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Portland VA opens psychedelic therapy clinic to treat mental health and substance use disorders


The VA Portland Health Care System recently opened a psychedelic therapy clinic to treat Veterans and conduct clinical trials.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held for the Social Neuroscience & Psychotherapy Lab at the Veterans Affairs organization’s Vancouver campus in Washington on Mar. 18.

It was attended by the Portland VA’s Director David Holt. He took the time to thank the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation for making substantial contributions to the facility’s establishment.

Holt also acknowledged the lab’s principal investigator Dr. Christopher Stauffer and others involved.

“We could not have done it without the support of the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation,” Stauffer said in a LinkedIn post. Steve Cohen, a renowned investor and head of the Point 72 hedge fund, has donated millions to psychedelic research.

There are currently two clinical trials underway at the new clinic. One is a study on psilocybin-assisted therapy for Veterans suffering from methamphetamine addiction. The other is an investigation of MDMA-assisted group therapy for Veterans with PTSD.

Stauffer says methamphetamine use disorder is one of the most challenging conditions to treat. The study aims to find the optimal psilocybin dosing regimen and best ways to provide subsequent integrative therapy.

All six Veterans from each cohort participating in the group therapy trial will start with an individual MDMA session. It will then be followed by group integration therapy and usage of the drug facilitated by four therapists.

Read more: Utah governor allows psychedelics pilot program without signature

Read more: Alberta university kicks off major study on psilocybin for alcohol use disorder treatment

Stauffer says group MDMA use is even more powerful

He discussed the new clinic and the ongoing trials in an interview Friday with Oregon Public Broadcasting.

“I think there are unique qualities to doing therapy in a group,” he said. “I think that because MDMA is such a relational drug, combining it with group therapy will have unique healing potential.”

Stauffer calls it relational because of its ability to increase a person’s empathy and feelings of connection to others and oneself.

The United States Food and Drug Administration designated MDMA as a breakthrough therapy in 2017. The organization is currently reviewing the possibility of regulating its use for the treatment of PTSD and a decision is expected by August.

Progress is continually being made for Veterans psychedelics access in the United States.

Indiana’s Governor Eric Holcomb just signed a bill that will help create a therapeutic psilocybin research fund for Veterans and first responders. Missouri lawmakers recently approved a bill to provide psychedelic therapy to Veterans too.

Other states like Utah, Maryland and Alaska have been taking a keen interest in these alternative treatment methods as well.

The American Department of Veterans Affairs or VA recently budgeted US$20 million on clinical trials involving psychedelics. An alarming suicide rate is a key concern propelling funding initiatives like this.

The creation of the Heroic Hearts Project, a non-profit psychedelics advocacy organization for Veterans based in the United States, was inspired by the profound success of psychedelic therapies.

 

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