Last Monday, on a chilly afternoon, the psychology students from EF Academy Oxford had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Beckley Foundation, a UK-based think-tank and United Nations-accredited non-governmental organization (NGO) that specializes in scientific research into psychoactive substances. The foundation collaborates with scientists from Imperial College London, University College London (UCL), and Johns Hopkins University in the US. The Beckley Foundation also takes an evidence-based approach to national and global drug policies, and has advised the governments of Guatemala and Jamaica.
The foundation is housed in a small cottage-like building set beside a beautiful meadow. From there, we – together with our Psychology Teacher, Dr. Claudia Cipolla and Charlie Stansfield, our Activities Coordinator – met Vivian Kear, the Office Manager, who then introduced us to the foundation’s hard-working team. The introductions were very brief as we were then escorted outside to the orchard to meet Dr. Alex O’Bryan-Tear, the scientific researcher and assistant to the Director. Alex, who recently completed his Ph.D. in Psychology at Cambridge University, kindly gave us his insights into the history of the foundation as well as into one of its ongoing researches.
We learned that the Foundation was created by Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss and March, back in 1998, after she became intrigued by the effects of psychedelic drugs, like LSD, and their therapeutic abilities. The therapeutic benefits of psychedelic drugs- specifically psilocybin- were proven to be tremendously successful after the foundation’s trials and experiments. In comparison to the 30% success rates that anti-depressants have, the foundation proved that psilocybin is 67% successful in helping people out of long-term depression. Of course, this can only be achieved when the drug is prescribed properly and in safe doses and not abused for recreational purposes.
Following this intriguing talk, we began our short tour around the gardens. The Foundation is situated in Feilding’s ancestral home, a magnificent building that has stood since the Tudor period. But, while the house perfectly portrays a golden period of British history (roughly the 15th and 16th centuries), there were also a few statues here and there acting as pieces of Asia, from when Feilding would visit the continent.
As we ventured further into her garden, we discovered a variety of hedges cut into a range of shapes. One in particular even took the form of a bear! But, the highlight was the walk alongside the river where the leaves were all stunning shades of orange, yellow and red.
At the Beckley Foundation, we had the opportunity to wander around an incredible location, and we learnt something about scientific research into the mind and government policy. Overall, the experience was very insightful and educational.
This blog post was written by A-Level Year-1 student, Mumtaza Chairannisa.