All veterans should have access to the psilocybin treatments that saved me

After one tour in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine with Operation Enduring Freedom, I returned home to Colorado angry, depressed and hopeless.

I didn’t want the pills provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. And talk therapy just didn’t help. Rudderless and prone to extreme mood swings, I increasingly isolated myself from family and friends. It was my roommate who finally said he was sick and tired of watching me literally fade away, suggesting I look into natural psychedelics to help me with my PTSD. The results changed my life.

This is why I support Proposition 122, The Natural Medicine Health Act, which would create a state-regulated therapeutic system for adults over 21 to access natural psychedelic medicine under the guidance of a licensed and supervised facilitator at designated healing centers and health-care facilities like palliative care. State health regulators would have the power to study, authorize and regulate treatment, and it would remain illegal to sell natural psychedelic medicines. There won’t be any psilocybin dispensaries in Colorado.

But those with PTSD, terminally ill patients, and people struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, and other mental issues will have access to natural medicines that, as in my case, may work where other treatments have failed.

Unlike mental health pharmaceuticals, which are typically ingested daily and often come with adverse side effects, psychedelic therapies are usually administered only once or twice a year, providing long-term relief without lasting side effects.

Research from the nation’s top medical universities, such as Johns Hopkins University, University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, and New York University, have shown positive patient outcomes for depression and anxiety, and the FDA has labeled psilocybin a “breakthrough” therapy.

Even the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has started offering psychedelic substances to patients as a part of clinical trials. Studies from the VA show more veterans – 17 a day – die by suicide than in combat, and suicide is the leading cause of death among vets under 45. Veterans between the ages of 18-34 die at a rate almost three times higher than non-veterans.

In Colorado, veterans have a “significantly higher” suicide rate than both veterans and the general population nationally, according to the VA.

All of my fellow service members deserve every chance and opportunity to recover from the injuries they received while proudly serving their country.

When I received treatment, my eyes were opened to the parts of myself and the things in my life that were toxic and slowly killing me. It was like pulling a thread and unraveling everything that I was mentally battling.

The rage, the pain, the fear, the self-doubt — all of that remained part of my story, but it no longer imprisoned me. The future finally felt bright. Since then, I have grown as a person and in my relationships, and my faith. I found a career path, and I am currently working on two doctoral-level degrees. Psilocybin treatment worked when nothing else did.

I hope you will join me in voting yes on Proposition 122 so veterans and other Coloradans have access to alternative treatments so they can heal.

Luke Gruber served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps and was deployed to Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom. He is currently a law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

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