Ecstasy, Magic Mushrooms, the Land Down Under, and PTSD

Ecstasy, Magic Mushrooms, the Land Down Under, and PTSD

The Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australia’s version of the Food and Drug Administration, made previously illegal psychedelic drugs available to persons with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Strict limitations apply. Only registered psychiatrists who have the ethics approvals normally needed to conduct clinical trials and who have gained regulatory authorization through a provider program will be allowed to prescribe them. The TGA said no medical professionals are currently approved to prescribe the treatment as applications only open on July 1. 

“It’s a game-changer for psychiatry in that it’s one of the biggest evolutions in the past 70 years,” said Mike Musker, an enterprise fellow in the mental health and suicide prevention research and education group at the University of South Australia. “Psychedelics provide a profound change in mood.” 

Historical PTSD Treatments

For many years, doctors have easily treated visible injuries. Broken bones need setting, deep cuts need stitches, and so on. Invisible injuries, including brain injuries like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, are different. 

The issue is not limited to brain injuries. During the American Civil War, doctors cared little about hygiene. Most people have seen pictures of Civil War doctors wearing bloody aprons as they treated patients. These doctors usually did not wash their hands either. In fact, to many physicians, blood-soaked garments and hands were badges of honor. 

As a result, it is no wonder that diseases and infections accounted for two-thirds of Civil War deaths. 

Civil War doctors also had a hard time treating PTSD, a condition they called nostalgia. When soldiers became depressed, frightened, and listless, doctors believed that reassignment to a front-line position cured these problems. 

Things were not much better in World War I. Doctors still did not know that a stress-induced chemical imbalance causes PTSD. So, they focused almost exclusively on therapy. But at least they pulled severe PTSD victims off the front line, so they had a better chance to make at least a partial recovery.

PTSD treatment regressed during World War II almost to the Civil War level. 1940s doctors referred to the condition as “battle fatigue.” After about twenty-four hours of fluids and rest, it was once more unto the breach, dear friends. This approach became the standard approach. Over seventy years later, and despite clear evidence to the contrary, many doctors still cling to this idea.

Finally, in the early 2000s, the Food and Drug Administration approved the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) sertraline and paroxetine for PTSD treatment. But these antidepressant drugs, at best, only manage PTSD symptoms. Additionally, in most cases, patients must perpetually take these powerful drugs daily.

Modern PTSD Treatments

Although many doctors are not on board with this development, as mentioned above, doctors now know that PTSD is a physical brain injury. 

Many private military contractors develop complicated (multiple, smaller stressful events) or uncomplicated ( a single, severe event) PTSD. In both cases, stress changes the brain’s chemical composition. 

A Wild West cowboy could control a buckin’ bronco if the cowboy held the reins tightly during the whole ride and knew how to tame the horse. That picture describes the interplay between the brain’s hippocampus and amygdala.

The hippocampus is the cowboy. This part of the brain controls logical responses to stressful situations. The amygdala is the buckin’ bronc. This part of the brain controls emotional responses to stressful situations.

Stress shrinks the hippocampus and expands the amygdala. So, the cowboy basically lets go of the reins, and the horse runs wild. 

But even this picture is incomplete. Most PTSD victims do not see the out-of-control emotional aspect of this brain injury. Instead, they believe their reactions are normal, and people around them cannot see danger everywhere. As a result, their symptoms get worse.

Stubborn brain injuries like PTSD require more advanced chemical treatments. Psychedelic drugs may be just what the doctor ordered. 

These drugs are much stronger than SSRI antidepressants. So, the likelihood of an adverse reaction is higher as well. But many PTSD patients improve significantly and permanently after only one or two doses of a psychedelic drug. Furthermore, doctors closely supervise drug use. It is nothing like self-medicating with street drugs.

Injury Compensation Available

We mentioned the difference between visible and invisible injuries above in the medical treatment context. There is also a difference between these two injuries in a legal context.

Insurance adjusters often quickly approve treatments like plaster casts and butterfly bandages. So, these matters often settle quickly, frequently at a preliminary settlement conference. A mediator reviews the paperwork in a case, mostly the medical bills. Then, the mediator meets with both sides and helps them work out a settlement agreement.

Brain injury treatments are different, especially if these treatments involve cutting-edge techniques. In these cases, a Defense Base Act lawyer must be around for the long haul. Brain injuries usually involve liability and damages issues.

DBA insurance companies are only legally responsible (liable) for physical injuries. Generally, a PTSD diagnosis is symptom-based. So, an attorney must order a brain scan or obtain other physical injury evidence. In terms of damages, insurance adjusters may approve cheap SSRIs, but they almost never approve more expensive treatments, even though these treatments are more effective.

So, these claims usually do not settle until the ALJ hearing phase. Administrative Law Judges preside at trial-like hearings that give DBA lawyers a chance to truly show what they can do. Since the tables are turned at this hearing and victims with lawyers have a distinct advantage, many DBA insurance companies settle claims on victim-friendly terms at this point.

For more information about DBA benefits, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.