In recent years, global drug policy has been progressively shifting towards legalization and regulation. Many in the United States are still eagerly awaiting an end to cannabis prohibition—a reality that will likely require a more progressive (i.e. Democratic) majority in government. So why are psychedelic medicine advocates so optimistic about the legalization of these compounds, regardless of party politics, ahead of this otherwise pivotal 2020 presidential election? Perhaps because the promise of psychedelic medicine is truly a force to be reckoned with and is projected to garner widespread bipartisan support from Democrats and Republicans, alike. While this may seem like a bold statement at first, especially when Republicans continue dashing hopes of federal cannabis reform, there exists compelling evidence to make this case. Since Republicans are historically the “anti-drug” party, the real question becomes: what is it about the promise of psychedelic medicine that can convince both parties, even Republicans, to come together on this issue? This guide will highlight three major reasons why the impending paradigm shift of the medicalization and legalization of psychedelic drugs is inevitable, regardless of party politics.

 

Reason #1: High-Quality Studies Demonstrate Positive Impact of Psychedelics in Military Veterans, First Responders & Police

 

The dominant strategy being utilized by major players in the psychedelic revolution is the effort to medicalize these compounds as a vehicle to integrate them into the mainstream. While conditions like PTSD affect a diverse human population, high-quality studies investigating the impact of psychedelic therapies in police, firefighters, the armed forces and in veterans, (all powerful institutions in modern America, notably with conservatives), are poised to have a major political impact. The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) conducted the most well-known of these trials, using MDMA to treat PTSD in military veterans, firefighters, and police officers in a ground-breaking randomized, double-blind, dose-response, phase 2 clinical trial that showed a clinically successful response to treatment.1 A 2016 review in Lancet Psychiatry discusses the efficacy of psilocybin and MDMA in treating everything from alcoholism and PTSD to end of life anxiety.2 Such novel psychopharmacological tools show immense promise for this population—and Conservative policymakers are aware. To drive this point home even further, it is necessary to examine just how seriously psychedelic therapy can impact the serious public health crisis that is PTSD and addiction—especially in veterans.

 

Reason #2: Psychedelics Can Ease the Socioeconomic Burden of Addiction

 

With recent figures estimating the cost of addiction to American society at $1 trillion dollars a year, it is clear that any effective remedy to this problem stands to benefit the entire nation. From a conservative standpoint, the fiscal argument of effectively treating addiction is considered compelling enough to vote in favor of legalization. However, to draw further upon the first reason presented in this guide, the impact that these drugs can have on alleviating addiction in veterans is also worth mentioning. The increasing prevalence of violence, criminal behavior, and, most notably, drug addiction—”one of the key symptoms of PTSD” among army veterans—harshly highlights the need for better addiction and PTSD treatment in this demographic.3 A 2016 scientific review found that MDMA facilitated the “alleviation of addictive behavior in subjects, and, as a result, an alleviation of addictions in general.”3 The review also describes MDMA as having “low physical and psychological dependence,” despite being the active chemical in “ecstasy,” a drug popular for its recreational value.3 On a bigger scale, addiction treatment is a major sector in healthcare that stands to be revolutionized by the evolving psychedelic medicine industry. From plant-based entheogens, like Ibogaine and psilocybin, to synthetic psychedelics, like MDMA, this new generation of psychedelic drugs stands to revolutionize addiction treatment for the world at large.

 

Read more about how psychedelic therapy can ease the socioeconomic burden of addiction in a great Microdose original blog here.

 

Reason #3: Psychedelics Can Help Attenuate the Staggering Veteran Suicide Rate

 

Consider this: The Department of Veterans Affairs reported 17 veteran suicides a day in 2019.4 Now consider the fact that high-quality studies show psychedelic medicine has a genuine chance of attenuating this staggering suicide rate, a hallmark of this deeply troubled demographic—a significant concern, particularly to conservatives. New treatments like ketamine assisted psychotherapy (KAP) are matching the “wonder drug” hype with demonstrable clinical efficacy in providing rapid anti-depressant effects.5 Indeed, a 2018 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry showed that a single dose of intravenous ketamine “rapidly reduced suicidal thoughts within one day and for up to one week in depressed patients with suicidal ideation.”6 These groundbreaking results speak for only one novel psychedelic compound: ketamine. The fact that there’s a vast and colorful array of other tools in the psychedelic medicine toolkit only further supports the promise that is psychedelic medicine.

