Get “Dosed”: New Doc Explores Psychedelics as an Antidote to the Opioid Crisis

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Psychedelics are changing the conversations around society’s deepest issues. From depression and anxiety, to PTSD and addiction, these substances and plant medicine offer a fresh lens on mental and emotional healing outside the (often unethical) confines of Western medicine.

In fact, the discourse around the seemingly unconquerable opioid epidemic is shifting, thanks to psychedelics. Could these psycho-spiritual substances be a solution to the addiction crisis? That question is tackled head-on in Dosed, a new documentary highlighting the impact of psychedelics on opioid addiction — and the intrinsically toxic relationship between Western medicine and drug laws.

The film is set in Vancouver, British Columbia, the center of the opioid crisis in Canada. It focuses on a young woman named Adrianne who’s trapped in the death grip of a heroin (and fentanyl) addiction. At the onset of the film, she’s suicidal, emotionally depleted, and desperate for an end to her suffering.

Filmmakers Tyler Chandler and Nick Meyers — who’ve been friends with Adrianne for a decade — tell her about a clinical trial for psilocybin mushrooms happening near them in Vancouver. No questions asked, Adrianne was ready to participate. 

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Originally, the documentary was going to be a story about the before and after effects of the psilocybin study. But, as the universe would have it, the trial was delayed. And based on the severity of Adrianne’s condition, there was no guarantee she’d be alive by the start of the clinical trials. So, Adrianne decided to eat mushrooms on her own, hoping to replicate the effects of the clinical test. After a few trips, Adrianne’s outlook improved.

“Had we decided to wait for [the trial to start], the film would never have been made,” Chandler, the co-director, told MERRY JANE. “It’s 2019, and the trial still hasn’t started. Luckily, we didn’t wait because it put us in touch with people who not only knew what they were doing, but who also wanted to help Adrianne, which launched us on this journey.”

But like many decades-long heroin users, however, Adrianne wasn’t just consuming street drugs. She was also on Western med’s “recovery” regimen of methadone and morphine. While these drugs can help people ween off heroin, it’s common for users to become equally dependent on them. So, although mushrooms improved Adrianne’s headspace, her addiction was complex. And she continued to use heroin regularly without those around her really knowing.

“Doctors don’t know what to do about addiction other than what they’re trained to do, which is prescribe more [drugs],” said Meyers. “And if [those meds] don’t make you feel great, maybe they’ll switch you to something else.”

While interviewing experts for the film, Chandler and Meyers met a man named Garyth Moxley who told them about a different psychedelic plant that’s especially effective for treating opioid addiction. Iboga, or ibogaine, is an African rainforest shrub known to interrupt substance use disorders by curbing withdrawal — the toughest hurdle when getting clean. While iboga is a Schedule I drug in the United States, it’s not explicitly illegal in Canada (and it’s legal in Mexico), making it easier to access via treatment centers.