Can Psychedelics Alleviate Prolonged Grief? Austin's Dell Med School Launches Clinical Trial To Find Out


Researchers at the University of Texas (UT) Dell Medical School in Austin will use brain scans to examine responses following treatment with psilocybin and 5-MeO-DMT for combatants suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries and other related conditions.

The Mission Within is one of the numerous non-profit organizations providing access to psychedelic therapy for veterans at retreats located outside the U.S. for reasons corresponding to these substances’ legal status inside the country.

The NGO’s founder Dr. Martin Polanco explained that the current need for further evidence in order to get these kinds of therapies approved has triggered the organization’s participation in the university’s study. “We believe it is important to document scientifically what we have been seeing anecdotally,” Polanco explained.

The 2021-created Center for Psychedelic Research and Therapy at UT is conducted by Drs. Greg Fonzo and Charles Nemeroff, with a focus on evaluating which populations would most benefit from psychedelic-assisted therapy, how often it should be administered and at what doses.

The center’s first study will assess the prolonged grief diagnosis, which Dr. Fonzo describes as a “black hole of misery.”

The study is now recruiting Gold Star wives with the aim of studying thirty participants. Half of them will be given psilocybin, five will take 5-MeO-DMT and the remaining 10 will be given a placebo.

The Mission Within will administer the compounds outside the U.S., and participants will be brought to Austin for functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI,) scans to measure real-time brain responses- before and after drug ingestion.

“We’re going to be investigating what are called behavioral tasks that people will complete inside the fMRI scanner, some of which are very unique to grief,” Dr. Fonzo explained, including seeing pictures of their deceased spouses or looking at specific grief-related words.

Blood work will also be analyzed, in order to see how genetics influences each participant’s response to the psychedelic therapy.

Photo by Natalie Grainger on Unsplash


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