Two lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives have joined forces to create the Congressional Psychedelics Advancing Clinical Treatments (PACT) Caucus, a panel launched last week to advocate for research into psychedelic drugs. The caucus is co-chaired by California Democratic Representative Lou Correa and Representative Jack Bergman, a Republican from Michigan who is also a retired lieutenant general with the United States Marine Corps.
The new bipartisan caucus will advocate for research into psychedelics including psilocybin and MDMA, which have shown great promise as potential treatments for a range of mental health conditions including anxiety, treatment-resistant depression, addiction, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Having served our Nation as a member of the United States military and in Congress, I’ve seen the destruction post-traumatic stress disorder can cause on my fellow veterans and their families,” Bergman said in a statement, as reported by the Washington Examiner. “Our job is to find solutions to these problems, and if psychedelic-assisted therapy can help treat or even fully cure someone of their PTSD, we need to take a closer look at these potential life-saving therapies.”
Caucus Will Advocate for Psychedelics Research
The bipartisan psychedelics caucus will investigate modern research on psychedelic-assisted therapies and advocate for expanded clinical research and future congressional funding for psychedelics studies. The panel will also examine federal barriers to psychedelics research and work to increase awareness of research into psychedelics and the potential therapeutic value of the drugs among other members of Congress and their staffs. The caucus does not plan to advocate for the decriminalization, legalization, or rescheduling of psychedelic drugs.
In a statement, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) noted that the new caucus is made up of bipartisan lawmakers who are committed to “addressing ways to alleviate the national mental health crisis through psychedelic science and research.”
“We are encouraged that Representatives Correa and Bergman are taking significant steps to bring the conversation about psychedelic research and therapy to Congress, said Ismail Ali, the director of policy and advocacy for the non-profit psychedelics research and educational organization. “This initiative will build upon the growing national interest in the potential for psychedelic care modalities to be incorporated into healthcare. We look forward to working with members of the caucus to educate their colleagues to replace drug war rhetoric with science, evidence, and compassion.”
Although preliminary studies have shown that psychedelics have the potential to treat mental health disorders, Rachel Yehuda, director for the Center for Psychotherapy and Trauma Research and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said that further study is still needed.
“Despite the initial promising results, so much more research is needed to determine efficacy and durability of these findings, to better understand the psychotherapy needed to support psychedelic journeys and to identify who can safely benefit,” said Yehuda. “But to date, it has been difficult for investigators to properly vet these treatments because conducting the trials with Schedule I compounds involve so many hurdles.”
Senators Also Acting on Psychedelics
Correa and Bergman announced the creation of the PACT Caucus on the same day that Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, announced that they had introduced legislation that would require the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reclassify breakthrough therapies such as the psychedelics psilocybin and MDMA. The bill, known as the Breakthrough Therapies Act, is designed to ease access to psychedelic drugs for patients and streamline further research into the compounds.
“Recent studies suggest that some Schedule I substances such as MDMA and psilocybin could represent an enormous advancement for the treatment of severe post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and addiction,” Booker said in a statement from the senator’s office on Thursday. “Unfortunately, regulatory red tape and a series of bureaucratic hurdles involved in studying Schedule I substances impedes critical research on these and other promising Schedule I compounds. This bill reduces these unreasonably burdensome rules and regulations that delay or prevent researchers from studying – and patients from accessing – this entire class of potential medicines.”