It was only after U.S. veteran Jonathan Lubecky pulled the trigger on a loaded gun aimed at his head and it misfired that he finally decided to seek help. He had tried to commit suicide five times, after struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of 12 years in the Marines and the Army, including service in Iraq.
Like many ex-servicemen and women experiencing mental health issues, Lubecky went to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA). But none of the treatments offered there worked for him. The only two drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for PTSD, Zoloft and Paxil, were more effective in women than in men, and didn’t work for combat-related PTSD. Out of desperation, he volunteered as a subject in an experimental study of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for chronic, treatment-resistant PTSD in veterans, firefighters and police officers.
The study was sponsored by the non-profit research and educational organization I founded, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and funded entirely by private donations. Because of the stigma associated with illegal drugs—MDMA is what the party drug, ecstasy contains, though the pills are often impure—MAPS was unable to get grants from the Department of Defense, the Veterans Administration or the National Institute of Mental Health, despite there being over 868,000 veterans with PTSD receiving monthly disability payments from the VA at an estimated cost of $17 billion per year.
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