Jason Lopez

When I returned from my third tour in Afghanistan in 2015, adjusting to the slow tempo and seclusion of civilian life was difficult. Accustomed to the constant commotion and camaraderie found in a war zone, my new life felt directionless, unsettling and solitary. 

A month after I returned home, I fell asleep on the couch after drinking too much Christmas wine with my family. I was positive I was back in combat, fighting for my survival. But when I woke up. I found my battlefield was a wrecked living room and my enemy was a flipped-over coffee table. 

I realized I no longer knew what was real and what wasn’t. My subconscious was taking over, and I was constantly in a fight-or-flight state. Dark memories and trauma crept up in ways I hadn't anticipated. I knew that numbing myself wasn't an effective long-term strategy, but I needed a temporary escape. I felt trapped while a war waged within me.

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Psychedelic medicine, in combination with other therapies and a journey of continued personal growth and development in mind, body and spirit, has allowed me to recover from the losses I suffered and let go of the negative and intrusive thoughts like, “it should’ve been me who died in Afghanistan." 

That’s why I support Proposition 122: The Natural Medicine Health Act. This measure would help veterans like me and others with PTSD, as well as people struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma or other mental health challenges, have safe access to natural medicines that may work where other treatments have failed. Research from some of the nation’s top medical universities such as Johns Hopkins University, University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, and New York University have shown positive patient outcomes for depression and anxiety, and the FDA has labeled psilocybin a “breakthrough” therapy. 

Prop 122 would create a state-regulated therapeutic system for adults older than 21 to access natural psychedelic medicine under the guidance of a licensed and supervised facilitator at designated healing centers and health-care facilities, like palliative care. Unlike mental health pharmaceuticals, which are typically ingested daily and often come with adverse side effects, psychedelic therapies can be administered on an as-needed basis, or as few as once or twice a year, providing long-term relief without lasting side effects.

Providing Coloradans the option to access this type of medicine is critical. Colorado veterans have a significantly higher suicide rate than both veterans and the general population nationally, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Across the country, more veterans die by suicide than in combat, and suicide is the leading cause of death among vets under 45. Veterans between the ages of 18 to 34 die at a rate almost three times higher than non-veterans. At this point, even the VA has started offering psychedelic treatment options to patients as a part of clinical trials.

It's an extremely challenging adjustment coming back home after months or years in a combat zone. Many veterans are dealing with both physical and mental health problems, including survivor’s guilt, PTSD, depression and anxiety. I don’t want any more of the men and women I served with to die at their own hands. 

What if veterans and others had access to alternative treatments to heal in addition to traditional pharmaceuticals? They deserve every chance to recover from the injuries they received while proudly serving our country. We all deserve more options for improved mental health. It's time we stop demonizing natural remedies like psychedelics that have been safely and respectfully utilized in other cultures for centuries.

Proposition 122 will give Coloradans safe access to a wider range of treatment options for improved mental health and a better quality of life.   

I hope you will join me in voting yes on Proposition 122.

Jason Lopez served one tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan for the U.S. Army. He is currently the CEO of an all-veteran-owned small business that focuses on sustainable mushroom cultivation, plant medicine education and psychedelic research.

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