AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The latest federal data shows about 10 veterans a week are taking their own lives in Texas, and that number is on the rise. Some veteran advocates and organizations are pushing for state governments to think outside of the box to tackle the problem.
Marcus Capone will tell you first hand the military changes you.
“I was really struggling when I separated service in 2013,” Capone, a Navy veteran and cofounder of VETS nonprofit, said. “Around 2015 … I was at my tipping point.”
After nothing else seemed to help his depression, he turned to psychedelic medicine such as mushrooms and MDMA.
Now, the nonprofit he helps run supports research and gives out funding for that therapy.
“The individuals that we have funded now, over 500 … are coming back and saying that this has been a life-changing experience, life-saving for many,” Capone said.
In Texas, legislation passed last session to allow alternative therapies for veterans. University of Texas Austin’s Dell Medical School opened a Psychedelic Research Therapy Center. Some pilot programs involving veterans and mushrooms will kick off the research.
“One of them is going to be looking at psilocybin for treatment-resistant major depressive disorder,” Greg Fonzo, codirector for the center, said. “Our hypothesis is that the psychedelic will condition the brain to be optimally receptive to that treatment process.”
Other universities like Johns Hopkins University, UC San Francisco and UC Berkley are already doing research. Johns Hopkins released a 2022 report, showing psychedelics were effective in treating major depression for up to a year. Studies show depression can be linked to suicide.
“We’re definitely being cautious,” Fonzo said. “We want to approach this from a place where we minimize risk for people.”
Even those who feel research is important know this therapy isn’t for everyone. Still, they feel studying the psychedelic medicine and its effects will only help gather real data supporting how it works.
“We have to do a good job of taking care of the individuals that we’re treating,” Capone said. “It’s really personalized medicine.”
UT Dell said it’ll focus on developing and testing therapies, the best ways to prescribe psychedelic medications and how it biologically and psychologically affects someone, among other things.
Measuring success will be tracked by asking patients to rate their depression or PTSD on a scale both before and up to a year after psychedelic treatment. The experiments could take anywhere from two weeks to three months, according to Fonzo.