Santa Cruz, California (TFC)— The Mercers, a mysterious billionaire family with ties to the Trump Administration, donated $1 million to psychedelic research. Specifically, the money will help fund MDMA treatment studies for veterans enduring PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It’s an interesting twist investment from what many would call a 1% family with a far-right, conservative background.
On the receiving end is the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) for their MDMA research. MDMA, sometimes called Molly, is a psychedelic compound known for causing feelings of intense euphoria, love and understanding. It’s a popular rave drug sometimes marketed as or confused with Ecstasy. Although MDMA is often inside Ecstasy pills, those capsules also host an assortment of other compounds. MDMA, unlike Ecstasy, is pure enough to perhaps be medically viable in a controlled setting. Recreational MDMA use, if too frequent, is known to have negative serotonin-based side effects.
Psychedelic research has seen a resurgence since the mid-2000’s coinciding with cannabis legalization. Although it’s generally difficult for researchers to convince the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) to sanction psychedelic science, persistence pays off. Demand for innovative treatments is shifting the political atmosphere restricting drug research. Mental health professionals are starving for treatments which produce lasting, significant results over the traditional prescription model.
Numerous recent peer-backed studies support a wide range of uses for psychedelics. Psilocybin in Magic Mushrooms has been shown to ease pain and anxiety experienced by terminally ill patients. LSD and psilocybin also show promise for addicts, supporting earlier research from the 1950’s and 60’s. The wide variety of benefits attributed to psychedelics including stimulated creativity, and even spiritual development, are still under investigation. Although more research is needed, these dynamic compounds seem to defy notions that they either cause or mimic mental illness. Rather, psychedelics seem to radically remedy psychological imbalances.
One of the more successful recent approaches for getting research approved, whether for cannabis, LSD, or MDMA, has been PTSD treatments for combat vets. MAPS has been at the forefront of this renaissance for years, perhaps explaining the Mercer’s donation. Founder and CEO of MAPS Rick Doplin praised the Mercers as “on the forefront of scientifically rigorous medical innovation.”
The mysterious billionaire family is headed by former hedge fund CEO Robert Mercer. After building a fortune through Artificial Intelligence and computer development, Mercer began using that money for political agenda. A 2017 Democracy Now segment cited Robert Mercer as having “out Koched the Koch brothers” in the 2016 election. The Mercer’s donated significant funds to the Trump campaign, Breitbart News, and several of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s film projects.
“America’s veterans deserve the very best care”, says Rebekah Mercer—daughter of Robert Mercer. “Current treatments for PTSD are helpful for many veterans”, she said according to a MAPS press release, “but leave too many still suffering”. She praised MAPS as “on the cutting edge of scientific research with their decades-long campaign to make MAMA-assisted psychotherapy a legal treatment for PTSD.” In the future, the Mercer’s hope MDMA treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will “soon be widely available”.
Retired Brigadier General Loree Sutton MD, New York’s Department of Veterans Services (DVS) said donations like the Mercer’s should transcend politics. “When it comes to health and well-being, we should leave our politics at the door and follow the data wherever it leads.” Sutton, according to the MAPS press release, says there’s “an evidence base” supporting the notion of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy.
Sutton has served in various parts of New York’s healthcare system for veterans as a high-ranking psychiatric expert. She resigned as director of the military’s top PTSD treatment center in 2010 after widespread criticism over its inability to contend with the thousands of veterans returning with unique, previously unstudied wounds. Though the retired Brig. General has continued building a career around veterans healthcare, she’s largely remained in the background.
Although an encouraging development for psychedelic research, the donation raises questions. Might the Mercer’s close proximity to the Trump Administration influence drug policy going into 2020? Despite pushes by a Department Of Justice under Jeff Sessions, cannabis reform is quickly spreading nationwide. In California, that success has opened the door to the possibility of psychedelic mushrooms being legal.
If the Mercer family’s MAPS donation foreshadows the future, how might their connections to the deep right affect future policies?