A new Rand study shows that the U.S. military is struggling to meet the needs of war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
According to the study of 40,000 cases, only a fraction of the active-duty troops with the conditions are receiving the minimum number of therapy sessions after diagnosis.
One major obstacle, according to a USAToday interview: “We just don’t have enough mental health professionals to meet the demand,” said Brad Carson, a DoD official.
You may remember I was once held at gunpoint by an Iraq veteran suffering from PTSD. (Yes, I know that most vets aren’t a threat. This one was, for that moment.)
He was my neighbor back when I lived in the Hellmouth; I got to know him a bit after that first incident and since I lived in the apartment across the hall, I heard him wake up screaming more than a few nights. He told me the drugs they gave him at the VA didn’t help — they made him feel like a zombie.
So I think about him whenever I read about PTSD, and the most promising treatments — drugs like MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy.
Small-scale, government-sanctioned studies are taking place in Colorado, South Carolina, Canada, Switzerland and Israel using the psychedelic drug MDMA. While trials for MDMA-assisted psychotherapy are still ongoing, preliminary results have been remarkably promising.
A full 83% of the subjects in the first completed pilot study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy no longer qualified for PTSD after just two sessions (compared to 25% in the placebo group). These subjects, mostly female survivors of sexual assault and also a few veterans, had all tried other treatments. They had suffered for an average of 19 years.
Very impressive. At least in theory, the drugs seem to act as a reset button for some depressed or traumatized people.
But here’s the problem: Gradually increasing government restrictions, culminating in the war on drugs, have left psychedelic drugs like LSD, MDMA, DMT and psilocybin (magic mushrooms) — along with marijuana — classified as Schedule I. That means the U.S. says there is “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” So research is heavily regulated.
Well, we broke ’em, we bought ’em. The feds and the DoD really ought to stop looking at the things that don’t work that well, and start looking at the things that do.