'Dope is Death': Air time, how to live stream, plot, trailer and all you need to know about docu on Mutulu Shakur's detox program

The documentary chronicles the heroin battle in South Bronx in the '70s and how those who fought to end it suffered state-sanctioned persecutions

                            'Dope is Death': Air time, how to live stream, plot, trailer and all you need to know about docu on Mutulu Shakur's detox program
Dr Mutulu Shakur, as seen in 'Dope is Death' (Dope is Death)

The fight for equality has been a long-standing one, with marginalized communities often finding themselves at the receiving end of it. But when the establishment fails at doing its job, solutions arise from the people as a way to take back what is theirs. 'Dope is Death' narrates that story. It offers an insight into the fight for equal rights and health care, dating back to the '70s.

The documentary follows the efforts of political groups such as Young Lords and Black Panthers, who introduced acupuncture to their communities to help them rehabilitate themselves from the ongoing drug abuse that was rampant in that era.


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The poster art for 'Dope is Death' (Dope is Death)

Release date

'Dope is Death' will be available in select theaters and virtual theaters on April 30, 2021, with special sidewalk event screenings in New York City.

How to live stream

A video-on-demand release of 'Dope is Death' will be available on Apple and Altavod from May 14, 2021, onwards.


Dr Mutulu Shakur, who was born Jeral Wayne Williams, is an activist and a former member of the Black Liberation Army. As a teenager, he was politically active and worked alongside movements such as the Revolutionary Action Movement (RAM) and the Black separatist movement, the Republic of New Afrika. It was later in the 1970s that he began working with the Lincoln Detox program that offered acupuncture as a treatment to drug addicts, as opposed to methadone, which was an FDA-approved drug at the time.

A still from 'Dope is Death' (Dope is Death)

Shakur strongly advocated the use of acupuncture, however, his intervention was seen as a threat, seeing that rehabilitated drug users often became activists. Shakur even went on to direct the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America (BAAANA) and the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture. 'Dope is Death' covers the fight for equality and health care by the Young Lords and Black Panthers, who went against the establishment for the same.

The synopsis of the documentary reads: "With blight ravaging New York City in the 1970s, the Young Lords and Black Panthers fought for radical change in their communities. Through the leadership of Dr Mutulu Shakur — Tupac Shakur’s stepfather — these activists created the first acupuncture detoxification program in the United States. While the legacy of the program has long been maintained by the residents of the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, the individuals responsible for its creation have suffered from decades of state-sanctioned persecution."

A still from 'Dope is Death' (Dope is Death)


Mia Donovan

'Dope is Death' has been directed and written by Mia Donovan, a filmmaker based in Montreal. She has also written and directed two other feature documentaries, 'ROXX' in 2011 and 'DEPROGRAMMED' in 2015. She also went on to create a virtual reality experience called 'DEPROGRAMMED VR' in 2016, which went on to win the 2016 IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling.

Apart from this, she is also the recipient of the Don Haig Award for outstanding achievement as an emerging filmmaker.

Mia Donovan, the director of 'Dope is Death'


The trailer features modern-day footage alongside video from the '70s, when acupuncture was in the South Bronx as a way of dealing with the heroin epidemic at the time. Not only did this treatment help 'take the edge off', but it also led to something larger — a fight for rights and healthcare.

The caption of the trailer reads: "DOPE IS DEATH is the story of how Dr Mutulu Shakur, stepfather of Tupac Shakur, along with fellow Black Panthers and the Young Lords, combined community health with radical politics to create the first acupuncture detoxification program in America in 1973 — a visionary project eventually deemed too dangerous to exist in America.'


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