Scott Ostrom, a former Marine Corps officer, stated that he had once stabbed himself in the neck with a knife. “I just wanted the pain stop.”
A series of Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs by Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker captured the agony of Ostrom, his life overwhelmed by PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) after two tours in Iraq … twelve years of nightmares, panic attacks and failed relationships … a danger not only to himself, but to others.
Ostrom said, “Deep Down I was angry. So really, I think I was just looking for fight.”
David Martin, CBS News national security correspondent, asked, “What are you mad about?”
“I was angry with my self. I felt guilty about some of the things I did not do while I was abroad.
“Failed in doing, how?”
Ostrom said that Ostrom witnessed his friend being burned alive in a Humvee. The fire was too hot for me to reach him so he felt that I should be punished.
Rachel Yehuda, a Mount Sinai Hospital employee, has been working with veterans and victims of PTSD for 30 years. She said, “You’re being haunted a memory of what happened to you.” “Psychotherapy has been the standard treatment for PTSD. FDA approved medications for the treatment are both antidepressants.
Martin asked, “How effective was the treatment?” Martin asked.
“These treatments do not solve the problem for most people, but it is better than nothing,” she said.
Desperate for relief, Ostrom answered a Facebook ad seeking volunteers for an FDA-approved trial using a psychedelic drug called MDMA – better known by its street name, ecstasy.
“It really did change my life in a short period of time – six months,” he said.
Yehuda stated, “When I heard about this, my first thought was, “How could this possibly be good idea?” Our government designated psychedelics as illegal and said they could cause harm.
She met Rick Doblin at the annual Burning Man Festival, Nevada. He is the head of a psychedelic research group called the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, and has been fighting for decades against laws that make psychedelics illegal.
Martin was told by Doblin that MDMA was effective in treating PTSD. “When I think back to how many people in the last 50 years could have been saved by suicide or depression if this research hadn’t been stopped, it’s a tragedy.”
It was not until 2016 that the Food and Drug Administration authorized Phase 3 trials for MDMA – the same kind of Phase 3 trials COVID vaccines went through to prove they are safe and effective.
Yehuda stated that the results of the Phase 3 trial of MDMA were “amazing.” “Two-thirds” of those who received MDMA treatment no longer suffer from PTSD.
“Would this be considered a breakthrough?” Martin was asked.
“I would definitely consider this a breakthrough,” she said.
“What does FDA think?”
“MDMA-assisted psychotherapy has been deemed a breakthrough approach. … It doesn’t mean you can start taking MDMA on your own; it means that the data are so good, ‘Let’s get this on a fast-track for approval.'”
But this fast-track life is expensive.
Doblin stated that the biggest obstacle was raising funds for the research. The pharmaceutical companies weren’t interested and the major foundations didn’t want to be involved. It was too controversial.
Bob Parsons, a maverick billionaire, was the first to try psychedelics. When asked what a difference psychedelics had made in his life, Parsons replied that “the quality of my life has improved immeasurably.”
Parsons, who was not a good student, joined the Marines when he was 17 and was sent to Vietnam. Parsons was again wounded a month later. He was not able to see combat again, but the war remained a constant nightmare.
He said, “I was a totally different guy that returned home than the one that left.” “The guy that came back, he had a short temper. He never felt at home, no matter where or with whom he was.
Martin asked, “Is it getting better?” Was it getting worse?”
“I believed it was getting worse. Someone would ask me if my service in Vietnam was. I would start to cry.”
Parsons made his fortune with GoDaddy.com, an internet company.
“So, you’re now billionaire. What’s your plan for all that money?” Martin asked.
“I’m going all out to get psychedelics approved as therapeutic use,” he said.
Parsons has donated over $7 million to psychedelic studies.
Scott Ostrom was able visualize his inner demons under the influence of MDMA.
He found a part of himself he called “the bully” at the center. He called it “a terribly terrifying creature.”
“So, the bully is basically what you had to be to survive two tours of Iraq?” Martin asked.
“That’s right. That’s who the Marine Corps trains you to be – a fighter and a killer. And that’s how I had become to survive those deployments.
Ostrom was able, with the help of two psychotherapists. “I haven’t had a nightmare since after those three MDMA session,” he stated.
“Do panic attacks still bother you?”
“Do you ever think of suicide?”
But, like a drunk becoming sober, he cannot undo all the damage done and all the years lost.
He said, getting emotional, “You know what, I spent over 10 years pushing people away, making my life harder for myself, and not loving myself,” “So, in terms of dealing with the combat portion of my PTSD, we were able to do that. But, I still believe I can be a better person. I still believe there’s more to be done.”
MDMA may be a breakthrough drug, but it is not likely to be made available to the estimated 1 million veterans with PTSD by 2024.
Yehuda said that the breakthrough meant that there was a better way to spend our time, so that we could bring a new paradigm in care to those most in need. It simply means that there is real hope. This may be a game changer for those who have suffered for too long.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to get immediate help if your situation is serious. 800-273-TALK (8255)You can reach us at, which is open 24 hours a days, 7 days a semaine. All calls are confidential.
The Military Crisis Line is available for veterans, service members, and their families who are in need of assistance. 800-273-8255 For assistance, press 1 or text 838255. The Veterans Crisis Line can be reached at 800-273-8255.
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Mary Walsh produced the story. Carol Ross is the editor.
Source: CBS News