I am Jesse Gould, an Army Ranger, and for the past 5 years I have been connecting military veterans to PSYCHEDELIC retreats to heal their PTSD. In honor of yesterday's Memorial Day I am here to talk about mental health and to honor those that we h...
We Are Live!
Hello Reddit, after many crazy years and a psychedelic tidal wave, we at Heroic Hearts Project are back to answer your questions on veterans issues, mental health, and of course psychedelics. You may not have seen our previous AMA but this time I will be hanging out at home instead of doing a crazy ultramarathon. Previous AMA
Proof: Here's my proof! Check out our website Heroic Hearts Project
Some updates on HHP since we last talked:
We have curated a variety of veteran programs that may include the following substances: ayahuasca, psilocybin, ibogaine, ketamine, and 5-MeO-DMT
Working with partners like the Mission Within we have been able to help hundreds of veterans find healing through psychedelics including Army Rangers, Marine Raiders, Pararescue Jumpers, Navy SEALs and Top Gun Pilots as well as amazing service men and women from a variety of branches and specialties.
We have worked closely with amazing organizations like MAPS, Charuna, Fireside Project, The Hope Project, Reconsider
Since the last AMA, Heroic Hearts Project has been featured in the Economist, Forbes, USA Today, and the New York Times i, ii, iii as well as the personal highlight of being on the Montel Williams podcast
We now have branches in the US, UK, and Canada to better serve the local veteran voice.
Research with the University of Georgia, and are currently working with the University of Texas Dell Medical School Psychedelic Center and Imperial College of London
State-wide policy initiatives in Oregon, California, Texas, Connecticut, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Maryland Washing DC,
Edit1: Just wanted to add other great veteran nonprofits you all should check out Warrior Angel Foundation Vet Solutions Veterans of War Veterans Path Veterans Walk and Talk Operation EVAC All Secure Foundation Seal Future Foundation Balanced Veterans Balanced Veterans Mission 22 National Warrior Foundation 22Jumps
Edit 2: Thanks everyone for joining and for all of your amazing questions. I have to wrap it up for now but will continue to check in on any new questions that pop up. We appreciate all of your support! RLTW
Please check out the orgs I listed above and please support us at www.HeroicHeartsProject.org if you are able!
Absolutely! Feel free to reach out and send us an email through our website and we will see what we can do.
Hi Jesse! Which type of psychedelic therapy has been most impactful for veterans you've had come through the program and what types of results have you seen?
We are seeing success across the board. MAPS MDMA trials have shown a 67% success rate with PTSD. Anecdotally we are seeing a lot of vets get tremendous healing from ayahuasca and ibogaine as well. I think it will be more about where the person is at in their healing journey and which substances fits them where they are at instead of one psychedelic is better than another
How is "success" defined usually, when evaluating the effectiveness of psychedelic treatments for veterans and PTSD? Does this include evaluations of well-being for periods (incl. extended) after the regimen is complete?
For the MAPS study 'success' was the patients no longer reported ant PTSD symptoms according the the CAPS-5 metric. This included a 3 month and 6 month follow up I believe. On the anecdotal side, when we see veterans thriving in their lives after the experience, we cannot ask for much more.
Out of curiosity, would you say that psychedelic treatment works better for curing PTSD than therapy? Is a combination of the two best? Thank you for all you do.
Ideally we will get to a spot where the two worlds work closely together. The actual psychedelic experience is only one piece of the puzzle. Talk therapy can be extremely helpful in preparation as well as keeping the person on the right path. Integration and community are key for this work
Random guy with PTSD here. Having an insightful and gifted therapist for a bit improved my life ten-fold, and I'm starting back when I can afford.
I am not your average Joe. I have taught Buddhist meditation, I circulate the chi in my body, I've lived at a Taoist commune, I do pretty good tai chi, I have a medical marijuana prescription, and I've done most psychedelics to great and holistic ends.
Two sets of eyes, man. Never ever underestimate the contribution to your life that other humans can make. People tend to get into their boxes, particularly people with trauma and people with a damaged parasympathetic nervous system, or damaged trauma handling mechanics, in general. Gifted therapists who are pursuing a life work can always help you see things in a way that... uh.... you personally aren't seeing things, simply put. To exclude that simple thing which is being practiced by uncountable gifted people who are walking a noble path, with dozens and dozens of proven tools at their disposal-- would just be silly. There is some awesome trauma management methodology out there, literally as life-changing as all the millions of other things that humans just ignore because they are too caught up in their own world and survival.
