Lawmakers Press HASC to Approve Research Into Psychedelic Drugs for PTSD Treatment

May 16, 2023 5:50 PM
U.S. Capitol on Dec. 29, 2022. USNI News Photo

Congressional members petitioned the House Armed Services Committee to research psychedelic drugs to treat post-traumatic stress during the panel’s annual member day ahead of the Fiscal Year 2024 defense policy bill markup.

Navy SEAL veteran Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) told a receptive HASC that Congress must approve research grants to assess using psychedelic drugs to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

“We have to think outside the box” when it comes to using drugs like MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, to treat post 9/11 veterans suffering brain injuries, Crenshaw told the panel Tuesday. “[The] truth is we haven’t made a lot of progress treating it” in other ways.

He termed the research “simple, but positive steps” to address brain-related trauma across all services.

The latest studies outside the military have again produced promising results, Crenshaw told the committee during the hearing, which allows all members to address the panel on issues they believe should get included in the authorization bill.

Twenty-seven percent of vets in the Post-9/11 group have been diagnosed with PTSD, Crenshaw added.

“Perhaps more compelling than the data are the stories” of veterans, he said. Crenshaw, who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, lost the sight in his right eye in an improvised explosive device blast in Helmand Province.

The psychedelic drug “treatment turned them away from suicide, rescued their marriages, rescued their families,” Crenshaw said. He added that veterans he has spoken with said it also helped them stop alcohol and other drug abuse. “They feel they didn’t want” to use them any longer, he said.

But Crenshaw said the catch is that these veterans must travel abroad for treatment, and service members can lose active-duty status if they make that journey.

He added that the bill would not allow individuals “to go out and try psychedelics on their own” or have military pharmacies dispense them.

“This is not a recreational experience,” Crenshaw said.

This is the second year Crenshaw has asked Congress to support research into the effects of MDMA, psilocybin, ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT. Last year, in separate efforts, he and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) successfully added an amendment to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act to do just that.

“We all voted for this in the past,” but it didn’t survive in the Senate’s version, he said. “There’s wide-ranging support from the committee” to add the provision to have the Pentagon fund research grants through the National Institutes of Health in this year’s bill, he said.

HASC ranking ember Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said “it’s mind-boggling to me that we won’t study that,” while at the same time routinely prescribing opiates and other pain-killers, all with deadly side effects, for a variety of treatments.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), who chaired the hearing in an acting role, said “this is something we really need to study.”

On missile defense, Rep. Ed Case (D-Hawaii) sought the committee’s continued support for advanced discrimination radar to protect the islands from ballistic missile attack. As a member of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, he saw $75 million earmarked for that in last year’s spending bill.

The closing of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility also raises questions about leakage of Pre and Poly-flouroakyl Substances, or PFAS, into water systems across the armed forces that requires additional analysis, he said. PFAS was commonly used in firefighting foam to bring liquid fuel blazes under control.

The hearing took place before the committee marks up the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. The markups are on hold until lawmakers reach an agreement on the debt ceiling and overall spending for the upcoming fiscal year.

John Grady

John Grady

John Grady, a former managing editor of Navy Times, retired as director of communications for the Association of the United States Army. His reporting on national defense and national security has appeared on Breaking Defense,,,, Government Executive and USNI News.

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