On April 24, 2024

Vermont to study health benefits, program to permit psychedelic therapy

Last month, the Senate passed S.114, which will establish a psychedelic therapy advisory working group. This group will be tasked with continuing to examine the use of psychedelics to improve physical and mental health. They will also make recommendations regarding the establishment of a Vermont state program to permit health care providers to legally access psychedelics under state law, according to S.114.

“Over the years, many institutions have conducted studies regarding the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic compound found in some species of fungi,” wrote Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman in his newsletter earlier this month. “In one Johns Hopkins study published in 2022, researchers demonstrated substantial antidepressant effects of psilocybin with no reported adverse effects from patients. In another study published in the Journal of American Medical Association Psychiatry, psilocybin combined with psychotherapy resulted in an 83% reduction in heavy drinking among patients with alcohol use disorder. It is important that we begin the conversation of changing our policies on the use of psychedelic therapies to help people with PTSD, substance abuse disorders and more.”

It is estimated that about one in five U.S. adults are living with a mental illness. Vermont (and the nation as a whole) has also seen a steep rise in substance use disorders in the past several years.

“The research on psilocybin has shown incredibly promising results in treating these and other conditions. By creating avenues for psychedelic therapy to be used in Vermont, we can help thousands of struggling vulnerable individuals,” Zuckerman wrote.

Per S.114, the working group shall be composed of the following members: (1) a representative of the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, appointed by the dean; (2) a representative of the Brattleboro Retreat, appointed by the president and chief executive officer; (3) a member of the Vermont Psychological Association, appointed by the president; (4) a member of the Vermont Psychiatric Association, appointed by the president; (5) the executive director of the Vermont Board of Medical Practice or designee; (6) the director of the Vermont Office of Professional Regulation or designee; (7) the Vermont Commissioner of Health or designee; and (8) a co-founder of the Psychedelic Society of Vermont.

Timeline

“The Vermont Psychological Association shall call the first meeting of the Working Group to occur on or before July 15, 2024,” according to the bill. The Working Group shall select a chair from among its members at the first meeting.

“On or before November 15, 2024, the Working Group shall submit a written report to the House and Senate Committees on Judiciary, the House Committee on Health Care, the House Committee on Human Services, and the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare with its findings and any recommendations for legislative action” the bill specifies.

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