A recent report by CBS News highlighted this trend, noting that as “ many veterans with PTSD remain desperate for healing, a growing number are turning to psychedelic-assisted treatment in Mexico — using substances the government they fought for says are illegal.”
“As I watched more of my teammates…more veterans start to take their own lives, I realized that that’s an option,” Herb Daniels, a former Green Beret, told CBS.
Following his retirement from the military, Daniels “said he faced a profound darkness that started to consume him,” which ultimately resulted in multiple suicide attempts.
He ultimately “found out about VETS, Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions,” a “nonprofit organization funds grants for veterans to go to Mexico for treatment that isn’t legal in the United States,” according to CBS News.
The organization shuttles veterans from San Diego to Mexico for a psychedelic retreat each week.
Daniels embarked on his first retreat last year. CBS News has more on the experience:
“Upon arrival at the retreat site, the location of which CBS News was asked not to disclose for the safety and security of the participants, the veterans met with a local facilitator, Juan Aguilar, who guided them through the process. Aguilar first focused on setting intentions and preparing the veterans for their experience. The therapy session started with the use of mapacho smoke to cleanse the space, followed by a focused meditation with the medicine. The heart of the treatment involves a short, intense, psychedelic experience. During his session, Daniels went through a range of emotions, visibly moved as tears rolled down his face. The experience lasted about 10 minutes, and he said it felt ‘magical, like a fresh start.’”
“My heart was just opened, wide open, and there was laid bare so much pain, so much anger and as soon as I let it go, I became aware of my presence again, and I felt my body just relax,” Daniels told the network.
According to CBS, Daniels “and his wife now dedicate themselves to assisting veterans in getting the help they need – by helping them get to Mexico for treatment.”
The story highlights a significant component of the drive to make psychedelics legal in the United States: researchers are increasingly convinced of their potential as a form of mental health treatment, and they have been vulnerable populations, including returning veterans.
Earlier this month, Massachusetts Gov. Maura T. Healey filed legislation that includes a proposal to the therapeutic benefits of psychedelics for veterans.
“Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and this transformative legislation marks an important step toward ensuring that Massachusetts supports them in return,” said Healey. “From day one, our administration has been committed to revitalizing veterans’ services in Massachusetts and ensuring that every one of these heroes receives the benefits, resources and support that they deserve.”
Veterans advocacy groups applauded the bill.
“We’re grateful to Governor Healey and her team for recognizing the need for giving back to the heroes who have served our country, both at home and overseas,” said Bill LeBeau, Adjutant for Massachusetts Veterans of Foreign Wars. “With this bill, the Healey-Driscoll Administration demonstrates a real commitment to accomplishing outcomes for our Veterans that will be meaningful and impactful in so many ways; it also sends a signal that more needs to be done to support them.”
The most decisive action will have to come from Washington, however, as psychedelics remain prohibited under federal law.
A growing number of lawmakers on Capitol Hill have publicly endorsed making psychedelics legal for mental health treatment.
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw (TX-02) introduced a bill this summer that would direct the Department of Defense to research psychedelics.
“This is a real wild coalition,” Crenshaw said after introducing the measure, noting the ideological composition of the bill’s sponsors.
The most crucial show of support would come from the White House, and there were signals earlier this year that President Joe Biden could actually be amenable to psychedelic treatment.
Biden’s younger brother, Frank Biden, said as much in an interview this past summer.
“He is very open-minded,” Frank Biden said in an interview with radio host Michael Smerconish.
“Put it that way. I don’t want to speak; I’m talking brother-to-brother. Brother-to-brother,” he added. “The question is, is the world, is the U.S. ready for this? My opinion is that we are on the cusp of a consciousness that needs to be brought about to solve a lot of the problems in and around addiction, but as importantly, to make us aware of the fact that we’re all one people and we’ve got to come together.”