Psychedelic treatment for co-occurring alcohol misuse and post-traumatic stress symptoms among United States Special Operations Forces Veterans
Background & aims
Special Operations Forces Veterans (SOFV) have unique treatment needs stemming from multiple repeated forms of combat exposure resulting in a complex sequela of problems including alcohol misuse and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Current approved pharmacologic treatments for alcohol misuse and PTSD are lacking in adherence and efficacy, warranting novel treatment development. The current study examined the correlations between psychedelic treatment and changes in alcohol misuse among trauma exposed United States SOFV.
An anonymous internet-based survey was conducted among SOFV who completed a specific psychedelic clinical program in Mexico. Retrospective questions probed alcohol use and post-traumatic stress symptoms during the 30-days before and 30-days after the psychedelic treatment. A total of 65 SOFV completed treatment and were eligible for contact. Of these, 51 (78%) completed the survey, and 27 (42%) reported alcohol misuse (≥4 on the AUDIT-C) in the 30 days prior to treatment and were included in analyses (Mean Age = 40; male = 96%; Caucasian/White = 96%).
There were significant and very large reductions in retrospective reports of alcohol use (P < 0.001; d = –2.4) and post-traumatic stress symptoms (P < 0.001; d = –2.8) and a significant and large increase in psychological flexibility (P < 0.001; d = –1.8), from before-to-after the psychedelic treatment. In the 30 days after treatment, 85% reduced their alcohol consumption to non-risky levels (33% abstinent; 52% non-risky drinking). Increases in psychological flexibility were strongly associated with reductions in alcohol use and post-traumatic stress symptoms (rs range 0.38–0.90; ps < 0.05). Conclusion Rigorous longitudinal studies should be conducted to determine whether psychedelic-assisted therapy holds promise as an intervention in this population.