• Frances Smith

Analysis of the use of psilocybin by veterans with symptoms of trauma

A number of military veterans struggle with the transition back into civilian life and experience issues with their mental health. These veterans commonly experience symptoms of trauma. Although many veterans do benefit from the currently available treatment options, many report finding these options difficult to access, not effective or acceptable to them. This highlights the need for other treatment options for those who do not benefit from current treatment options.

There is an emerging research base suggesting that some psychedelic substances may be beneficial in treating various mental health conditions. One such substance is psilocybin, which is the active ingredient in certain species of mushrooms that are commonly referred to as ‘magic mushrooms’. Initial studies have suggested that psilocybin may be effective to treat conditions such as severe depression and cancer-related anxiety and existential distress. There are so far no published clinical trials which have tested the effectiveness of psilocybin as a treatment for symptoms of trauma. This is in part due to current illegal status of the drug, which makes it difficult to use in trials. The difficulty in using the substance in clinical trials means that qualitative studies are important as a basis for understanding why some people may choose to use psilocybin and what their experiences are like with the substance.

The researchers interviewed seven veterans with either current or previous symptoms of trauma. All participants had either used or thought about using psilocybin to self-medicate their symptoms of trauma. All participants said that they had struggled to access other treatment options, or had found previous attempts at treatment unsuccessful, which had led them to consider using psilocybin. Many said that they considered using psilocybin out of desperation. All participants that had used psilocybin said that it had immediate and long-lasting positive effects on their mental health and trauma symptoms.

The study suggests that some veterans see the current treatment options for trauma symptoms as ineffective or inaccessible, which may lead them to consider using alternative methods, such as psilocybin, to treat their trauma symptoms. The immediate and long term reductions in symptoms of trauma that all participants reported experiencing suggest that it may be a viable treatment option for others with similar symptomatology. The researchers suggest that this, coupled with other recent findings that psilocybin may be effective in treating severe mental health disorders, highlights the need for clinical trials to form conclusions about the therapeutic potential of psilocybin as a treatment option.


Frances Smith

Read the full publication here: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/20503245221124117