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Psychedelic drugs help veteran with PTSD, study shows

The entrance to the Edward P. Boland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Leeds. (Hoang 'Leon' Nguyen / The Republican/TNS)
October 06, 2023

In a breakthrough that may transform how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is treated in veterans, MDMA-assisted therapy appears to yield promising results.

Jonathan Lubecky, a Marine and Army veteran who struggled with severe PTSD symptoms, found a ray of hope through psychedelic treatment, and his story may pave the way for countless others seeking relief from their PTSD, according to

After suffering from debilitating PTSD for eight years, Lubecky’s journey took a turn in 2014. Although a visit to the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, did not immediately offer relief as no bed was available, it provided him with a crucial lead.

An intern at the hospital discreetly handed him a note, which read, “Google MDMA/PTSD.” The anonymous tip led Lubecky to a safety trial conducted by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) in Charleston.

Nine years later, Lubecky credits his three MDMA-assisted therapy sessions for his remarkable transformation.

“I’m now PTSD-free longer than I had it,” Lubecky shared on the VA’s inaugural New Horizons in Health podcast. “It’s like doing therapy while being hugged by everyone who loves you with a basketful of puppies licking your face.”

MDMA’s potential to treat PTSD has been under investigation by MAPS since 2011. Recent Phase 3 clinical trial results published in the journal “Nature Medicine” have reportedly validated the safety and efficacy of the treatment for PTSD patients.

As a result of the positive tests, the VA is looking to expand research into psychedelic drugs, including MDMA and psilocybin, for PTSD, depression, and other disorders within the veteran community.

READ MORE: Vietnam vet’s new book aims to shed light on PTSD experiences

However, challenges exist with psychedelic treatments. Both MDMA and psilocybin are currently classified as “Schedule 1” drugs by the Drug Enforcement Agency, which prevents large-scale studies from being conducted.

Nevertheless, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, VA Under Secretary for Health, revealed that department researchers have obtained waivers for ongoing studies, funding them with private donations.

“If and when this becomes available, VA will be able to scale it, I think, better than any other health care system because of our focus particularly on veterans,” Elnahal stated.

The interest in psychedelic treatments stems from current statistics of veterans with PTSD. Of the 6 million veterans enrolled in VA health care in 2021, 10% of male veterans and 19% of female veterans were diagnosed with PTSD. Although traditional treatments like cognitive processing therapy and drug therapies like Zoloft and Paxil exist, studies show that the effectiveness of the treatments can vary.

On the other hand, recent MDMA testing data showed that 87% of patients showcased significant PTSD symptom improvement post-treatment. By the study’s conclusion, 71% didn’t fit the PTSD diagnostic criteria.

Lubecky and VA officials have urged caution against veterans self-medicating with MDMA, given the potential side effects and risks associated with unregulated drugs.

“When you are using recreationally, you are finding something on the street. You don’t know what you are taking and what’s in that pill. That’s a risk that I hope that will cause people some pause,” Dr. Ilse Wiechers, deputy executive director of the VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, said.

According to, as research on MDMA for PTSD wraps up, MAPS aims for FDA approval in 2024. The DEA also needs to revisit its Schedule 1 classification, especially with Congress considering legislation on the study of marijuana, MDMA, and psilocybin for veterans.

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.