“Dosed” is a moving and effective documentary about one woman’s quest to find peace in her final days and the power of medicinal mushrooms.
We begin in a place that feels almost too idyllic to be real.
In picturesque Abbotsford, British Columbia, a 52-year-old woman, Laurie Brooks, lives a peaceful life with her soulmate and husband of more than 30 years and her four grown children. Through narration and home movies, we see this is a life filled with tremendous love and happiness.
But fate has a vicious way of throwing boulders onto smooth garden paths and creating tidal waves in tranquil seas.
Into this joyful existence, a ticking time bomb is thrown. Laurie is diagnosed with late-stage terminal colon cancer and given six months to a year to live. As you can imagine, her little slice of heaven suddenly becomes a hellish nightmare.
When we first meet Laurie, she has just been accepted into a new program sponsored by the Canadian government, which permits four terminally ill Canadians the legal right to use magic mushrooms to help ease end-of-life distress.
The use of psilocybin, the psychedelic substance found in certain mushrooms, was outlawed in 1974. But for years prior to that, the substance was used to help many different kinds of people suffering from everything from addiction to depression to end-of-life anxiety.
The 2020 Canadian decree was the first of its kind since psychedelics were made illegal as part of the Canadian Drugs and Substances Act.
Brooks admits to being a bit hesitant to take the drugs, given her strait-laced, drug-free history.
She grew up in a very religious household. And though she has stepped away from the church as she’s gotten older, she admits that it is strange how opposed to taking mushrooms the church would likely be. If God created the Earth and everything in it, she reasons, shouldn’t we be more open to embracing natural cures and medicinal options?
After receiving her exemption, Brooks signs up for a psilocybin session, also known as a trip, which is conducted under medical supervision to ensure the correct dosage is administered and the trip is safe and guided.
Before beginning her trip, she’s asked to document her goals and what she hopes to get out of the experience. She wants to be free from anxiety, depression, and the existential dread associated with her cancer diagnosis. She wants to feel secure knowing her family will be ok if she doesn’t survive.
She’s not trying to cheat death; she’s trying to come to terms with it.
Brooks has not forsaken Western medicine. In fact, she’s done everything she can to heal her body, including aggressive chemotherapy, radiation, and painful surgeries. And it’s even worked, at least for a little while. But hope has been short-lived as assailing cancer keeps returning, refusing to stay beat.
Though she’s not ready to forego any of the tools at her disposal, she is ready to expand her toolset and work on healing the other parts of herself as well: her mind and spirit.
As we follow her on her psychedelic journey — chronicling what happens before, during, and after her trip — we hear from several experts in the field about the potential benefits of these magic mushrooms.
One of those is Brooks’ friend, Dave Phillips, a therapist with TheraPsil, a Canadian company dedicated to helping patients to access medical psilocybin.
Phillips is the one who helped Brooks apply for her legal exemption. And he fully admits that the claims about what mushrooms can do sound a bit crazy and understands the natural skepticism that comes with advocating for therapeutic drug use.
However, he explains that his goal as a therapist has always been to help people. And working with mushrooms has allowed him to move people in ways talk therapy never could. He understands there’s a limit to what therapists can do in their profession.
He explains, “Words don’t change people’s lives. How do you tell someone not to be afraid of death?”
After researching the history of the drug and digging into some prestigious university studies, he admits he had to lay his prejudice down and recognize the potential power of these drugs to connect and unlock deep areas of the psyche for transformative healing.
We also meet mycologist guru and author Paul Stamets, who explains that psilocybin is among the least addictive and least toxic substances ever analyzed.
According to Stamets, the drug also provides an extremely powerful spiritual experience that helps comfort those at the end of their life by providing context and consolation for their own mortality.
It’s a drug that as used for thousands, and likely tens of thousands and even millions of years, and has only been legally restricted for the past 50 years. Stamets argues that it is not only academically naïve to deny those in need access to the drug but also immoral.
Committed to enjoying whatever time she has left, Brooks goes in for her multi-hour trip.
She takes us along for the journey with the help of filmmakers Tyler Chandler and Nicholas Meyers.
As she narrates the surreal and life-altering experience — which is at turns terrifying and deeply comforting — Chandler and Meyers attempt to capture the essence of her journey visually.
It’s mesmerizing, ranging from a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns to scenes of natural and cosmic beauty. But nothing is as compelling as hearing Brooks describe her experience as she confronts and comes to terms with all her suppressed trauma, literally journeying through a dark forest of fear and into the light.
It was my favorite part of a wholly captivating and moving film.
Afterward, Brooks articulates the feelings of relief and peace following her trip. It gave her the mental and emotional strength to endure seven months of intense chemotherapy, free from anxiety and the tremendous toll worrying had taken on her body.
As her daughter described it, the trip allowed Brooks to heal from the inside out.
One of the things I truly appreciated about the film was how it blended both the spiritual and scientific benefits of the mushrooms.
Regardless of what motivates you most, there is enough compelling data to warrant careful consideration of psychedelics in the healing process.
While Brooks focuses heavily on the spiritual positive vibes she got from her experience with mushrooms, especially during her description of the trip, scientists are interviewed to explain what is actually happening in the body and mind while under the influence of the mushrooms.
Stamets explains that the drug is believed to cause a connection of exploding neurons, which leads to a literal spark of consciousness. He assesses that the drug has the potential to make people smarter, more empathetic, and kinder.
During Brooks’ trip, I remember thinking it might all be a placebo effect, wherein the user sees what he or she wants to see. Even if that were true, I’m not sure it mattered. Because the amount of comfort it gave her was real, regardless of its scientific explanation.
It made her feel more connected to the universe, more at peace with her potential passing, and more grateful for every minute she had left. And, honestly, what could be more valuable and precious than that — especially as one faces the potential end of their life?
At the end of this beautiful journey, it was hard not to be moved by the magnitude of the gift Brooks was given. Seeing her move from agony to acceptance, full of gratitude and hope, was deeply moving and inspiring.
It made me think how tragic it is that more people don’t have access to this kind of compassionate, life-changing care. The ability to work through the pain of trauma and psychological damage and come out the other side with a new lease on life is something everyone deserves.
Brooks never in a million years thought she’d become an advocate for magic mushrooms or other alternative forms of medicine like cannabis.
But she’s now a firm believer, and you might just become one, too, after watching this extraordinary documentary.