For many veterans of war, the battle continues even after they’ve returned home from combat. The Veterans Affairs Canada website estimates that up to 10% of their warzone veterans will suffer from PTSD or another mental health affliction, and are 14-19% more likely than the general Canadian population to commit suicide, according to their 2019 Veteran Sucide Report. While both medications and therapeutic interventions are available for this condition, they haven’t proven very effective.
To address this, the Canadian-based psychedelic mental health provider Field Trip Health Ltd. announced a partnership with Heroic Hearts, a nonprofit which pairs veterans with psychedelic therapy. Under the partnership, Heroic Hearts will educate veterans about the benefits of ketamine-assisted psychotherapy, and recommend them towards the ketamine treatments of Field Trip Basecamp, a Field Trip offshoot which delivers KAP+, or Ketamine-Assisted Psychotherapy-plus, to veterans and first responders.
Heroic Hearts founder and president Jessie Gould says the nonprofit’s mission is to “highlight the responsible players in this rapidly expanding field of psychedelic health and ensure all veterans are supported when they decide to participate in something like ketamine assisted therapy.” He praised Field Trip for having “made great efforts to work with us in supporting the veteran community in both Canada and the US.”
Much of the activity around psychedelic medicine and PTSD centers on MDMA, which is currently undergoing Phase III clinical trials in America through the Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies. However, Field Trip Basecamp Director Adam Wright points to off-label studies of Ketamine for PTSD as well as treatment-resistant depression and major depressive disorder, and maintains that it can be just as helpful.
“With the promising results in PTSD, as well as the highly comorbid nature of PTSD and depression, we have developed a treatment stream that will specifically target military veterans,” says Wright.
People with PTSD often dissociate as a defense mechanism against dealing with overwhelming emotion or horrific memories, says Dr. Jessica Katzman, a psychologist and cofounder of Healing Realms, a ketamine-assisted psychotherapy practice in San Francisco.
“Ketamine can potentially reduce anxiety and hypervigilance, the driving forces behind dissociation, and may allow the individual to step back and explore what’s under the defensive layer,” says Katzman.
For now, Basecamp will offer this treatment exclusively to Canadian soldiers at their Field Trip Toronto facility, and assist in insurance and reimbursement options with participants.
In spite of the ketamine derivative Spravato’s availability in the US, the partnership cannot offer treatment or reimbursement for KAP+ treatment through the Veteran/s Administration health program at this time, says Gould.
“For many veterans, ketamine therapy can be cost-prohibitive without some form of subsidy. Unfortunately, the US Veterans Affairs has faltered on its promise to increase veteran access to ketamine options,” Gould says. “Since the Canadian VA has been more willing, we hope to use the Canadian model to guide and put more pressure on the US to adopt similar practices.”
Field Trip has already expressed its intention to open up psilocybin treatment clinics in Oregon following the passage of Proposition 109, which legalized licensed psilocybin-assisted therapy in that state. Field Trip currently runs clinics in New York, Chicago and Santa Monica.