Can psilocybin tell me things? Yeah, sure, absolutely, in the context that it is what it is. Can a trailed therapist with 30 years of helping people get back on their feet and repaired, also tell me things? Oh hell yeah, at a speed only limited by my ability to heal without further trauma, and by my willingness to work on myself.
Would you say Tai Chi is a better martial art for working through trauma than other forms, or is it all the same?
My dad taught me some Jiu-Jitsu as a kid but I mostly forgot it, I remember that sometimes it felt good to both hit things when I felt all the anger from my past build up, but also that it was meditative to wield a staff and to hit a punching bag with increasing levels of accuracy and form.
FWIW, I've found playing music to be a good way of letting things out, particularly punk music. Always open to new stuff to try one day when I got some time though!
I think you have to find what works for you. The CEO of HHP UK, Keith, actively does Tai Chi as well as trains it and it has been very helpful. I think martial arts in general can be helpful as they are a good release and train discipline and not to mention community.
I know many vets that have been really helped by jiu-jitsu. As a side note, my wife is a blue belt in bjj and has found it really empowering and therapeutic..
My father is a Vietnam Vet, USMC. He is mentally strong but gets very bad ptsd from fireworks and particular smells like pot. 72 yo has one good eye and hard of hearing. VA takes care of him for medical stuff. He can walk and take care of himself. His body is beat but he keeps on trucking. What can i do for him? Hes only become slightly okay with asking for help within the past few years.
We actually just served a Vietnam veteran at a recent retreat and they had a profound experience. It is never too late and that generation deserves to stop carrying such a heavy load. If he is open to this type of treatment we are happen to see what we can do. He can also apply for MAPS MDMA studies. If you do due diligence into good Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy practitioners in your area, that could be a great first step. Ketamine when done right, can be a gently entry into this mental health work.
I have childhood PTSD from trauma (abuse/injury/violence). Are these retreats open to non-combat PTSD cases? I feel like the only support for PTSD is aimed at combat related PTSD.
There are plenty of retreats in Latin America as well as other countries that are open to everyone. As a nonprofit we have to keep our program focused on veterans. There is far to much demand and we also want to give the best experience to this focus group.
Fair point - can you steer towards the most reputable? There are so many it is hard to decode the spiritual motive from the profit motive.
If you are looking towards Aya Temple of the Way of Light and Soltara always maintain great quality. Retreat Guru can help you out.
How is it decided which substance is used for each patient? Is it individual choice mixed with expert recommendation or something different?
This is still a very young field from the western perspective. We listen to our elders when it comes to the work at the ceremonies it self and have great advisors who have been doing this work underground for decades. At this point we can advised based on a few factors including severity of symptoms, current medications, home/professional life, etc. All of these factor into what modality might make the most sense. We never pressure anyone in any direction but we can definitely advise away from dangerous options
Can you talk about when you would recommend ibogaine?
If it is recommended does it have any ties to the patient having substance abuse issues?
Ibogaine can be one of the most intense of the experiences and so any clinic would have to do a medical eval. It has been used very successfully for people who struggle with opioid addiction. Led by the work for Dr. Polanko at the Mission Within it has also been used very effective for SOF veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injury. The hypothesis is that it is particularly beneficial for the head trauma part. A sister org VETS is doing a study with Stanford for this.
How effective has it been since you began testing? What motivated you to take action?
It completely change my life. I was motivating because it is not uncommon for a veteran like myself to have lost more friends to suicide than to combat. For us at Heroic Hearts, Memorial Day was about commemorating both
I'm a licensed mental health counselor (lmhc). I've been very curious about this practice especially after reading Michael pollans book on the subject. But in my brief research into the topic it seemed that to practice this treatment in any kind of "official" capacity would risk censure revocation of my license.
Are you aware of any changes in the past couple years that make these treatments more accessible to professionals who want to try incorporating it into our practice? .
MAPS is currently in phase III clinical trials with MDMA assisted therapy which will hopefully be legalized soon for therapists with the proper training to use in conjunction with psychiatrists and other team members. Psilocybin is closely behind in phase IIb clinical trials. You can check out different trainings for mental health professionals on MAPS website to prepare for the upcoming legalization. Currently, Ketamine is the only legal psychedelic being used for mental health disorders.
