Take Your Pills review: Netflix docu explores usage of prescription medicines, and how it's a global crisis

Mihir Fadnavis

Mar 27, 2018 16:09:38 IST


We’ve all been there – in the pits of a medical setback and longing for an immediate cure because you can’t take existing in perpetual limbo anymore.

And then the ray of light – a doctor’s prescription of magic pills, supported by colorful ads of what seems to promise a lifetime of paradise by simply swallowing said pills every day. A viewing of Alison Klayman’s Take Your Pills only rekindles the dreaded thought at the back of your mind – that we’re all being played and treated as lab rats by the modern world Sauron that is the pharma industry.

Much like the experience of suffering from ADHD, Take Your Pills zooms, zips and flashes chaotically as it moves from one talking head to another – dropping bombshells of information on how over reliance on pills like Adderall is a gigantic worldwide crisis and yet no one seems to realise the gravity of the situation. The opioid crisis is currently the most talked about modern epidemic, but as a doctor featured in the documentary states, the normalisation of Adderall prescriptions is as dangerous, if not much more so.

Take Your Pills - Jasper

A still from Take Your Pills

The fascinating aspect of the film is that much like in her brilliant previous docu Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, director Klayman chronicles those going against the grain – struggling to break through yet quite happy and aware of their oddness compared to those around them.

Information overload is a very real thing and college kids and young professionals existing in an eternal state of dopamine high is both sad and eerie – and the fact that they’re specifically targeted after decades of research by companies with big data makes it all the more sinister.

Klayman also manages to impart history lessons in concise manners – like the story of how Amphetamine was developed and sold in the 1930s as a tasty pep up candy but was fortunately deemed too dangerous and banned. It’s kind of scary to think that pills like Adderall and Ritalin are being sold in the exact same manner and no one seems to bat an eyelid.

History, it seems, has a way of repeating itself, particularly when society is so easy to manipulate and the governments and corporations are so strongly intertwined to produce as much advertising propaganda as possible and look out for each other. The truly frightening situation is that the offload of power to Big Pharma has made it difficult to figure whether a child actually has an illness or has been conditioned to believe that he suffers from it – and increasingly paranoid and protective parents would stop at nothing to render the best treatment for their child who is seemingly always in danger.

But this is much more than just a story of evil pharma giants making $13 billion a year conning people; it is also a story of a generation increasingly dependent on performance enhancing drugs not just to fit in, but to catch up with the post-modern social mores. For these kids it is no longer just about doing well academically, youngsters are now pressurised to be their best selves on Instagram, to be able to prove to everyone how awesome their lives are compared to everyone else’s. Despite a 19-hour work and study day they have to be able to look fresh when they post their selfies on social media, and the only way to do this is by popping in a daily magic pill.

Film and media romanticises, and even sensationalises, those addicted to coke and heroin but kids on dodgy and ‘legal’ prescription meds are seldom given the attention they deserve, which is what makes this documentary an urgent and an important one to watch and share.

While there isn’t a big Adderall crisis in India (the issue exists only in metros like Delhi and Mumbai) we do have a much bigger problem at hand – the prescription of antibiotics, and with every minor cough being treated with these pills we have a devastating future right ahead of us. Hopefully those watching this film would be able to glean some knowledge on irresponsible pill prescriptions and the long term wreckages they can cause.

If anyone in India is thinking of making a film on the antibiotic crisis now would be a good time to begin work – five years later would probably be too late.

Take Your Pills is now streaming on Netflix India

Updated Date: Mar 27, 2018 16:09:38 IST