U.S. military veterans turn to psychedelics in Mexico for PTSD treatment

Suicide rates for American service members and veterans are nothing short of catastrophic, with recent estimates claiming almost 17 vets take their own lives in the U.S. every day. Many of them suffer from post-traumatic stress and debilitating brain injuries, which traditional medications have largely failed to cure.

As many veterans with PTSD remain desperate for healing, a growing number are turning to psychedelic-assisted treatment in Mexico — using substances the government they fought for says are illegal.

One of those former service members is Herb Daniels, who spent 14 years as a Green Beret and nearly four years in active combat. After he retired from the military, he said he faced a profound darkness that started to consume him. 

“As I watched more of my teammates…more veterans start to take their own lives, I realized that that’s an option,” he said. 

He had a plan one night, he said, as he waited for his wife to come home from a trip out of town.

“I was waiting for her to come through the door, and as soon as I heard it chime, I was gonna shoot myself,” he said. “The flight was late, thank God. And I kept drinking. So when she came home, she found me passed out in the bed, the gun on my lap that I hadn’t used.”

After another suicide attempt, Daniels found out about VETS, Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions. The nonprofit organization funds grants for veterans to go to Mexico for treatment that isn’t legal in the United States. Each week, a vehicle transports veterans from San Diego to Mexico for a retreat that uses psychedelics for treatment. 

Marcus Capone, a former Navy SEAL, and his wife Amber founded the organization in 2019. Capone participated in the retreat, where he says he experienced a miraculous transformation thanks to psychedelics.

“It gets the job done…flat out,” said the veteran, who suffered from PTSD and a traumatic brain injury following multiple combat deployments. “Traditional approaches are very difficult to solve those problems.”

Marcus Capone first went to the retreat in 2017. He was given ibogaine, a hallucinogenic plant mixture from Africa, and smoked 5-MeO-DMT, a substance derived from the glands of the Sonoran Desert toad.

“It just reset everything in a few hours,” he said. “All the stress, anxiety, it just went away. It flew away, fall right off my shoulders.”

He and his wife now dedicate themselves to assisting veterans in getting the help they need – by helping them get to Mexico for treatment. 

Daniels said it’s disappointing that some veterans can’t get the healing they need in the country they fought for.

“Some gave their lives,” he said. “And…it seems that in return for that sacrifice, you know, our country would be willing to do whatever it takes to bring healing to us, to prevent those suicides.”

“It feels like we’ve been abandoned once we took the uniform off,” Daniels said.

Daniels went to the retreat in Mexico for the first time in July last year, and recently returned with another veteran, Mike Ortiz.

Upon arrival at the retreat site, the location of which CBS News was asked not to disclose for the safety and security of the participants, the veterans met with a local facilitator, Juan Aguilar, who guided them through the process. Aguilar first focused on setting intentions and preparing the veterans for their experience. The therapy session started with the use of mapacho smoke to cleanse the space, followed by a focused meditation with the medicine.

The heart of the treatment involves a short, intense, psychedelic experience.

During his session, Daniels went through a range of emotions, visibly moved as tears rolled down his face. The experience lasted about 10 minutes, and he said it felt “magical, like a fresh start.”

“My heart was just opened, wide open, and there was laid bare so much pain, so much anger and as soon as I let it go, I became aware of my presence again, and I felt my body just relax,” he said. 

“To be pain free for that short period of time was, like, the best feeling in the world,” said Ortiz.

Daniels said he felt transformation with the experience. 

“I don’t think it takes long to change your perspective,” he said. “If you believe it can happen, then it can happen. Sometimes you just need a little jump start to help you get there.”

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or a suicidal crisis, you can reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by calling or texting 988. You can also chat with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline here.

For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–10 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email

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