Amanda Feilding is the founder and executive director of the Beckley Foundation in Oxford, United Kingdom. The foundation conducts and supports research into understanding the effects of psychedelic drugs. They also participate in disseminating information about the problems with current global drug policies and advocate for positive change.
Feilding left school at 16 and is not a classically trained scientist. However, she has dedicated herself over the years to understanding the psychedelics, how they affect the brain, and how they can be used to benefit society. All told, Feilding has co-authored over 50 scientific studies. She also works 15-hour days, 7 days a week to increase awareness and change archaic drug laws. She is in demand as a speaker on these topics for lawmakers, the scientific community, and the public. Her tireless efforts have led to the Beckley Foundation attaining a respected presence around the world in the field of psychedelic research and activism.
From a young age, Feilding had an intense interest in mysticism and immersed herself in reading. She began studying under the religious scholar Robert Charles Zaehner while traveling throughout the Middle East and living with Bedouins. About the same time, someone spiked her coffee with a large dose of LSD. Although she suffered a ‘bad trip’ which almost broke her, she became fascinated with its effects and its potential. A few years later, Feilding met and fell in love with the Dutch natural scientist Bart Huges. She and Huges experimented with LSD. This is the time when Feilding developed and shaped her thinking about the drug, mental health, and consciousness. She says, “I thought that LSD had the power to change the world. That was our work, understanding the ego and the deficiencies of humans and how one might heal and treat them with altered states of consciousness.”
Areas of Research
In 2005, Feilding began working with Professor David Nutt, then with the University of Bristol. Together they founded the Beckley/Imperial Research Programme in 2009 to study the effects of microdosing LSD and psilocybin. One of the highlights of this collaboration is a 2016 study using psilocybin in treatment-resistant depression.1 After one week, 67% of the study participants were free from depression. The effect was long-lasting, too. After three months, 42% were still free from depression.
Today, Feilding and the Beckley Foundation are still immersed in cutting-edge psychedelic research work. Feilding recently co-authored two ground-breaking papers with Imperial College London. They showed the first images of the human brain under the influence of LSD2 and psilocybin.3 These images revealed the influence these drugs have on the default mode network (DMN) regions of the brain. The DMN is thought to be where the human ego resides. The drugs reduce electrical signaling and blood flow in the DMN. This dampens communication signals and results in “feelings of oneness” with the universe.
The backbone of Feilding’s scientific research is the Beckley Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. It consists of leading international researchers in neuroscience, biochemistry, consciousness, psychiatry, and psychology. Current and former board members include David Nutt, Colin Blakemore, Gustav Born, and David E. Nichols, Albert Hofmann, and Alexander Shulgin.
Changing Drug Policy
The other main goal of the Beckley Foundation is to increase awareness and change unfair and detrimental drug policies around the world. Feilding accomplishes this in part by publication of briefing papers and policy reports. These include two Roadmap reports discussing new psychoactive substances (NPS)4 and cannabis, psychedelics, MDMA, and NPS.5 In addition, Feilding wrote a review of the United Nations drug conventions in 2013.6 She also addressed the 2016 United Nations General Assembly. Here, she introduced the Beckley Foundation’s 2016 Public Letter, “Out of UNGASS: A New Approach.”7 This publication was preceded by Public Letter 2011 which ran in The Times and The Guardian.8 It is titled “The global war on drugs has failed. It is time for a new approach.” The letter includes the signatures of current and former world leaders and dignitaries including Sir Richard Branson, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Professor Noam Chomsky.
Feilding has also played a fundamental role in creating global organizations to further the cause of drug policy advocacy. In 2004, she launched the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) and the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy (ISSDP). In 2011, she co-founded the Global Initiative for Drug Policy Reform.
Feilding currently serves as Special Drug Policy Advisor to the Guatemalan government and drug policy advisor to the Jamaican government.