 

Want to deeper insights into how ketamine therapy is revolutionizing modern medicine? Join the world’s top researchers, clinicians, companies, advocates and experts to discuss how ketamine therapy is revolutionizing healthcare at the Ketamine Conference: A Molecular Masterclass on August 21-22. Get your tickets here!

 

With suicide now considered the 10th leading cause of death for all ages in the US, clearly these compounds stand to benefit much larger portions of the population than just veterans. However, since this article is exploring the pathway to medicalization of these compounds with the bold assumption that partisan politicians can be united, a more nuanced approach is necessary.

 

Sociopolitical Implications of Using Police, Military & Veterans as a Vehicle for Medicalizing Psychedelics

 

While the socioeconomic implications and stark irony of selectively using powerful institutions of the state, (a driving force behind the “War on Drugs” and the prohibition of psychedelics to begin with), is not lost on this author, it is a deeper conversation for another review. Insofar as the state of affairs surrounding psychedelic medicine and political factions, it would behoove the reader to acknowledge the influence that these institutions hold in shifting modern drug policy in America and the world at large. Of course, it is without doubt that the benefits of psychedelic medicine—especially as they relate to PTSD, addiction, and suicide—extend to all of humanity, not just first responders, military, and veterans. The reality, however, is that the beneficial impact of these compounds as they have been highlighted in the police and military is undoubtedly going to draw the conservative vote—a necessary element for bipartisan support and swift legalization. For this noteworthy reason, psychedelics stand a promising chance of bringing even farther-right leaning conservatives to the table in hopes of successfully passing a measure to legalize and regulate.

 

Final Thoughts on the Intersection of Psychedelic Medicine & US Politics

 

The movement to medicalize psychedelic compounds is gaining notable traction across the political, social, and economic spectrum. Psychedelics hold immense promise for many of society’s most pressing public health problems, and there are countless reasons that these drugs should never have been prohibited to begin with. This guide explores three major reasons psychedelics are projected to garner even the conservative vote and draw overwhelming bipartisan support. Since a large focus of this movement has, for better or worse, been strategically geared towards selectively highlighting the benefits of psychedelics in police and military in an attempt to garner even the historically “anti-drug” conservative vote, some inevitable ethical concerns arise that should certainly be explored more deeply in a future piece. For now, psychedelic advocates, enthusiasts, and pioneers can find solace ahead of the 2020 elections in knowing that the psychedelic renaissance is here to stay, and it’s a greater force than even partisan politics in the United States of America.

 

Works Cited

 

  1. Mithoefer, M. C. et al. 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)-assisted psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans, firefighters, and police officers: a randomised, double-blind, dose-response, phase 2 clinical trial. Lancet Psychiatry 5, 486–497 (2018).
  2. Mithoefer, M. C., Grob, C. S. & Brewerton, T. D. Novel psychopharmacological therapies for psychiatric disorders: psilocybin and MDMA. Lancet Psychiatry 3, 481–488 (2016).
  3. Perry, J. Mending Invisible Wounds: The Efficacy and Legality of MDMA-Assisted Psychotherapy in United States’ Veterans Suffering with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. J. Law Health 29, 272–301 (2016).
  4. 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. 32.
  5. Boilini, H., Baldwin, M. & Lamvu, G. Is Ketamine the New Wonder Drug for Treating Suicide? Fed. Pract. 34, 12–16 (2017).
  6. Wilkinson, S. T. et al. The effect of a single dose of intravenous ketamine on suicidal ideation: a systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis. Am. J. Psychiatry 175, 150–158 (2018).