To add to this you could apply to get trained through MAPS to become licenses MDMA practitioner which will hopefully become legal in 2023. There are also great ketamine training options like through the Ketamine Research Foundation started by the great Phil Wolfson. California Institute of Integral Studies is an option if you would really like to get into this space.
There was an episode of Seal Team dedicated to someone like you. It helped one of the DEVGRU squad leaders, Jason Hayes played by David Boreanaz.
By any chance that was inspired by you?
We have definitely worked with many SEALs and were the first veteran psychedelic org to start spreading the word. But at the same time there have emerged many other great orgs that brought the fight to their own communities. Hundreds of SEALs have been served by Dr. Polanko at a clinic called the Mission Within with ibogaine. And a SEAL organization has also been doing great work in the space.
I have some experience with mushrooms and lsd. Most of my experiences were extremely negative and dark towards the end (during and right after the peak). I even became violent and I am normally a very calm and docile human being. I may have some harbored issues and trauma, but overall I have lived a safe and cushy life. I can only imagine many vets with PTSD would be prone to similar experiences and capable of much more violence than little old me. Just wondering if you see many bad trips. How do you bring a person back who is experiencing terrible thoughts or violent outbursts?
We have found that this is why preparation is key. Each cohort goes through 4-6weeks of preparation so they hit the ground running. We also always have a veteran facilitator during these retreats who remains sober and helps those that need it. We have not had any violent outburst, I believe because of the container we create. Some people will move around a lot or be very vocal but thats part of this work.
What is the protocol when patients have negative reactions to the psychedelics? I’ve read studies that have linked psychedelics to triggering psychosis or schizophrenic episodes in some individuals.
We as well as the retreat centers do intakes to make sure there is no history of serious mental health disorders or issues. For instance, people with a family history of schizophrenia would not be allowed. However f someone comes home and they have a really tough time, we have a network of great professionals that can help the person.
Are there any psychedelic options on the horizon for those with a family history of schizophrenia? Or possibly other effective options available to them?
It almost feels like research is hanging them out dry because I'm not hearing of any avenues being explored to help them given the problems associated with the potential for schizophrenia and psychedelic use.
At this point, the severe mental disorders are not even well understood themselves so it is hard to introduce these substances that are also not well understood by western medicine. There were some studies in the 1960's that indicated that LSD help certain types of schizophrenia but mad worse other types.
But there is hope. One of the biggest benefits is working with these substances will better help us understand our physical brains and psyche which will hopefully advance treatments for these types of disorders. Just like LSD led to the discovery of serotonin.
I have heard that people may actually develop PTSD symptoms after exposure to psychedelic experiences. What steps are taken to ensure a patient has a positive experience without amplifying their PTSD symptoms?
I can answer that a little bit. Not OP, but I'm a psychologist who works with psychedelics. Any responsible program (it's hard to make them because of drug regulations, so a lot of this happens"under the table") does talk therapy for at least 3 sessions after any kind of psychedelic.
The PTSD you're talking about comes from the perspective changes (which sometimes means guilt and regret) our brains get with psychedelics. The only real fix is empathy and forgiveness, but I know how that sounds.
Exactly this, we have found that 'Bad Trips' primarily happen because the individual was not prepared, did not control their set and setting, or did not control the dose. Our veterans will have very challenging experiences but they understand that is part of the process. When they stick with it they understand that the challenging experience is just a manifestation of the trauma they have been storing in their lives and just how unhealthy it can be to hold it.
How should the VA be reformed to actually help veterans? My father and grandfather have both been failed by the VA. They locked my grandfather in a psyche ward for panic attacks, one of the worst things you can do. My father, who was in special forces and was ordered to commit war crimes, has been denied access to a therapist multiple times due to the covert and embarrassing nature of his service. What can realistically be done to resolve issues like these?
This is a great and tough question. The VA is a slow moving giant and we can only expect it to react in a way that might not be the most efficient. The mental health part of the VA definitely need to be overhauled. But they are starting. On a daily basis I am in conversations with VA employees across the country who are trying to enact change from the inside. Rachel Yehuda at the Bronx VA has been making great progress and actually treating patients with these new modalities. Chris Stauffer in Portland is actively leading research into mushrooms. It is happening it will just be slow. As an independent nonprofit we hope to be at the spot to bring veterans back in but also hold the VA accountable when they stumble.
