Texas Psychedelics to be studied for veterans health

Texas To Study Psychedelics, Even as Gov. Abbott Refused to Sign Measure

This spring former Texas Governor Rick Perry turned heads when he endorsed studying psychedelics to see their potential health benefits on veterans suffering PTSD, anxiety and depression. The state legislature got on board and sent such a targeted measure to the governor’s desk. While Gov. Greg Abbott didn’t sign the bipartisan proposal, he didn’t veto it so it’s now law in the sprawling conservative state.

Even with Abbott sitting this groundbreaking debate out, health officials in the state are now tasked with studying the medical potential — along with downsides — of psilocybin (what puts the magic in ‘magic mushrooms’), ketamine (which is a common anaesthetic) and MDMA (think ecstasy without the rave).

In recent months, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and, separately, Sean Belouin — a senior science policy advisor with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — called for Congress to loosen drug laws.

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Health officials will work with researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine — located in Houston’s Texas Medical Center, which is the largest in the world — to see if psychedelics can help stem the more than 17 veteran suicides a day that have plagued and shamed the nation for years.

“Psychedelic medicine has the potential to completely change society’s approach to mental health treatment, and research is the first step to realizing that transformation,” Democratic state Rep. Alex Dominguez — who sponsored the measure — said in a release after it passed.

The law also requires a broad review of all the groundbreaking research coming out on psychedelics as well as a clinical trial that specifically studies how psilocybin impacts veterans.

As Austin lawmakers were debating the measure, Washington was watching. Texas Senators . John Cornyn and Ted Cruz hadn’t heard of the proposal when former Gov. Perry weighed in, but the two Republicans both told The News Station back in April they were open to the measure because it was targeted towards veterans health through psychedelics.

While the measure isn’t expected to pass in Washington any time soon, after it became law in Texas supporters are now hoping it will catch on in other states as well.

“It’s said that ‘as goes Texas, so goes the nation,’” Rep. Dominguez said. “While states across the country consider how best to address the mental health crisis facing our nation, I hope they once again look to Texas for leadership.”

Texas-sized pride in Texas aside, while the Lone Star State is ahead of many states, it’s also behind many localities when it comes to psychedelics.

Just this month, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed a measure mandating a study on the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin. That comes after Oregon voters resoundingly agreed to set up a psilocybin-assisted therapy program across the state in November’s elections.

When it comes to cities, states are getting lapped. In 2019, Denver became the first city to decriminalize, and they’ve since been joined by OaklandSanta CruzAnn Arbor and Washington, D.C..

In Massachusetts, Northampton, Somerville and Cambridge have all loosened their laws around psychedelics. Over in California, legislation to legalize psychedelics passed the state Senate earlier in June and has now been referred to the state Assembly.

While Texas Sens. Cornyn and Cruz are still studying the measure, federal health officials have begun loosening their lips of late.

“Psychedelic medicine has the potential to completely change society’s approach to mental health treatment, and research is the first step to realizing that transformation.”

state Rep. Alex Dominguez

In recent months, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and, separately, Sean Belouin — a senior science policy advisor with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) — called for Congress to loosen drug laws.

They want the federal government to join in this groundbreaking research area which states and localities have latched onto, even as the ‘war on drugs’ continues to keep the nation’s top health officials locked out of one of the most exciting research areas around these days.

This piece was originally published by Marijuana Moment and has been edited and modified by The News Station. 

Matt Laslo is Managing Editor of The News Station. To learn more about the veteran political reporter and professor -- or to read more of his work -- his bio page is here.

Matt Laslo is Managing Editor of The News Station. To learn more about the veteran political reporter and professor -- or to read more of his work -- his bio page is here.

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