WASHINGTON — Liberal New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Texas conservative Rep. Dan Crenshaw are teaming up in hopes of letting troops take psychedelic drugs to recover from war.
The goal is to treat illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury — notoriously intractable ailments that skyrocketed among service members who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. PTSD is double what it was for Vietnam-era vets, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say more than 450,000 U.S. war fighters suffered TBI from 2000 to 2021.
Those numbers — and a growing stack of data suggest unorthodox treatments with psychedelics help — were enough to bring two of Congress's more unorthodox members together.
"This is a real wild coalition," said Crenshaw, a former Navy Seal who lost an eye to an improvised explosive in Afghanistan.
He said he has friends who came home from war damaged and were not cured until they found a way to try psychedelics, which are not legal in the United States, even to study except under restrictive conditions.
"I was turned on to this issue because I had so many friends … who were going down to a specific clinic and doing ibogaine — one treatment of ibogaine would cure them," he said, referring to a psychedelic drug.
"Psychedelics have shown so much promise," said Ocasio-Cortez. "We desperately need the resources to treat PTSD, traumatic brain injury and depression. At least one in two PTSD patients cannot tolerate or do not respond adequately to existing treatments."
The lawmakers managed to get a watered-down version of a bill they wrote into the massive National Defense Authorization Act that is expected to pass the House on Friday. But there is no similar provision in the Senate's version.
Crenshaw said he has the pledge of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to make sure their full bill — with funding and clinical trials — will get added when the Senate and House meet to mesh their differing defense bills later.
Ocasio-Cortez said veterans and others seeking relief should pressure the Senate.
"I know the power of this community to rise up and make itself heard," she added.
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