How have you been keeping yourself safe from the (misguided) arms of the law?
We are the connectors and supporters. We don't do or promote any illegal activity in the US. Essentially the veterans that come to us are looking to try thee options so we ensure that find safe and reputable centers and provide an entire program of support so they get the most out of it. Many of these psychedelics have very rich indigenous traditions in other countries and so the laws are not as restrictive.
Besides PTSD, what other kinds of mental issues have you found psychedelics have seemed to help address?
The whole spectrum. It terms of clinical proof we are still in our infancy of knowing. But there is a lot of evidence around help with addition, depression, anxiety, ADD, eating disorders. The benefit of psychedelics is its not just about healing a diagnosis but they can also make people just simply enjoy and appreciate their lives more.
I'm gifted with subtraction, but have always struggled with addition. Glad to hear folks are working on treatment for my condition.
Addition is a spreading societal issue
Andy Stumpfs Cleared Hot podcast and Shawn Ryan Show have been covering these topics abunch lately. Have you thought about contacting them to spread the message? Micro dosing has helped me a lot recently and I feel it would help others aswell.
Yeah! Our friends at VETS has been on their podcasts. I would definitely be interested in joining them soon.
How has doing psychedelics affected their security clearances?
We can anonymity when necessary. This is obviously a concern which is a shame that people have to make the choice between their job and their health. But fortunately I have not heard of any instance to date of this happening. And at this point thousands of special ops have gone through psycheelics.
Can you describe some of the most common experiences individuals have while under the influence of psychedelics, and if the effects of these psychedelics ever backfire or cause a regression into PTSD? Is recovery of repressed memory common?
I have a specific scenario I’m asking for - I have a family member who is getting into “alternative” medicines and has experimented with mushrooms in a controlled environment at a retreat. In this environment they experienced what they describe as recovered memory from their childhood depicting horrific sexual abuse. Before attending this retreat this individual had typical family squabbles but has never had any deeper issue with the family members that are accused of this abuse. However, they had recently escaped an abusive relationship. This retreat has seemed to cause a regression in the healing of this individual after a significant trauma.
I am curious whether this is common (recovered memory) or whether this experience was perhaps a hallucination.
Anyone who is going into psychedelics do have to realize that this is serious work. With the proper preparation and setting in can mitigate risks but a person is still diving into some things that may be suppressed. But often it is these suppressed painful memories that all the other trauma is built on or at least an important part of it. It could be argued that that family member might need to deal with that huge trauma to start to get to recovery. This can obviously be tricky with something as traumatic as that experience but hopefully that person has a good team to work with. I am hopeful for them that although it may seem like a regression in the immediate, they will overcome and be better in the long run.
Do you include placebos to verify your success rates?
When we work with research and through universities we do our best to factor this in, but these substances are very hard to include a placebo. Our core mission beyond research is to get results. Many of these individuals just need a life line. And when they tell us that this was the most effective thing that they had ever experience after being in therapy for 10-20 years and on 15 meds at any given point, that speaks far more. Research is absolutely important but it can also be limited in its real world efficacy. We also know these substances have been used for thousands of years in ceremonial settings which in a way is some pretty robust evidence.
RLTW. How do I know if this is right for me?
All the way. We are here to provide you with the information and the resources so that if and when you are ready you can be confident in your decision. Look into it and do some research, it often takes people time to warm up to it and all of a sudden they are buying a plane ticket to Peru. If you are struggling or feel stuck and have tried other modalities with limited success then perhaps consider this an option.
I'm former military and I want to help. Who can I get in touch with?
u/Tsquared_T thanks for the offer! Feel free to reach out to [[email protected]](mailto:[email protected])
Would love to see those who ask so much of our armed forces take the step to care for them once their service is over. How do you see governments playing a role here, if any?
I absolutely agree. Since these substances are all Schedule I (the most restricted) it is necessary for the government to change drug policy and push for more research. It's starting on a state by state basis.
Hopefully we will see this changing up here in Canada. Thanks for all you do.
We have a branch in Canada as well and are doing what we can!
Have you seen r/UncleBens? Hook em all up so they can all grow their own shrooms
I have not, but that is hilarious. I do think communal access will be a key in the future to make these treatments more sustainable.
