The Military Mental Health Crisis, A National Tragedy: Part III

  • Over 1 million U.S. veterans of recent U.S. wars have been afflicted with PTSD
  • In the past 20 years, more than 115,000 of these veterans have committed suicide
  • The Department of Defense has no effective conventional therapies to treat PTSD
  • The U.S. government has been blocking access to new medicinal therapies that can (and have) treated PTSD successfully



A Mental Health Crisis has been raging out of control in the U.S. military for over 20 years. Most commonly, veterans are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Over 1 million U.S. veterans of recent wars have been afflicted with PTSD. Tragically, more than 115,000 veterans have committed suicide over the past 20 years – mostly due to PTSD. That was the principal message from Part I of this series.

PTSD is both a frightening and debilitating downward spiral for anyone suffering from moderate to severe cases of this disorder. In addition to the grave risk of suicide, PTSD frequently leads to substance abuse among veterans. It is also a major factor in the endemic poverty and homelessness among veterans. On any given night, roughly 40,000 veterans are without shelter.

That was the message in Part II of this series, as Psychedelic Stock Watch told the story of one veteran’s life-threatening descent into PTSD.

Clearly, the Mental Health Crisis among the U.S. military is a national tragedy. But it’s more than that.

What readers also learned in previous instalments is that most of these veterans receive no treatment for their PTSD from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Of those who do obtain treatment, only 15% receive “evidence-based care”.

That makes this crisis a national disgrace.

Men and women who literally put their lives on the line for their country have returned home damaged from that ordeal. They can obtain top-quality medical care for their physical injuries. However, when it comes to their equally debilitating (more debilitating?) mental health disorders – starting with PTSD – they have been largely abandoned.

It gets worse.

Potent medicines exist that can successfully treat mental health disorders (including PTSD) where conventional mental health therapies are failing. Psychedelic drugs.

Drugs such as psilocybin, MDMA and ketamine are showing remarkable promise in treating PTSD versus the existing standard of care. A Phase III clinical trial by MAPS of an MDMA-assisted therapy for PTSD reported that nearly 90% of study participants derived benefit from the treatment, with roughly 2 out of 3 being effectively cured.

This is compared to existing therapies from the VA, where only roughly 1 in 3 veterans derives any benefit at all.

Success vs. failure. Revolutionary treatment.

Unfortunately, MAPS is being forced to repeat this highly successful trial before the FDA will even consider formal approval for this therapy. Why?

Because MDMA (along with other psychedelics) remains classified as a Schedule I narcotic, a substance that supposedly has (i) no accepted medical use, and (ii) a high potential for abuse. As a Schedule I drug, MAPS is forced to duplicate these results, and spend another year or so in trials.

Each day, an average of 22 veterans commits suicide. In the time necessary to repeat this Phase III trial, at least 8,000 more veterans will have taken their own life – needlessly. Blood on the hands of Congress.

That elevates the Mental Health Crisis in the U.S. military to the level of a national outrage.

Not only is the U.S. government (passively) doing little to help one million veterans with their battle against PTSD, Congress continues to actively block medicines that have now been proven to be extremely successful in treating PTSD.

Fortunately, a tiny minority of veterans have gained access to a form of psychedelics-based therapy that is legal today. This brings us back to Kevin Martin, the honorably discharged veteran who went through his own “to Hell and back” ordeal with PTSD.

In Part II, we chronicled Kevin’s downward spiral from being diagnosed as “30% disabled” from PTSD when he was originally discharged to when he became fully disabled and ultimately attempted suicide three times as he became increasingly despondent and hopeless.

From Part II:

“By 2019, I had enough of suffering. I had watched my body, mind, and spirit deteriorate so rapidly over the previous four years that I could not imagine going on like this anymore. I’d destroyed a ton of relationships. I was broke, depressed, and hopeless.”

Desperate and still suicidal, Kevin decided to fight his sense of hopelessness by no longer feeling helpless in his battle against PTSD.

After being abandoned by the VA in February 2019, Kevin got more proactive in looking into new options to treat his PTSD. He had actually began reading about psychedelics as far back as May 2018. Reading Michael Pollan’s How to Change Your Mind in August 2018 made a major impression on him.

He decided to try psilocybin, the primary active ingredient in “magic mushrooms”.

In both formal clinical studies and informal self-medication, psilocybin is showing enormous promise in treating everything from depression to Traumatic Brain Injury. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is another obvious therapeutic avenue for psilocybin.

Kevin began taking mildly “experiential” doses. He could tell that the psilocybin was actually doing something to heal his damaged brain – unlike the conventional antidepressants that just played around with his brain chemistry.

Clinical research is showing that psilocybin (and other psychedelics) can actually “rewire” and “rebuild” the human brain. A cure rather than just a crutch for people with mental health disorders.

