"As I said...you haven't been drinking alcohol! Are you a pack of imbeciles!?"
—Naoto trying to explain a few things...
Characters consuming what they think is a drug, they start acting accordingly, but turns out to be a placebo. Whether it's an oregano joint, a mysterious pill that turns out to be aspirin, or non-alcoholic beer, you'd never know it by the way the person is acting.
Related to Magic Feather (which is what The Placebo Effect is called around here).
See also I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin! and Drunk on Milk, for when this isn't an accident.
Anime and Manga
- Persona 4: The Animation uses this in the club of episode 15. Half the characters start acting as if they're drunk, even after it's confirmed that there's no alcohol served there. Carries over to the next day, where the ones who acted drunk don't seem to remember much of the previous day.
- Spider-Man getting drunk at Aunt May and Jonah Jameson Senior's wedding was retconned into this several issues later. He had about half a glass of actual champagne, but was so nervous about seeing Mary-Jane again that he never noticed his amused roommate was filling his glass with soda.
- Happens in Eurotrip when two characters walk into a coffee shop in Amsterdam and order what they think are hash brownies.
- Go! had the characters selling fake ecstasy, with a scene where people are faking the high.
- In Blotto, Laurel and Hardy get drunk off a bottle of liquor that's actually tea put there by Stanley's wife.
- In 50 First Dates Adam Sandler's character will often give his dates large drinks which he says are alcoholic, but really aren't. He's found that this way the women get just as slutty as they would if they were actually drunk, but still retain all their motor skills when having sex.
- In The Birdcage, Albert believes that the "Pirin tablets" that Agador gives him actually calm him down. Guess what two letters Agador scratches off the tablets? That's right, they're really just aspirin.
- A Running Gag in The Truth; Mr. Tulip is constantly snorting various substances, but none of them are actually drugs. Many of them are quite unhealthy household chemicals, however.
Live Action TV
- My Family had a marijuana joint that actually turned out to be made of cinnamon and oregano powered by the placebo effect shared by Ben and Susan. Effects range from Susan overcoming her habitual mental block as to how horrible her cooking is, Ben correcting the lyrics to Jimi Hendrix songs at the top of his voice.
- Frasier combines this with Mushroom Samba (the inversion). Niles gets a hash brownie, but Martin eats it without realising what it is, and replaces it with a normal brownie. And even when Frasier actually explains what happened, Niles still doesn't realise:
Niles: Well someone must feel pretty out of it, being the only one here who isn't completely burnt!
- Raj on the The Big Bang Theory needs alcohol before he can talk to women. In one episode he starts hitting on Summer Glau, until Howard points out the beer was non-alcoholic, and Raj can't continue.
- In Burn Notice, pretending to get drunk is one of the spy skills Michael has cultivated.
- Arrested Development: Maeby drinks some virgin martinis and thinks she's drunk. George Michael tries to explain that "virgin" means non-alcoholic, but the venture is fruitless.
- There was also an incident where they drank several bottles of Gob's fake wine. It ends with the two of them getting to second base
- Freaks and Geeks after the geeks swap the beer at the freak's Wild Teen Party for non-alcoholic beer. Only Seth Rogen notices the difference, and used it to his advantage to win a ton of money at Quarters.
- In one episode of Peep Show Sophie and her new friends from Brighton take Mark to a gay club and they all do pills... except Mark, who merely pretends to swallow his and then pretends to be feeling its effects. He gives himself away when he claims "I think I'm getting the famous munchies!".
- In The Inbetweeners Will swallows a quantity of hash without first preparing it for consumption. Despite this it still has some strange effects on him, mostly making his arms twitch.
- In Degrassi the Next Generation JT gets hold of some but Sean swaps it for aspirin before they notice (another character really takes it...)
- An episode of Absolutely Fabulous has the characters travel to France. Patsy gets bored and does some coke, which loosens her up enough to tolerate Saffron's presence and play table tennis. On the way back home, the drugs are found by airport security, but they determine that they were fake all along. Patsy is horrified, not because she spent a fortune on phony drugs, but because this meant she actually enjoyed playing table tennis.