Do you support all types of veterans? Even ones who never deployed or were not in combat?
As much as we would like to serve all those that are suffering we have to limit it to combat vets and vets who were victims of military sexual trauma. The demand is so high now that we have to make some limits
Are you doing rigorous research on psychedelics, or focusing more on treatment and taking the anecdotal data for whatever value you can gain from it?
Yes we are pushing forward research as well. We have worked with the University of GA in the past (paper is linked) We are currently working with the University of Texas Austin Dell Medical school as well as Imperial College of London. With Imperial we are doing the first study seeing the physical effects of psilocybin on veterans with brain damage. With UT Austin we have three parts: Psilocybin for Gold Star Wives, Ibogaine for SOF Vets, Ayahuasca for vets with PTSD. We are also studying the effects of ayahuasca on the gut microbiome.
Hello! Do you have any recommendations/resources for someone who suffers from PTSD and wants to try psychedelics to help but wants to do it in a controlled setting with people who are educated and experts on this sort of thing? Is this an option only in states where psilocybin has some legality? For a non-vet, to clarify. This is particularly important because the individual is on an SSRI which I know can make them dangerous. Thank you for what you are doing!
Thanks for the question. So currently they can look into ketamine clinics which are allowed in the US and generally not contraindicated with SSRIs Be sure to research to make sure it is ketamine assisted psychotherapy and not just an infusion clinic. In Oregon, next year your friend will be able to go to a clinic with a therapist and partake is psilocybin therapy.
I’ve run into a lot of folks that either swear by shrooms or acid but never both. (1 gives them terrible trips, the other amazing).
Have you seen this to be the case as well and do you believe one is any more or less effective?
Like cannabis, everyone is going to react uniquely. What most people miss is the value of preparation for these experiences. With our veterans they go through a 4-6week preparation program that includes diet before even taking the substance. They vary in terms of potency but I find that people tend to find their favorite at least for a portion of their life.
What does the diet consist of? How does it impact the psychedelic experiences?
Each place and modality is a bit different. But with our veterans about a month out we have them start eating healthier diets and cutting out things like caffein, cannabis, alcohol, fired and process foods. Leading up to and at the retreats the diet is mostly plant based with occasional lean white meats. First off the diet is a form of discipline that get the candidates ready for the experience but it also tends to make the actual experience much smoother. Some things can actually block your connection to the psychedelic and unhealthy food often increases the discomfort level by a lot. The diet is also any input including social media (sorry Reddit) or 24-hour news cycle. All of these things are distractions that keep us from knowing what is going on unconsciously.
Hey Ranger, I could use some help outside the VA and therapies I'm utilizing currently. What's the quickest direct line to you guys? Email, phone, whatever. Very much appreciate what you guys are doing.
Feel free to sign up heroicheartsproject.org/vets and if you have a question you can contact us through the website! Looking forward to connecting. RLTW
First and foremost, thank you both for your service to our country and to the veterans you're helping. I'm a veteran myself with ptsd and I can say honestly that psychedelic therapy completely changed my life.
While it wasn't a "thanks I'm cured" type event, it helped me see things in a perspective that made the path to treatment more manageable and hope more abundant. Since then I've made huge progress and hope to continue that trend.
Do you see this treatment becoming more mainstream as time goes on?
Thanks for your service and for the support! I think it will have to become mainstream just from the results everyone is seeing. They have so far been above and beyond other options. What 'mainstream' looks like is another question. Oregon will be a good test case as to how these modalities can interplay effectively with the current medical model. Psychedelics rely on integration and community to reach their full potential. This would require a big shift if how we currently approach mental health. I am personally optimistic that we can move away from the dogmatic diagnostic modal and start understanding that mental health and satisfaction in life are holistic and require a village.
Have you ever looked into using stellate ganglion blocks (SGB) in conjunction with this? Having experienced psilocybin back in the '90s (and getting unexpected, long lasting relief from depression from it), and having needed a SGB recently for some PTSD related issues, I would think they would work well together for this kind of thing.
