Psychedelic Treatment for Trauma-Related Psychological and Cognitive Impairment Among US Special Operations Forces Veterans

This survey study (n=51) found very large effects on mental health for special forces veterans after ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT treatment.


Background U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans are at increased risk for a variety of mental health problems and cognitive impairment associated with military service. Current treatments are lacking in effectiveness and adherence. Therefore, this study examined psychedelic treatment with ibogaine and 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine for trauma-related psychological and cognitive impairment among U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans.

Method We conducted a survey of Veterans who completed a specific psychedelic clinical program in Mexico between 2017 and 2019. Questions probed retrospective reports of mental health and cognitive functioning during the 30 days before and 30 days after treatment. A total of 65 people completed treatment during this time frame and were eligible for contact. Of these, 51 (78%) completed the survey and were included in data analyses (mean age = 40; male = 96%; married = 55%; Caucasian/White = 92%; Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom Service = 96%).

Results Results indicated significant and very large reductions in retrospective report of suicidal ideation (p < .001; d =β€‰βˆ’1.9), cognitive impairment (p < .001; d =β€‰βˆ’2.8), and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (p < .001; d =β€‰βˆ’3.6), depression (p < .001; d =β€‰βˆ’3.7), and anxiety (p < .001; d =β€‰βˆ’3.1). Results also showed a significant and large increase in retrospective report of psychological flexibility (p < .001; d = 2.9) from before-to-after the psychedelic treatment. Increases in the retrospective report of psychological flexibility were strongly associated with retrospective report of reductions in cognitive impairment, and symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety (rs range βˆ’0.61 to βˆ’0.75; p < .001). Additionally, most participants rated the psychedelic experiences as one of the top five personally meaningful (84%), spiritually significant (88%), and psychologically insightful (86%) experiences of their lives.

Limitations: Several limitations should be considered including the retrospective, self-report, survey design of the study, and the lack of randomization and blinding, thus making these finding preliminary.

Conclusion U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans may have unique treatment needs because of the sequela of problems associated with repeated trauma exposure and the nature of the exposure. Psychedelic-assisted therapy with these under-researched psychedelics may hold unique promise for this population. However, controlled studies are needed to determine whether this treatment is efficacious in relieving mental health and cognitive impairment among U.S. Special Operations Forces Veterans.”

Authors: Alan K. Davis, Lynnette A. Averill, Nathan D. Sepeda, Joseph P. Barsuglia & Timothy Amoroso


Also reported on PsyPost.

As mentioned in the limitations, care should be taken in interpreting the results as the treatment was between one month and two years earlier.

During the treatment, they were constantly monitored. On the first day, they were given a “single oral dose (10 mg/kg) of ibogaine hydrochloride (99% purity)”. On the third day, they were given “at least three doses: 5 mg, 15 mg, and 30 mg for a total of 50 mg of inhaled 5-MeO-DMT” and up to 45mg in a fifth dose if no peak experience was achieved before that.

“Preliminary results from our study suggest that ibogaine and 5-MeO-DMT treatments may offer a novel, rapid-acting and potentially costeffective treatment for people suffering from PTSD.”

This is in response to the lack of available (effective) methods and the long-lasting effects of these three days of treatment. The authors also specifically mention the psychological flexibility as a mediator for the positive outcomes.

Expectancy effects and the lack of a placebo in this study are two big limitations. Ones that future studies may help overcome.

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