The Unsung Heros Of Psychedelic Research
In recent year, the research looking into the potential therapeutic benefits of hallucinogens has started up again. We have Amanda Fielding and the Beckley foundation to thank for this, who have struggled on, despite the many difficulties and roadblocks that have been put in their way. Without their tireless work, the idea that drugs like mushrooms and LSD could not only be safe to use, but also beneficial, would never see the light of day. We owe them a debt, so it is time to make them a little more known.
Amanda Fielding, the Countess of Wemyss and March, has had a long relationship with psychedelics. It was back in the 1960’s, in her early 20’s, that she first dabbled with them, and continued to use them right up until their prohibition. “It was a tragedy […] Ann Shulgin [psychedelics pioneer, and widow of Alexander Shulgin] is a great friend. She said that on the day they heard they couldn’t use LSD or MDMA for their research they were in tears at the loss for the patients. They knew the real value of these substances to aid so many areas that are intractable.”
Ever since, Amanda has worked tirelessly to undo this injustice, first as an artist, and then later through her patronage of science at the Beckley foundation. Whilst not a scientist her herself, being a countess, and being able to trace her line directly back to Charles II, means she has significant influence at her disposal.
Spurred on by the invention of the MRI scanner, Amanda Fielding founded the Beckley foundation, a scientific institute dedicated to understanding drugs better, and how they could be used and for everyone’s benefit – reducing potential harm. “I had been exploring these ideas in art; nobody takes any notice of art, so you can say whatever you want. The new techniques meant that finally it was possible to measure, however vaguely, what actually went on in the brain. I realised that I could have more impact with science.”
Consisting of a small group of dedicated scientists, the Beckley foundation is now seen as one of the leading authorities on psychedelic drugs, and regularly works with Professor David Nutt, the former chief drug advisor to the UK, and Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, who recently completed the first brain imaging study of the brain on LSD.
“These are good times,” said Carhart-Harris. “We feel like we’ve got our money on the right horse. None of it would have been possible without Amanda and the Beckley Foundation. We are about to start a clinical trial using psilocybin to treat depression, which feels historic. The World Health Organisation has estimated that depression is set to become the leading contributor to the global burden of disease. Given the magnitude of the problem, there’s huge potential that psilocybin, and maybe other psychedelics, will be a big help. Other researchers are looking at psilocybin to treat alcohol dependency or smoking addiction. And there’s also the end-stage anxiety stuff, which has been around for a little while.”
Despite the foundations continued success, Amanda Fielding has been hesitant to put herself forward into the limelight. This is largely down to her own lack of scientific credentials, and worries that she would make the foundation’s work look like that of an aristocratic hippie. If you ask us, she has nothing to worry about. The ball is rolling now, and the research she has helped make possible is spurring new and interesting scientific experimentation across the globe.
Amanda Fielding is the patron saint of modern psychedelic research, and we owe her a great deal. Without her and the hardworking scientists of the Beckley foundation, the scientific field of psychedelic research would be nothing like it is today. So hats off to all of them!
You can check out the full article outlining the life and work of Amanda Fielding here, at the Guardian Newspaper.