The SGB essentially does a quick reboot of your sympathetic nervous system, breaking the feedback loop of the out of control stress response that keeps a person in a state where they are unable to get effective help. If you did it as the first step of treatment before the psychedelic therapy, with lots of good therapy and support in between, I think it would put them in a much better state to be helped by the therapy. Maybe even a second round of SGB shots a few days before the actual psychedelic part. If nothing else, it would help mute the normal physical responses to fear that are driven by the sympathetic nervous system, helping to decouple the physical response to stress
This would probably be most beneficial to the people who get sudden out of control stress responses to things such as loud noises or perceived danger. I was to the point where if the phone rang or my seatbelt alarm dinged or any noise that sounded urgent in any way occurred, I would suddenly feel like something was squeezing or crushing my chest, and I would get the sensation like I was out of breath under the water and couldn't quite get to the surface to breathe, and feel like I just had to get it to stop.
The SGB instantly turned that off and reset my stress response system back to a more normal operating mode. When the things that normally triggered it occurred, I kept finding myself bracing for a response that would never come. The effect slowly faded after a month for me, so I got a second set of shots, but the effect was instant and long lasting. Since the SGB is simply a small amount of lidocaine injected into your neck under a fluoroscope or ultrasound with local anesthetic in a 15 minute procedure, there isn't a lot of downsides to doing it.
The SGB isn't a cure for PTSD in any way. The PTSD sometimes puts a part of your body (sympathetic nervous system) in the wrong operating mode, and the SGB resets it.
We are friendly with organizations who are supporting this and I know a lot of SOF vets that have been helped a lot. I agree that it could be an interesting line of research in the future.
I'm curious on what you think the Army's position would be if cannabis was federally legalized.
Would we get a situation like Canada is looking at, or would they just keep it out of regs and continue testing for it?
Are you still in? I can't imagine any unit supporting psychedelic experimentation, but if there was one I'd prefer to be a part of it.
Lead the way on this one either way please, there's lots of soldiers who drink themselves to into a stupor just because they aren't allowed to have a joint at the end of a long day.
I am definitely in support of changes to the cannabis laws. The fact that is is classified as have no medicinal potential should strike everyone as ridiculous. It's hard to say what the VA would do with cannabis, I would have to imagine that they would take some lessons from Canada. There are many therapists that I know would love to have the extra tool especially to combat alcoholism. The government needs to push for more research and training for those that are interested in a world outside of SSRI's. Our friend Dr. Sue Sissley has been leading the change on cannabis.
Maybe if the military industrial complex stopped making up busshit excuses to start fucking wars we wouldn't be in this pickle huh?? But you guys keep preying on the disenfranchised young, it's really the only fucking thing you do right.
New mental health options are severely needed even outside the military.
Hey Jesse so glad you are doing this AMA today.
I worked in NSW ST5 and am a huge fan of what Marcus and Amber Capone are doing in the psychedelic realm, have you heard of them or considered reaching out to potentially join forces or work together somehow?
Hey thanks for joining today. I know the Capone's well and chat regularly. They have done great work in the SEAL community! Both of our organizations are currently cosponsors of the CA decrim Bill. This problem is so big it will take all of us working together to resolve it.
What is the process like for a veteran who could potentially use your resources? How do they or a love one or an advocate touch base with you/your organization?
Are you working with the major veteran organizations (VFW/American Legion/IAVA/VVA)to help with your efforts both locally and on a national level to lobby for these needed changes for drug laws and veteran rights?
How can people in general help you and the organization(s)?
Thank you for what you do! I've always wanted to see a push like this in our community, glad it's happening.
Thanks for the kind words. Any veteran interested can go to our website at heroicheartsproject.org/vets and fill our the application and learn a bit more about the program. If they have questions there are forms there for that as well.
In terms of the old guard orgs like you mentioned, this is still too cutting edge at this time. The established vet orgs will probably wait until the clinical trials come through but unfortunately many vets don't have the luxury to wait.
We also have an ambassador program for anyone who wants to be more active in helping us push this forward (The application for this is also on the website).
What is your legal liability, given that hallucinogens are often schedule I drugs?
We connect the veterans to safe retreat centers in countries where they are legal. These centers also operate independently. Its a bit of a grey area but well worth any risk with the lives that have been saved.
What Psychedelic has worked best to help alleviate some of the symptoms from traumatic brain injuries? Also are any of these therapies available in the US. Thx
Unfortunately they are not available in the US. We do hypothesize that all the hallucinogens like ayahuasca, psilocybin, and ibogaine can all be helpful for healing the brain through neurogenesis, increasing plasticity, and reducing inflammation but the hard research is only starting. Certain groups believe that ibogaine is particularly effect for mTBI which will be one of the focuses in our study with UT Austin Dell Medical School.
