WASHINGTON D.C. (NewsNation) — A bipartisan measure aimed at treating veterans would authorize the study the use of psychedelic substances to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries.
The proposal is part of the House’s $886 billion annual defense policy package approved on Friday. It does not legalize their use or make them readily available as medicines. Advocates say the goal is to expand research in treating PTSD and brain injuries.
“To knowingly refuse research to enable research that could end millions of people suffering is simply wrong,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told reporters Thursday. “If we prohibit these promising drugs from being studied, we are being led by stigma, not science and it is our veterans who will pay the price.”
Seven out of every 100 U.S. veterans will have PTSD in their lifetime, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In a government bitterly divided, the effort to study psychedelics earned support from both sides of the aisle.
“This is a really wild coalition,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, a former Navy SEAL who lost an eye fighting in Afghanistan, pointed to support from liberals to conservatives and everyone in between.
“Everybody is on the same page because of realization that these therapies are working,” Crenshaw added.
Psychedelics like MDMA and psilocybin are currently classified as Schedule 1 drugs by the U.S. government, meaning they have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Proponents say in small doses, the substances have real benefits.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Psychedelic and dissociative drugs can temporarily alter a person’s mood, thoughts, and perceptions… people who use these substances report feeling strong emotions ranging from bliss to fear and experiencing vast changes in how they perceive reality.”
House Republicans pushed amendments on several hot-button issues to garner support for the overall bill — including restricting abortion access and transgender healthcare in the military, but the legislation is unlikely to pass the Democratic-led Senate.
The National Defense Authorization Act — which sets policy for the Pentagon and authorizes defense spending for fiscal year 2024 — was approved 219-210, largely along party lines.