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Thursday, November 30, 2023
School of Pharmacy

Wisconsin will consider new psilocybin program for veterans with PTSD

The bipartisan proposal would work with UW-Madison to foster innovation and new psychedelic research.

Wisconsin lawmakers introduced a bipartisan proposal on Nov. 9 to create a new psilocybin pilot program for veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Psilocybin is the active ingredient in a drug commonly known as magic mushrooms.  The compound has shown significant promise in treating forms of mental health conditions, including PTSD, in some research studies.

The bill creates a trust fund that carries over into future fiscal years, allowing researchers to study the effects of medicinal psilocybin and other psychedelic medication as treatment for mental health disorders in Wisconsin. Non-veterans with PTSD and veterans under 21 will not qualify for the proposed program. 

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Transdisciplinary Center for Research in Psychoactive Substance and its School of Pharmacy would run the program. 

Paul Huston, director of UW-Madison’s Transdisciplinary Center for Research in Psychoactive Substances told The Daily Cardinal there is “strong evidence” psilocybin alleviates PTSD. 

“We are hopeful we can extend it to everyone that is treatment-resistant to severe mental health conditions,” he said but he is “happy to begin with our veterans.”

Sen. Jesse James, R-Altoona, told the Cardinal  he has yet to see opposition to the proposal from other state lawmakers and “looks forward to working with his colleagues across the aisle.”

Bill authors said the proposal was a necessary step to move forward with veteran protections in Wisconsin.

“Wisconsinites, especially our veterans struggling with treatment-resistant PTSD, deserve the right to try the best possible medical care and support,” Rep. Nate Gustafson, R-Neenah, told the Cardinal. “I am proud to work across the aisle to propose a bipartisan bill to create a medicinal psilocybin treatment pilot to fulfill our moral duty to our veterans, who have selflessly served our country.”

Sen. Dianne Hesselbein, D-Middleton, agreed, telling the Cardinal the veteran suicide rate is a signal “to put our veterans first” and was optimistic the program would foster new medical innovation for Wisconsin. 

Psilocybin is illegal in every U.S. state except for Oregon. A handful of municipalities have decriminalized the compound, and medical research is permitted in Maryland, Connecticut, Texas and Hawaii.

It is unclear at this time how participants for the pilot program will be chosen, but the program will have to follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy regarding psilocybin. 

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Editor's note: this article was updated at 10:41 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 17, 2023.

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