In what situations / circumstances would you NOT recommend the use of psychedelics in treating various forms of trauma? I know someone who may be a good candidate for psychedelic treatment, but they are afraid that it could cause psychosis or something along those lines (they had disassociative episodes in the past).
Thanks for what you’re doing!
Depends on the psychedelic. Generally certain medications like SSRI's (theres a long list). Major health conditions like heart issues. Major mental disorders like schizophrenia and severe bipolar. Bad mania or actively suicidal are big red flags.
Psychosis is tricky because it is generally a symptom and not diagnosis so sometimes it can be caused by meds and but the persona could be otherwise fine. Most good retreat centers will have a med intake and you can go to sites like Third Wave for other contraindications
How do psychedelic retreats differ from drinking copious amounts of alcohol?
Do psychedelics just suppress numb feelings from ptsd like alcohol, but for an extended period?
Quite the contrary, psychedelics typically heighten one's feelings and emotional content so that a person can better understand it from a different perspective. This can be overwhelming though, which is why it is advised to do these substances under supervision of an experienced healer, therapist, sitter, etc. as well as with quality preparation before the experience and integration of the experience afterward. From my personal experience, Heroic Hearts Project does a wonderful job of incorporating all of these things in their retreats with experienced practitioners.
Thanks for the kind words u/Curendero! Many veteran like myself know the numbing power of alcohol. Psychedelics force you to confront your traumas but also give you tools that help individuals reframe and process these hard subjects. These substances are very unique to their own. Words are limited in describing the process
Thanks for the AMA!
I suffer from mental health issues myself, caused by a traumatic brain injury. It has been a wild journey and proper support and help are keys to living a good life. I've met many people in rehab, including soldiers, who don't just deal with an unfortunate accident or unfortunate medical episode, some of them suffer traumas caused by having killed innocents. Sometimes many innocents. Some of them were commanded to bombard places they didn't want to but had to. I found myself repulsed and angered by these people and I had no respect for them.
My question to you is: How do you work with people who did the unthinkable, and does it feel bad if you cause happiness to people who did the worst things imaginable?
I'm sorry you've had such hard experiences and encounters. I'm my experience the huge majority of veterans I interact with are great men and women who just want to get back to living. I'm not denying there are bad ones out there but the numbers are tiny. War is hell, and many have to react to a situation they were given to survive. On our side, we are here to heal, not to make any judgements. Everyone that I've encountered absolutely deserved the right to heal.
What are your thoughts on Salvia Divinorum?
I honestly haven't had any experience with it to date. I think we should take notes from indigenous cultures who viewed the environment with respect and reverence. Old healers can go through the jungle and have an intimate knowledge of what each plant does and how it could potentially be used. There will not be a one size fits all answer here so let's once again turn to nature and try to learn some lessons.
Has HHP had a part in any other psychedelic-related case studies with other researchers? If so, what were some of the most surprising findings in your opinion?
The UGA study (linked above) showed a statistically significant reduction in neuroticism in veterans which could have big implications. Most of the other research has fortunately been confirming what we know; that psychedelics can be very effective across a broad spectrum of mental health issues.
A lot of our more interesting and innovative research will be released this year so feel free to sign up for our newsletter!
How do you determine which psychedelic to use for each person? Is it dependent on what the cause of their PTSD, or more so on which one is least likely to have an adverse effect based on their medical history?
Since it is still early stages in this work and as an organization we can not 'prescribe' anything, it mostly comes down to a harm reduction depending on the persons medical history and medications. We are starting to see trends which is why in addition to clinical trials, the work of Heroic Hearts Project on the front lines is so important.
What up Jesse!? I’ve Been following Heroic Hearts journey for a while now. This type of inner work is important to me. So thank you for doing what you guys are doing. Can you touch on the work after the psychedelic experience? It seems that there may be this feeling as if it’s a miracle cure. But, the real work just begins after the journey. Coming home and eventually falling back into the same patterns and relationships can be hard to shake away from.
