In Vancouver documentary Dosed, magic mushrooms reveal a path out of addiction
The film, which has its Canadian premiere on October 7, takes viewers inside a network of underground healers, sharing news of a promising if controversial treatment for problematic drug use
A little more than two years ago, Tyler Chandler walked through a forest, feeling a new appreciation for the trees and smaller plants that surrounded him.
“I had an experience with magic mushrooms,” the Vancouver documentary filmmaker told the Straight. “And it was lovely and delightful, walking through nature.”
The experience set Chandler on a journey that would last much longer than one trip.
Shortly after his first dose of psychedelic drugs, Chandler came across a newspaper article that discussed psilocybin—the psychoactive compound in some 200 species of mushroom that cause humans to hallucinate and explore an altered consciousness—and its potential to help people manage and even eliminate addictions to more dangerous drugs, primarily opioids like heroin and fentanyl.
A week after that, Chandler received a text from a friend named Adrianne. She was suicidal. Adrianne had struggled with a heroin addiction for as long as Chandler had known her. Now, Adrianne told him, she felt she had tried and did not succeed with every form of detox, rehab, and treatment program out there. “So I asked her about psilocybin,” Chandler recalled in a telephone interview. “It was all very serendipitous.”
Along with filmmaking partner Nicholas Meyers, the two Vancouver residents began an experiment with magic mushrooms that they hoped would finally free Adrianne from her addiction to opioids. The result is the feature documentary Dosed, an intimate exploration of the potential that psychedelics may possess to help people who have not had success with more traditional treatments for drug addiction.
The film will have its Canadian premiere on Monday (October 7) at the Vogue Theatre on Granville Street. The event will double as something of a local convention for people interested in the potential clinical applications of psychedelic drugs. Trevor Millar, chair of Canada’s Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, will moderate a discussion with Chandler and Meyers, as well as notable members of the psychedelics-research community, including Mark Haden, Dennis McKenna, Elena Argento, and Paul Stamets, who will participate in a Q&A. The star of Dosed, Adrianne, will also be there, now free of opioids for more than a year.
Like most people who attempt to beat an addiction to opioids, Adrianne experienced challenges and setbacks, and Dosed doesn’t try to hide this.
“When things got intense, we said to Adrianne, ‘We’ll put the cameras away. We do not need to film anymore. We just want to help you get better,’ ” Chandler said. “And there were a couple times that the cameras were put away.”
Roughly halfway through the film, Adrianne has connected with an underground community of health-care professionals who offer psychedelics as a treatment for psychological ailments at quiet locations throughout Metro Vancouver. They find that while psilocybin has helped Adrianne with anxiety and depression, she’s still struggling with her physical dependence on heroin.
At this point, Garyth Moxey, founder of Inner Realms Center and a graduate of the Orenda Institute’s psychedelic-psychotherapy fundamentals program (located on B.C.’s Cortes Island), and then Mark Howard, cofounder of IbogaSoul Shamanic Healing, take charge of Adrianne’s treatment. Howard recommends she transition from psilocybin to a more powerful psychedelic: iboga, a central African shrub that contains the psychoactive compound ibogaine.
Almost as fascinating as Adrianne’s journey itself is the extent to which underground clinicians practising psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy were willing to go on-camera in Dosed to publicly share their participation in illegal activities.
“It’s civil disobedience,” Moxey says in the film. “Fuck them and their bullshit. You’re going to kick my door in because I’m helping get people off heroin?”
Chandler described it as a matter of timing.
“The consensus among everybody who we spoke to…is that it is time to let people know about this, even if it means that negative consequences come back to them,” he told the Straight. “They are helping people. They are saving lives, helping people get off of heroin and opioids.”
Early academic research suggests that possible clinical applications of psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, ibogaine, and MDMA are at the very least worth further study. Patient sample sizes remain small, but outcomes have generally been very encouraging.
A 2018 Georgia Straight cover story described how Vancouver’s B.C. Centre on Substance Use is positioning the city as a global force in investigating mind-altering drugs for the treatment of addiction and mental disorders. While those efforts continue with few details released thus far, Dosed shares how one woman benefited from an alternative treatment that might not be alternative for very much longer.
While Dosed was in production in 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved psilocybin for a drug trial for treatment-resistant depression. In May of this year, Denver decriminalized magic mushrooms, and in June Oakland did the same. Just last month, the prestigious Johns Hopkins University established the Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research.
“The feeling is, it’s time for people to know,” Chandler said. “Hopefully, instead of getting people in trouble, this film will allow the government to look at things and change policy.”
Dosed plays at the Vogue Theatre on Monday (October 7).