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A ‘really wild coalition’: Democrats co-sponsor Dan Crenshaw’s psychedelic therapy bill

 U.S. Rep. from Houston, Dan Crenshaw.
Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
U.S. Rep. from Houston, Dan Crenshaw.

Conservative lawmakers don’t typically advocate for loosening drug restrictions, but a bill that Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw recently introduced into the U.S. House does just that.

Crenshaw’s bill would direct the Secretary of Defense to fund treatment and studies on drugs like psilocybin and MDMA for active-duty military with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. Private sector studies of MDMA and psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy have already shown great promise in treating these issues.

Crenshaw formally announced the Douglas ‘Mike’ Day Psychedelic Therapy to Save Lives Act last month and it has since gained broad bipartisan support. Unlikely allies Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. J. Luis Correa – both Democratic cosponsors of the bill – joined Crenshaw at a recent press conference to recognize the progress of the bill and explain its importance.

Crenshaw addressed the elephant (and donkey) in the room directly, calling the team a “really wild coalition.”

But the bipartisan support is no fluke. High military and veteran suicide rates and the effectiveness of psychedelic treatments make this bill appealing to representatives across the political spectrum. “I still can’t find one member of Congress that is actually opposed to this,” Crenshaw said.

Jesse Gould joined Texas Standard to provide some context on the potential psychedelics have to help active-duty military and veterans. Gould is an Army Ranger veteran whose own PTSD symptoms disappeared after an ayahuasca retreat in Peru. His nonprofit, Heroic Hearts Project, helps veterans find psychedelic therapy programs.

» RELATED: After decades of reluctance, the VA is studying psychedelic drugs for PTSD and other disorders

Gould said that current federal drug laws make psychedelics difficult to study and illegal to prescribe. Ocasio-Cortez spoke to that issue at the press conference with Crenshaw. “Right now our hands are tied in terms of getting the science we need,” she said.

Allowing these treatments for active-duty military could serve as a gateway to psychedelic therapy for veterans and the general public.

Targeting active-duty military will also help alleviate PTSD in soldiers as soon as it arises, hopefully reducing suicide rates. “Let’s get ahead of the problem, resolve the trauma as it comes up and lead to a healthier military population as well as healthier military family populations,” Gould said.

According to Gould, typical pharmaceutical treatments like SSRIs only mask the symptoms of PTSD. Alternatively, when psychedelics are paired with psychotherapy, they can treat the cause of PTSD. “What it does is bring up the base root of trauma in a way that the individual understands, which gives the therapist more tools.”

» RELATED: Can psychedelics combat prolonged grief? Dell Medical School launches study to find out.

Gould believes that this legislative course of action will be more effective and helpful than medical cannabis laws that passed with less scientific backing.

“When you follow the correct course of action and you don’t have archaic laws preventing it, then you actually have a more informed population,” Gould said.

Gould’s advocacy for psychedelic therapy may have been inspired by his individual experience, but he knows the issue is much bigger than one soldier or any political party.

“This has been a bipartisan issue because at the core, it’s helping this nation’s heroes,” Gould said.

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