A human doc that never scratches below the surface
Mental health is a massive deal and perhaps now, more than ever before, the masses are starting to understand and take it seriously. In the US, with the era of Big Pharma and insidious advertising abound, it’s shocking to find out 1 in 8 adults use Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug, to get through the day. But what long-term effects does this have? What triggers anxiety? And what can be done to change our culture?
Take Your Pills: Xanax is predominantly tailored toward US citizens and is a film that examines America’s relationship with drugs and, in particular, the prescription crazy situation that’s led to many taking Xanax to control their anxiety.
This documentary film predominantly centers on the experiences men and women have had with Xanax, both good and bad. Across the 90 minute run-time, the documentary explores the backstory for several different people and what triggered their anxiety episodes – and how they control that.
Phoebe’s heartbreaking story of sexual assault in the military is easily the stand-out part here, although Matt’s struggles with fitting in are equally as resonant. Each of these stories help to paint a picture of the wide demographics that are likely to be prescribed these drugs, although there is a really neat element toward the end of the film that focuses in on the new generation of kids growing up and how they’re becoming affected by this.
Most of the film centers on these individual experiences though, with a few chimes from experts and therapists in the field to boot. In terms of content, most of what’s here is pretty surface-level and other times there are some outright contradictory and incredulous statements made.
At one point, one of the therapists talks about the damaging effect of Xanax long-term… and how she prescribes cannabis to help with symptoms of anxiety instead. The irony here, of course, will be that anyone who takes marijuana long-term is more prone to suffer from anxiety and paranoia! As a long-term marijuana smoker myself (who’s now been sober for over 10 years) I’d never felt more paranoid than I did when I smoked weed.
There’s also a segment here that discusses the dangers of social media and the always-online situation we find ourselves in. This is only slightly brushed upon (The Social Dilemma does a fantastic job diving into this) and whether intentional or not, a moment at the end sees another health professional telling us we need social connections and that loneliness is bad. And then the camera flashes to a picture of someone on their phone messaging. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not but it feels pretty careless, along with the aforementioned cannabis quip.
Largely, Take Your Pills: Xanax is all about the people and their experiences both good and bad. From that perspective, this film is fine but it’s also pretty perfunctory in the way it presents its material at times. This film shines a spotlight on the situation without ever really diving below the surface, failing to explore nitty gritty issues at a cultural level, calling out Big Pharma, the media or health professionals for contributing toward our heightened state of panic and anxiety. This isn’t a bad documentary but one can’t help but feel this could have been so much better.
Verdict - 6/10