Hey u/Dchongo thanks for your continued support! And you are absolutely correct. Psychedelics are just one piece of the puzzle. This work takes a lot of hard work, discipline, and personal responsibility. The experience itself can be a great resetter and provide people with profound insights but they still have to make the changes in their lives so that it sticks. Those that go straight back to old habits with likely fall back into old trauma patterns. This is why rebuilding the veteran community is key. We need to look after one another and held each other accountable.
Did you ever get that Camaro they promised?
I think it is still in the mail.
How do you become a psychedelic therapist? I’d love to become one.
If you are already a therapist you can train through the MAPS program as well as some great Ketamine assisted psychotherapy trainings. Check out California Institute of Integral Studies as well
Do you see vets with anger towards the US government? If so do you dialogue about that and what do you say?
I have a lot of anger towards the US government for its lies to create fake impetus for a call to arms.
Yes of course, we get veterans from many different perspectives. We help them work through the anger and help them process the feelings. It is fine to be upset but when the anger controls your life it is an issue. The goal now is what can you do to prosper today and in the future.
What's the best way to bring up this kind of therapy with a primary doctor who might be a bit conservative in treatment styles?
Show them all the research that is coming out from the MAPS MDMA trials as well as the research from Johns Hopkins. So many prestigious universities as well as respected professionals are coming on board. It is on her/him to recognize that the tides are shifting.
What is your best advice for military spouses to help their soldier with PTSD or making the transition post deployment back into "normal life"?
You should check out our friends the Hope Project who help military spouses with this line of work. Be as supportive as possible and see if they are open to exploring options that can really help. Be informed but not too pushy, it can take veterans some time to acknowledge they need help. We have a bunch of testimonies on our blog which could be another good resource.
Awesome work, Im excited for the day this becomes much more socially accepted. How would you rank Ibogaine compared to the others?
It's hard to rank any psychedelic as they are all so unique and really depend on where the person is at on their own journey. I will say that ibogaine is one of the more intense ways you could chose to spend 24 hours. We have seen great results for PTSD with both aya and ibogaine.
Hey u/Sefuus, thanks for the question. I would just first say try not get yourself too worried about an unlikely future. One of the best thing for mental health is to keep your mind and reality in the present; thats where you have control. Breathing can be very helpful for this.
It is extremely unlikely that the US will see a draft anytime soon, so I wouldn't waste your attention on this too much. Further not all jobs in the military are in combat roles.
You are 18, go to school, get a job, have some fun. We are fortunate that we are in a time where these effective options are finally be accepted
Do you have any recommendations for people who are non military? Thanks.
Theres a lot of places you can do more research online like Retreat Guru, Third Way, Psychedelics Today, Fluence, Microdose, Erowid
Do you have someone available 24/7 in case something goes wrong or they need to talk to someone? Honest question
During the retreat there is always someone that can help. Before and after the retreat each veteran is paired with an integration coach who is also a veteran. They have regular session but can also reach out at anytime. Within our network we also have a long list of professionals who are there to support as well.
You all should check out Fireside Project who we just teamed up with to build a veteran platform. They are a call line for this exact purpose.
What is your favorite thing about Ft. Benning/ Columbus area? Mine is the county just North where I live. Y'all can keep everything else.
The highway leaving it? It definitely shaped me into who I am, but it would be on the family vacation schedule anytime soon.
How do you, if at all integrate your warrior training to include weapons training into your cuttent path in life?
The psychedelic experience can be extremely challenging and so we are always proud of the vets that commit to it. It takes a lot of courage to face your demons. We coach veterans to tap into that warrior spirit that they use to know during their time in service. The same spirit that pushed them to sign up and the same one that kept them moving forward when they wanted to quit. When they tap into this during ceremony it helps them push through. Our coach are also veterans and so we often use military examples to appeal to them. For instance we all trained to control our breath during weapons training and that may help some understand that relaxing breaths can help lower the stress and keep you calm during challenging ceremonies.
how do you feel working for an oil company?
I feel like there would be a much larger number there when I check my bank account if that were the case.
Do you have connections or resources for people with no combat PTSD or is this a military worship and advertisement post?
If you read the numerous interesting questions about psychedelics that have come from this AMA I think it is safe to say this is not an advertisement post. Our program only consists of veterans because that was the basis of the nonprofit. Retreat Guru and Third Wave might help with what you need. I hope you have a lovely day.
Could you guys help out a women in her 60s that was a marine back when they integrated the men and women that never saw active duty but went through awful things at the hands of fellow soldiers?
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