In 2020, the Canadian government made a landmark judgment that permitted four terminally ill Canadians the legal right to use magic mushrooms for end of life distress. The compassionate decree was the first of its kind in Canada since 1974 when magic mushrooms (containing the psychoactive substance psilocybin and known to ease end-of-life fears) were made illegal through the Canadian Drugs and Substances Act. One of those initial four people allowed to experiment with the newly legal mental health treatment using psilocybin was Laurie Brooks, who is also the central character of the documentary DOSED 2: The Trip of a Lifetime.
The film follows Brooks, who in 2018 was diagnosed with late-stage terminal cancer and given 6 to 12 months to live, as she makes her way through a journey of acceptance of her own mortality, aided considerably by her psilocybin experiences. Growing up in a devoutly religious family — and majoring in theology in college — the 53-year-old suburban wife and mother of four is not the person you’d peg as a spokeswoman for psychedelic liberty. She confesses, “If someone would have told me I’d become an advocate for magic mushrooms, I’d have told them they were nuts. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard,” she says. “And yet here I am.”
She is, of course, the perfect candidate to demonstrate the value of these once forbidden and taboo drugs, which have proven to be particularly beneficial in helping comfort the minds of people facing the looming dread of a terminal diagnosis.
DOSED 2: The Trip of a Lifetime is a follow-up to the well-received 2019 documentary DOSED by the same filmmakers, Tyler Chandler and Nicholas Meyers. That first film followed a young woman named Adrianne, who was addicted to opiates, repeatedly falling deeper into use, and hoping that psychedelic substances might help her quit the deadly cycle that was killing her. A lack of available options, including no chance of entering clinical trials to legally access psychedelics, had the protagonist seeking out psychedelic treatments on her own via the black market, as the filmmakers chronicled her often difficult course. Crippled by depression and suicidal ideation, Adrianne shared desperately, “I don’t know if I’m going to live to see a clinical trial.”
Now three years later with the release of DOSE 2, the psychedelic treatment landscape is decidedly more developed and leaning towards compassion and the ‘right to try’ these valuable therapies. Along with Canada’s legislation — which Brooks benefitted from, called Section 56 — the state of Oregon has legalized psilocybin therapy and should have a regulated system up and running in 2023. Therapies using MDMA to treat post-traumatic stress are in final, Phase 3 clinical trials with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and may become legal, doctor-prescribed treatments in the US as early as 2023 or 2024. And a growing number of cities around the US are opting to decriminalize the possession and use of many psychedelics — including psilocybin, ayahuasca, and MDMA — making them lower priority violations for law enforcement.
Filmmakers Chandler and Meyers shared the inherent challenges they faced delving into the topic of terminal illness and the understandable depression and anxiety that condition can create. “Although we had this wonderful message to share about how magic mushrooms helped Laurie and her family achieve peace and greater enjoyment of life, we weren’t sure whether the filming process would include documenting Laurie’s death,” says Chandler. “This was a hard reality to cope with. Laurie and her family are amazing people, and we did not want to document their tragedy.”
Along with her trip of a lifetime, an unanticipated turn in the film provides another path for Brooks to potentially heal. “We don’t want to give too much away,” says Meyers, “but as you’ll see in DOSE 2Laurie went through a personal and physical transformation that not only led her to a sense of inner peace and a better quality of life than she had ever enjoyed before, but it also led her to explore alternative potential cures for cancer with fascinating results.”
There’s something deeply gratifying about watching a person have an aha moment, which happens frequently with psychedelic treatments, and seeing old, worn out perceptions about oneself fall away like unnecessary baggage. DOSE 2 delivers that kind of transformation.
The film also includes appearances by notable specialists in the field of psychedelics, including physician and author Gabor Maté, mycologist Paul Stamets, and researcher and author Dennis McKenna (brother of psychedelics pioneer Terence McKenna).
Receiving a standing ovation recently from a packed house of 1,200 viewers attending the Canadian premiere in Vancouver, DOSED 2 also quickly sold out three shows in Melbourne, Australia — proof of the growing interest the public has in psychedelics as mental health therapies.
Upcoming screening dates and locations are available on the DOSED website, which includes engagements in London, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Waterloo, Victoria, Albuquerque, Portland, Atlanta, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. The filmmakers suggest checking back regularly for more shows being added.