DOSED (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): Going through alternative addiction therapies

Documentary film “DOSED” observes a bumpy and difficult personal quest to sobriety via alternative addiction therapies. While some of you probably have some reasonable doubt on those alternative addiction therapies, the documentary still engages us as glimpsing into a series of sobering moments of relapse and withdrawal, and you may come to reflect more on the possible benefits from magic mushrooms and many other psychedelic substances on addiction and some other serious mental illnesses.

Director/co-producer/co-editor Tyler Chandler starts the story with a frank interview between him and a close friend of his who has struggled with addiction in Vancouver, Canada without much progress. After having her first drug experience at the age of 15, Adrienne gradually went down into the bottom of addiction during next several years, and her addiction problem got much worse when she happened to work at a law firm where many people around her frequently used cocaine.

Adrianne has been surely well aware that she must get out of her current state of addiction as soon as possible, but, unfortunately, she has only swung back and forth between checking into rehabilitation center and having another relapse during recent years. Although she has been prescribed with several medicines such as methadone for helping her coping with withdrawal, they are not particularly effective for her, and she even becomes quite dependent on these medicines, which inevitably bring her to another cycle of addiction. Frequently suffering anxiety and depression throughout her long struggle with addiction, she has often considered suicide as she casually tells in front of the camera, and that certainly concerns others around her including Chandler himself.

And then there comes an unlikely option for her. She encounters an addiction therapy method using a certain type of magic mushroom, and she decides to try that even though she does not feel that sure. She tries a bit of mushroom for the first trial, and, what do you know, she subsequently feels considerably better than usual.

The documentary gives us some background information on that magic mushroom, which produces a psychedelic substance called psilocybin, and some other psychedelic substances. Several experts and underground healers appearing in the documentary confidently claim that they really have therapeutic effects on addiction, anxiety, and depression, and, though nothing much has been done yet, it seems to be really worthwhile to study more on these psychedelic stuffs and their possible medical benefits.

However, these psychedelic stuffs are not welcomed much by those government officials in the charge of the national health care system as well as many pharmaceutical companies out there. For those pharmaceutical companies, psilocybin and other psychedelic substances do not look that profitable for understandable reasons, and those authorities who have the power over the health care system have done almost nothing because, well, psychedelic substances look as bad as heroin or cocaine from their rigid viewpoint.

In the meantime, the documentary chronicles the following ups and downs in Adrienne’s quest to sobriety. Not long after her first successful trial with the magic mushroom, she tumbles into another crushing moment of relapse, so she has no choice but to go to a local rehabilitation center for her immediate detox process. After discerning that she needs something stronger besides the magic mushroom, she decides to try another alternative therapy based on the psychedelic substance extracted from the root of a West African plant.

Not so surprisingly, this alternative therapy demands more effort and patience from Adrianne. For example, she should lower the dose of her current prescription drugs before subjecting herself to the therapy, and there is an amusingly uncomfortable moment when she gathers pills she has just vomited on the ground just because she may need them later.

After Adrianne checks into the rehabilitation center where she is going to go through this alternative therapy, we see how things are often grueling and miserable for her. After she attends a traditional ritual where she is treated with the psychedelic substance from that West African plant, she goes through a series of emotional upheavals, and it seems that helps her healing process, but I must point out that she often looks more emotionally unstable and vulnerable than before as days slowly and frustratingly go by for her.

It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Adrianne eventually comes to find the peace and stability she needs for taking her first step toward sobriety, but the documentary often surprises us with several searing moment of emotional honesty observed from Adrianne. It is later diagnosed that she has been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to something in the past she still does not remember, and we later get a poignant scene where she tearfully reveals how much she was emotionally supported by her recently diseased pet cat.

Overall, “DOSED” did a fairly good job of presenting its main human figure’s hardships with considerable sincerity and compassion, though it could be considerably improved by a more balanced view on those psychedelic substances. Yes, I still have some reservation after watching this documentary and another documentary called “The Fantastic Fungi” (2019), but I am certainly glad for Adrianne’s eventual recovery, and I hope she will continue to prevail during the rest of her life.

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