Psychedelics Demonstrate Positive Impact on Mental Health and Cognition in Special Ops Veterans

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In a recent analysis of patient records, it was found that a single treatment involving two psychedelic substances resulted in lowered depression and anxiety levels, as well as improved cognitive functioning in a group of U.S. special operations forces veterans seeking care at a clinic in Mexico.

The treatment utilized a combination of ibogaine hydrochloride, derived from the West African shrub iboga, and 5-MeO-DMT, a psychedelic substance secreted by the Colorado River toad. Both of these substances are classified as Schedule I drugs under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.

In addition to alleviating symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the combined treatment showed promise in addressing cognitive impairment associated with traumatic brain injury. This finding was particularly noteworthy to the researchers from The Ohio State University who conducted the analysis, as many special operations forces veterans with complex psychiatric symptoms often do not respond to conventional therapies.

Lead author Alan Davis, who is an associate professor and director of the Center for Psychedelic Drug Research and Education (CPDRE) in Ohio State’s College of Social Work, emphasized the unique challenges faced by this group due to their exposure to repeated traumatic events as part of their regular duties. This chronic exposure often leads to a range of difficulties, including traumatic brain injury, which is known to predispose individuals to mental health issues.

The study, published in the American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, focused on veterans who had been on active duty after the 9/11 attacks and sought care for a variety of issues including memory problems, brain injury, depression, anxiety, PTSD, sleep disturbances, anger, and fatigue. Approximately 86% of attendees reported head injuries, with many attributing symptoms such as memory issues, irritability, disrupted sleep, and ringing in the ears to these past traumas.

Eighty-six veterans completed pre-treatment questionnaires assessing various mental health symptoms, as well as their satisfaction with life, levels of anger, and suicidality. Each participant received a single oral dose of ibogaine hydrochloride and, on a separate day, at least three inhalation doses of 5-MeO-DMT, totaling 50 milligrams. Prior to and following each treatment, participants engaged in preparation and reflection sessions.

Overall, participants reported significant improvements in self-reported symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, insomnia severity, and anger, along with a notable increase in life satisfaction from pre-treatment to the one-month follow-up. These benefits were sustained at the three- and six-month follow-ups. Participants also experienced enduring enhancements in psychological flexibility, cognitive functioning, and reductions in disability and post-concussive symptoms for six months.

Alan Davis noted that the improvement in cognitive functioning warrants further investigation into whether it stems from reduced mental health symptoms, biological changes in brain signaling, or a combination of both. He also highlighted previous research suggesting a connection between psychological flexibility and transformative psychedelic experiences.

The majority of attendees reported positive changes in attitudes, behaviors, and relationships, with almost half stating that the psychedelic experience was the most spiritually significant (48.6%) or psychologically insightful (42.9%) of their lives one month after treatment. Additionally, 17.1% described it as the most challenging experience they had ever faced.

The researchers took a cautious approach when analyzing the outcome data, considering that attendees who did not complete all follow-up surveys might not have experienced the relief they had hoped for. Nonetheless, the findings underscore the potential benefits of psychedelic therapy for veterans with complex trauma histories, supporting the need for further clinical trials in the U.S.

Currently, Ohio State is studying psilocybin-assisted therapy for the treatment of PTSD among military veterans. Co-authors of the study include Yitong Xin and Nathan Sepeda of Ohio State, as well as Lynnette Averill of Baylor College of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

~ Source: www.sciencedaily.com

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