Now 74 years old, Feilding—whose full title is the Countess of Wemyss and March—is perhaps the only drug policy reformer who can trace her lineage to the Habsburgs and the illegitimate heirs of Charles II. She is also the unlikely invisible hand behind many of the headline-grabbing studies about how recreational drugs like cannabis, LSD, and MDMA may hold the key to treating everything from depression to post-traumatic stress disorder and nicotine addiction. In fact, Feilding's drugs think tank and NGO, the Beckley Foundation, sponsored and supported the research from Johns Hopkins.
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Morgan recalls being introduced to Feilding by a coworker while they were both visiting Beckley. "I remember being very impressed by her sharp wit and clarity, and her eagerness to hear about our research and science in general," she says. Morgan is now collaborating with Feilding on a study exploring the effects of a cannabinoid drug in cigarette smokers.
"Fifty years of shouting into the abyss! I've got a sore throat from the effort," she laughs. "But I'm quite a fighter. I have a great faith in what I think is true, and this is why I'm staying on in the game."She believes that, in time, science will find that these substances will not just provide the basis of cures for depression and addiction, but physiological illnesses like Alzheimers and dementia as well.It's a scientific field of inquiry that would have been unthinkable after governments cracked down on drugs in the 60s and 70s. Morgan says that the change in conversation can be directly traced to the work that Feilding has done behind the scenes: "I think that Amanda does deserve more recognition for being one of the key agents in transforming the world into a place where psychedelic drugs are being taken seriously as treatments for mental health conditions—an idea which would have been met with laughter as little as ten years ago."Right now, Feilding is working 15-hour days, seven days a week ("I haven't had a day off in as long as I can remember!") to fundraise, organize conferences, and collaborate on research that may one day change millions of people's lives for the better. It's a long way off from the dreamy teenage traveler who wandered the world and studied the mystics."I used to dream of watering the desert—saving the world. I see the human brain as the desert," she says. "I feel I was lucky enough to fall on the right knowledge at the right time, to see the immense potential of these compounds."I think we are absolutely at the foothills of understanding how they can be of benefit to humanity."
"I have a great faith in what I think is true, and this is why I'm staying on in the game."