Miller-Meeks leads hearing on psychedelic-assisted therapy for vets

WASHINGTON — Iowa Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks says research is showing psychedelic drugs “have the potential” to be a mental health treatment option for veterans.

Miller-Meeks, a Republican who represents Iowa’s first congressional district, is chair of the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health. She led a recent congressional hearing about psychedelics — drugs that cause hallucinations. “We are not advocating for the legalization or the casual use of psychedelics,” Miller-Meeks said. “What we are discussing is the clinically aministered dosage of these substances, in combination with targeted therapy sessions in a clinical setting.”

The hearing focused on clinical trials being conducted in Veterans Administration facilities using psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, or MDMA drugs like ecstasy as treatment for mental health conditions like post traumatic stress disorder. “Psychedelia-assisted therapy is a ground breaking clinical procedure that has the potential to transform the way we look at health care,” she said.

Miller-Meeks, an ophthalmologist, is a 24 year Army veteran. “As a physician who practices traditional medicine, I never thought I would enter congress to then be advocating for emerging, breakthrough therapy,” Miller-Meeks said, “but I think the science is leading the way.”

If the FDA approves the use of psychedelics, Miller-Meeks said the Veterans Administration should move quickly to make appointments for veterans who would benefit from the therapy. “For many veterans, this treatment is life saving, but more work needs to be done,” Miller-Meeks said. “It is a sad reality that 17 veterans a day will lose their lives to suicide. One life lost to suicide is one life too many and our fight must continue.”

Miller-Meeks describes psychedelic-assisted therapy as a lengthy process. “A licensed clinician carefully examines a veteran prior to administering a dose…A veteran must go through two or three sessions, during which intense psyctherapy is overseen by a licensed medial professional assisting the veteran throughout the experience. These sessions last about eight hours, the full duration of the drug’s effects,” Miller-Meeks said. “…Based on the most recent clinical trials, patients experienced positive therapeutic responses, resulting in a reduction of their symptoms if not remission altogether.”

VA officials say there is still much to be learned and understood about the benefits of psychedelic compounds. Advocates say traditional medications for moderate to severe PTSD have significant side effects, prompting some people to quit treatment.