However, Kevin was still dangerously unstable. Without a structured therapy setting, he was worried that the larger doses of psilocybin that might bring him real relief could also tip him toward another suicide attempt.

It was at this time that Kevin finally caught a break. He heard about a psychiatrist in Hawaii who was providing ketamine-assisted psychotherapy.
 
Kevin had previously heard about ketamine-based treatment for PTSD while still obtaining treatment from the VA. A handful of veterans who had managed to obtain VA approval for this “experimental” new therapy were reporting very positive results.

Kevin was introduced to Dr. Thomas Cook. It almost ended up being too late.

Kevin made his third (and final) suicide attempt in May 2019 before being able to get his first ketamine-assisted therapy session in June 2019 with Dr. Cook. He scraped together the funds necessary to pay for the session.

Kevin describes the difference that this psychedelics-based therapy made in his quality of life.
 
“I will never forget my first ketamine infusion. It was June 11th, 2019 and I had been waiting for months for this treatment. By that time, my life had become unmanageable, each day was a battle, which set the stage for some high expectations. Even so, the treatment was amazing. I felt an overwhelming sense of connectivity, as if I had tapped into some sort of cosmic conscious. It provided me with an unbelievable sense of euphoria and clairvoyance.

More specifically, for the next five days after the treatment, I slept better each night than I’d slept any night in the last five years. There was a significant reduction in my negative self-talk, ruminating thoughts, and an elimination in suicidal thoughts. My ability to concentrate was remarkably better and I also noticed these small things like not craving junk food or caffeine. Overall, it made me feel more stable and comfortable in my own skin than I had in years.”

Kevin was no longer a prisoner of his own mind. Better sleep, more balanced and a healthier outlook on life. Ketamine therapy not only saved his life, it gave Kevin Martin a life worth saving.

Ketamine is not considered a true psychedelic, but it does produce a psychedelic-like “trip” in terms of a dissociative experience. A just-released Canadian/UK research paper on ketamine-based therapy is reporting that it has a “quick, short-term effect” in treating mental health issues such as depression, suicidal ideation and PTSD.

Kevin reported being “much better for weeks” after each of his sessions. He did three additional ketamine sessions in September. By then, his own “self-sabotaging” had dropped off dramatically as life ceased to be a burden.

By January 2020, Kevin had quit drinking “without trying” and has remained sober since. His story has attracted local news coverage, as part of the growing debate (and awareness) about psychedelic medicine and the push to (in particular) legalize psilocybin.
 
Martin battled PTSD after road side bomb attacks in Afghanistan.

Last February, HNN witnessed his treatment with ketamine.

Today, Martin says he needs fewer treatments and both [he and Dr. Cook] support the psilocybin measure.

“My life is the best it’s ever been.”

That’s an amazing transition for someone who only months earlier had been depressed, hopeless, suicidal and beyond the reach of conventional therapies.

Ketamine-based therapy is legal, but is attracting little media attention and only small numbers of people are currently being helped. Psilocybin and MDMA remain illegal as Schedule I narcotics. Even drugs like heroin, cocaine, and opioids are only classified as Schedule II.

Big Pharma had little difficulty pushing their killer-opioids through the regulatory process because of this lower standard of regulatory Prohibition. But safe psychedelic drugs like psilocybin and MDMA that could not only be treating PTSD but also depression and addiction remain more heavily criminalized.

Perverse. Corrupt. And resulting in the needless deaths of Americans every hour of every day – not just veterans.

In the Suicide Epidemic among the general population, one American dies an average of every 10 minutes, primarily from depression. As with PTSD, conventional therapies do a dismal job of treating depression.

Meanwhile, in a recent Phase IIa clinical trial for Ireland-based GH Research (US:GHRS), 87.5% of patients with Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD) went into remission after a single psychedelics-based therapy session.

Success vs. failure. Life vs. death.

Kevin Martin narrowly avoided becoming another “statistic” of the Military Mental Health Crisis, and another victim of a federal government that continues to put politics above the lives of Americans in general, and veterans in particular. Winning his own battle against PTSD, Kevin plans on becoming more active going forward to help publicize the mental health crisis in the U.S. military and the growing push to legalize psychedelic medicine.

The 115,000+ veteran suicides over the past 20 years is a national tragedy.

The failure of the U.S. government to provide more than a small fraction of veterans with adequate mental health care as this crisis rages within the military is a national disgrace.

However, the ongoing campaign by the U.S. government to block access to medicines that could have saved some/most of these lives is a national outrage.

“Support the troops.”

That mantra comes out of the mouths of members of Congress more than any other Americans. It’s time that they practiced what they preached.

Support the troops. Heal the troops.
 
Military Mental Health Crisis Part III (cover) by Psychedelic Stock Watch is licensed under N/A
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