Eye For Film >> Movies >> Dosed (2019) Film Review
Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode
Halfway through Dosed there's a warning. People get ideas from documentaries. Sometimes they go out and experiment on their own. Don't experiment with ibogaine on your own. Medical supervision is essential - it can be very dangerous.
It's difficult to tell a story like this and make sure one does so responsibly. The drugs it focuses on are illegal and no matter how much one might argue that they shouldn't be, the consequence is that it's difficult to make sure that proper medical care is provided for those taking risks and that a properly scientific approach is taken to the experiments involved. On the one hand, this means that the film has troubling aspects and is of limited usefulness even as a qualitative study. On the other, it has often taken this sort of artistic or journalistic boldness to ensure that real work gets done to bring about necessary change.
For filmmaker Tyler Chandler, such change is necessitated by the epidemic of opioid misuse in parts of the US (itself a subject treated with typical heavy-handedness, with no reference to the chronic pain patients who actually need those drugs). He highlights the number of lives lost to this and introduces us to his friend Adrianne, who is personally affected - though she is, as she puts it, "a garbage can addict," someone up for taking absolutely anything if it will keep her from having to face reality head on. The thing is, she doesn't want to be in that state. It's something she's been living with for 20 years and she's exhausted every rehab programme available in an attempt to get sober. Lately s,he's been thinking about suicide because she sees no point to living in her current state. But once one is ready to die, anything is worth a try, right?
Dosed follows Adrianne as she turns her attention to the solutions offered by evidence-based alternative medicine and, specifically, hallucinogens. There's a lot of cutting edge work going on in this area at present and the film touches lightly on some of this, with a contribution from enthusiastic mycologist Paul Stamets among others. For the most part, however, its focus is personal. Adrianne experiments with psilocybin (in the form of magic mushrooms) both as a tool for reducing her drug cravings and as a means of exploring her own psyche to try to get at the root causes of her addiction. Though she's willing to trip in front of the camera, Chandler is restrained in the amount of this footage he uses, opting instead to let her describe her experiences after sobering up - an approach that is probably also more interesting for the audience.
Adrianne is working towards using ibogaine, a botanical treatment which has gained increasing attention outside its home in Central Africa in recent years and has had new systems of best practice grow up around it in a way that presents interesting parallels with legally recognised medical methodology. It's this treatment that forms the key focus of the film and contributes much of the tension, given the risks involved and the potential for massive improvement. It's complicated for Adrianne, however, as she has to manage her medication to fit in with two clashing protocols, on top of the difficulties she has already. This gives Chandler the opportunity to highlight some of the many ways in which systems ostensibly designed to support addicts often fail to meet their needs in practice.
At the heart of the film, Adrianne is approachable, open, brave and - most of the time - impressively coherent - far from the stereotype of the despairing addict, a point which is used to emphasise how many functioning addicts are out there living invisibly within mainstream society. She' a subject most viewers will feel able to relate to on some level. The film doesn't paper over her flaws but it invites the audience to invest in her and hope against hope for her recovery. A small, intimate piece of work, it reminds us that behind all the political debates on addiction are vulnerable human beings.Reviewed on: 20 Mar 2020
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