Marianne Williamson, a 2024 Democratic presidential candidate, says the federal government should “fully legalize” certain psychedelics like psilocybin for therapeutic use and cover the costs for patients under a universal healthcare system.
In a new plan focused on mental health, Williamson laid out 10 proposals that she said would help address the country’s “record levels of suicide, depression, anxiety, and toxic stress.” That includes legalizing psychedelic-assisted therapy with full insurance coverage.
“For some of the most widespread mental health challenges we face—such as depression, addiction, anxiety, and PTSD—psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy using psilocybin and MDMA has shown incredible promise to completely revolutionize mental healthcare,” she said. “Some of these therapies are on the verge of FDA clearance, and some have already been legalized in states like Oregon.”
To that point, recent results from Phase 3 clinical trials into MDMA have supported the drug’s therapeutic potential in the treatment of PTSD, and there are growing expectations that it could receive federal approval as early as next year.
Another recent study found that psilocybin use is associated with “persisting reductions” in depression, anxiety, alcohol misuse—as well as increases in emotional regulation, spiritual wellbeing and extraversion.
Williamson, who previously discussed her interest in exploring psychedelics therapy before entering the 2024 presidential race, also pointed out that ketamine is currently accessible for the treatment of conditions like depression.
“We must fully legalize the types of psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy that have shown success in research, and we must provide significant state funding for research into other promising psychedelic therapies, such as ibogaine for addiction,” the Democratic candidate said.
“In states where psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy has been legalized, it is still so costly that many cannot afford it,” she added. “We cannot allow cost to impede access to any kind of healthcare—whether mental or physical, psychedelic or otherwise—so we must cover psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy within a universal healthcare system.”
The soap company Dr. Bronner’s made headlines last year when it offered psychedelic-assisted therapy with ketamine to workers through its employee health plan. And recently, the healthcare nonprofit that covered the treatment announced that it is expanding the offering to patients across the country.
But for the time being, psilocybin therapy services that are being offered in Oregon under a voter-approved ballot initiative can be prohibitively expensive. Advocates worry that the current legalization models that are being implemented in Oregon as well as Colorado will fail to achieve health care equity goals without some type of financial relief for patients.
“By focusing on preventative health care measures, including robust mental health support, we can aim to shift the healthcare system from treating symptoms to addressing the root causes of illness,” Williamson said. “These innovative approaches have the potential to not only improve the health and well-being of individuals but also reduce healthcare costs and enhance the overall quality of life for all citizens.”
Williamson isn’t the only 2024 presidential hopeful to express interest in psychedelics policy reform.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who initially entered the race as a Democrat but has since switched to running as an independent, has said he would legalize marijuana and psychedelics if elected to the White House—and he’d tax both substances, using revenue to create “healing centers” where people recovering from drug addiction could learn organic farming as a therapeutic tool.
Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy has also endorsed the idea of giving military veterans with conditions like PTSD access to certain psychedelics.
Incumbent President Joe Biden is “very open-minded” about the use of psychedelic medicines to treat addiction, according to his younger brother. However, the president has not publicly discussed the issue.
Image element courtesy of Matt Johnson.
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