Dosed is worth seeking out, particularly for anyone experiencing similar difficulties with addiction, or anyone who has such individuals in their lives.
The thorny nature of North America’s current opioid crisis is wrought with many branches, each disparate element twisted over the other like a pretzel from hell. In his documentary Dosed, director Tyler Chandler tugs at one of those distressing strands, following his friend and addict Adrianne as she tries to find non-traditional solutions to her addiction.
At first, Dosed has the intimate portrait vibe so many similar documentaries adhere to. The filmmakers introduce us to Adrianne with uncomfortable medium close-ups and blurry footage of the street corners she uses to score, providing a personal account of how she has made it through twenty years of addiction to this suicidal tipping point where she’s willing to try anything to survive.
Adrianne makes for a great subject here because she’s a self-professed “garbage can addict,” someone whose poison of choice shifts based on need. She is, at her core, someone so averse to experiencing or feeling anything negative, that she will use anything she can get her hands on to escape. By framing this larger discussion around her omnivorous use of stimulants, the film is able to capture the bare essence of addiction, rather than get caught up in the minutiae of what types of drugs have which connotations vis a vis their status in the culture and what we perceive their users to be.
But then Dosed isn’t really a pained look at the ravages of addiction. It’s actually an infomercial for the experimental use of illegal psychedelics to treat addiction, depression and anxiety. There’s a rather educational but insufferable chunk of this doc dedicated to explaining this practice and advocating for it as a useful solution for individuals otherwise failed by antidepressants and difficult sobriety measures like the use of methadone. In that regard, it’s a useful and eye opening bit of business, but it completely halts the film’s otherwise engrossing emotional connection between Adrianne and the audience.
At its worst, the film focuses entirely too much on convincing the viewer of this treatment’s efficacy, rather than allowing for that conclusion to be arrived at independently. So many people in this country are addicted to opioids because some doctor sold them as a cure-all, so listening to more PhDs do the same, but with mushrooms, feels frustrating. At times, it feels as though these diversions are meant to be something of a distraction from Adrianne’s combativeness, and some of the conflicts between her and the men filming her.
While it’s clear Chandler and company care deeply about Adrianne, there’s moments where their probing seems counterproductive, or individual scenes are left in that aren’t helpful to the narrative and seem to go against her wishes (like a scene where someone off screen asks if she wants her vomiting to be filmed and after she emphatically says no, they continue recording and vaguely blur her out while it happens.) The presence of the cameras and how involved the filmmaking becomes in her wellness process is never really addressed as more than a net negative.
But the film’s back half does have some strong sequences once Adrianne gives herself to this new process, of allowing hallucinogens to unlock past trauma and finally force her to experience and weather a lifetime of bad feelings she’s sprinted away from at every turn. It’s a powerful catharsis, one that would be even more affecting if the focus was more on the debilitating nature of trauma and not a bunch of underground herbalists doing the feature length equivalent of your pothead roommate insisting you just haven’t found the right strain yet, bro. That said, Dosed is still worth seeking out, particularly for anyone experiencing similar difficulties with addiction, or anyone who has such individuals in their lives.