received approval from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Another trial began at a clinic in New York in January and three additional trials at clinics in Portland and San Diego are set to begin later this year.

The big picture: The potential benefits of psilocybin and LSD were studied in the 1950s and 1960s, but research was largely paused in the 1970s for a number of reasons, including concerns about recreational use of the drugs that led to them being classified as Schedule I compounds, Snyder notes.

  • The FDA in 2017 classified MDMA and psilocybin as “breakthrough therapies," jumpstarting research on the substances.

What they're saying: "This is a watershed moment," Dr. Rachel Yehuda, the director of mental health at the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the Bronx told the Times.

  • "This is a time for a lot of hope."

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