Veterans and high-ranking intelligence officials told Connecticut lawmakers that they've never taken an illicit drug in their lives, but they swear by the psychedelic-assisted therapies to deal with their depression and PTSD.
“What we’ve done so far is absolutely not working and just sort of maintaining, delaying the inevitable that we do actually have to find a solution for the veterans suffering from the mental health crisis,” Jesse Gould of the Heroic Hearts Project said.
Gould is a retired army ranger who saw three tours of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. When he came home, he discovered he was broken.
“I found my way through a psychedelic experience called Ayahuasca which has thousands of years of history in South American culture,” Gould said.
Get Connecticut local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Connecticut newsletters.
But not everyone is as lucky as Gould, who started a nonprofit to try and help get veterans psychedelic-assisted therapy.
“Right now, the only option is for veterans to do this illegally which right now in the U.S. is happening, or going to other countries where they can access safe and legal psychedelic therapy and that should be an embarrassment to everyone on this call,” Gould said.
“I’m not some lunatic who wants access to psychedelics,” Cynthia Levy said.
Levy is a former assistant secretary of defense and a retired member of the U.S. Intelligence Agency.
“I’m not sitting in my home in Virginia Beach, proud home of SEAL Team Six and eating mushrooms. I went with skilled and trained professionals who helped me get my brain back, reset so I could be a functioning human being and smile during the day not as an act,” Levy said.
Veterans like Levy have been accessing psychedelic treatment like this overseas for years. The FDA recently classified these drugs as breakthrough therapies. And she’s been off her antidepressants ever since.
“The expanded protocol by the FDA is largely not reimbursable by insurance companies because they’re using investigational new drugs,” Jesse McLachlan, director of state advocacy at Reason for Hope, said.
The legislation, which unanimously cleared the Public Health Committee, would commit $3 million to help veterans and other disadvantaged individuals gain access.
“There’s a legal pathway, but the folks who need it most can’t afford it,” McLachlan said.
The bill’s next stop is the House of Representatives.