Congress Approves Defense Bill Funding Psychedelic Research

Congress has passed a defense spending bill that includes $10 million to fund research into psychedelics to treat active duty service members with traumatic brain injuries or PTSD.
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Lawmakers in Congress last week passed a broad defense spending bill that includes funding to study psychedelics as a treatment for members of the U.S. military with post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injuries. The legislation, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), was passed by the Senate on Wednesday. The House of Representatives approved the bill one day later, sending the bill to the White House for consideration by President Joe Biden.

Under the bill, the Department of Defense would be required to create a system to allow active duty service members with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries (TBI) to participate in clinical trials studying the psychedelic drugs psilocybin, MDMA, ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT as treatments for their conditions. The legislation appropriates $10 million for psychedelics research, which could be conducted in collaboration with academic institutions and eligible federal and state agencies. The bill also sets a 180-day time limit from the day the bill becomes effective for the Department of Defense to establish the psychedelics research program.

The legislation was added to the NDAA by Texas Republican Representative Morgan Luttrell, a member of both the House Armed Services Committee and the NDAA Conference Committee, which reconciled differences in separate defense appropriations bills passed by the Senate and the House.

“I was honored to see several of my amendments and priorities accepted into the final version of the bill, including clinical trials on psychedelic therapy to treat PTSD, support for TBI research, and other key provisions that will ensure a safer, stronger United States,” Luttrell said in a statement on Thursday. “This legislation will ensure America can face security challenges with lethality and readiness.” 

Bill Named For Fallen Navy SEAL

Luttrell’s psychedelics research amendment to the NDAA was based on the Douglas Mike Day Psychedelic Therapy to Save Lives Act from fellow Texas Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw. The bill is named for Douglas “Mike” Day, a Navy SEAL who suffered multiple bullet wounds while serving in Iraq and later died by suicide. 

“When you think of a hero, you think of a guy like Mike,” Crenshaw said. “Yet like so many other warriors, after Mike made it back home, he began an entirely different, more insidious battle. A battle with the demons that followed him.”

Crenshaw first sponsored the legislation in 2019. The House approved the measure as part of the NDAA last year, but the Senate failed to include the psychedelic research provisions in the final version of the defense spending bill.

“We have to think outside the box,” Crenshaw said during a June news conference unveiling this year’s version of the bill. “We’re never going to understand the extent to which psychedelics can help our service members until we start actually doing the necessary clinical trials in a controlled environment.”

Crenshaw’s psychedelics research bill had broad bipartisan support, including co-sponsorship from progressive Democrats Representative Ro Khanna of California and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

“These are powerful substances, I don’t want to give that short shrift,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters at a Capitol Hill press conference during the summer. “But they also have powerful potential as well.”

Luttrell said at the time that the legislation would give service members who have suffered the ravages of war new options for treating their injuries.

“This is an alternative. This is not the end all, be all. We would never say that,” he said. “This is another tool that you can put in your proverbial toolbox to increase your quality of life.”

The NDAA received final approval from Congress on Thursday and was sent to the White House. The president is expected to sign the bill, according to a report from CNBC.

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