- An episode of the 90s talk show parody Night Stand With Dick Dietrick had host Dick and his assistant Mueller trying out a new drug that was all the necessary drugs for a day in a single pill. Not knowing he took a placebo, Dick's first words after taking the pill: "Whoa! Did anyone else just see a cow fly be here?" Needless to say, it gets better.
Stand Up Comedy
- The subject of a comedy routine by Adam Sandler in which a partying guy keeps telling the host how awesome his (acid/weed/beer) is, only to be told it's none of those things (the beer was nonalcoholic).
- In Persona 4 Teddie, Yukiko, and Rise get utterly smashed at a nightclub while on a school trip... except Naoto informs you that the club doesn't even serve alcohol.
- In one Dork Tower strip, Matt's stoner brother thinks he is high after smoking Matt's basing floc.
- Referenced in Order of the Stick when Soul-Splice Vaarsuvius starts to behave in an evil manner, even though the soul splices can't actually affect his/her alignment. According to the fiends, "A good way to get a good person to do something horrible is to convince them they're not responsible for their actions." It's compared to someone drinking beer they didn't know was non-alcoholic and feeling drunk anyway because they expected to be.
- Happens at least twice in Questionable Content.
- Raven says she got drunk at a party by having seven Shirley Temples. "You can't even taste the alcohol in them!"
- Later she relates the story of how her female friends in college would get so drunk they'd make out with each other, all the time.
Faye: I think you're confusing bisexuality with substance abuse.
- Girls with Slingshots: After Hazel gets uncharacteristically prudish while accompaniying Jamie and her younger sister, Fiona on a trip to a lingerie store, Fiona offers Hazel a pull from her hidden flask. Hazel goes from mortified to Genki Girl after a couple of swallows. Fiona confesses to Jamie that her flask was just water. Her boobs are just that awesome.
- Snooch made the mistake of watching a special on rock stars and copying their cocaine use ... sort of.
Eben: Tell me you didn't actually SNORT an entire box of Pixie Stix from 1987.
- One Strong Bad e-mail has Strong Bad performing a science experiment of the effects of caffeine on Strong Sad. So he slips a spoonful of Sanka — instant decaf — into Strong Sad's orange juice, and Strong Sad instantly goes into a caffeinated blitz.
- At least twice on Family Guy: once in a Manatee Gag where Stewie thought he had drunk some alcohol but it was only grape juice; and once when all the family were beating each other up Brian gave everyone some of his "prescription" Happy Pills and everyone blissed out, but once Brian revealed that they were only sugar pills they went back to fighting each other.
- Happens twice in Clone High, which parodied Very Special Episodes:
- First, when Abe buys non-alcoholic beer for the Wild Teen Party:
Cleo: This might be the beer talking--
- Also happens in the episode "Raisin the Stakes," which is about teens going wild and hippie after smoking... raisins.
- The Venture Brothers: Unfortunately the victim of the prank was allergic to oregano.
- Inversion/parody/whatever of this trope happens to Candace in the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Ballad of Badbeard." She touches Orange Moss in the woods, which she was told causes wild hallucinations and begins acting insane, "thinking" Perry is a spy, imagining a sassy, anthropomorphic zebra calling her "Kevin", and confusing a self-destruct button for a vending machine. At the end of the episode, after her "recovery," her grandmother explains that it is actually Blue Moss that causes hallucinations, and that the only reason Candace was "crazy" was because of the "power of suggestion." Just then, Candace touches some Blue Moss.
- In one episode, Beavis and Butthead got drunk on non-alcoholic beer. They knew it was non-alcoholic. They just didn't know alcohol is the part that makes you drunk.
- The Simpsons, "Deep Space Homer": To prove that space travel is within reach of the common man, NASA selects Barney and Homer to go through a training course before one of them gets an actual rocket trip. Once deprived of alcohol, Barney passes with flying colours and is given a congratulatory glass of champagne. He immediately goes nuts ("It begins!"), chugs the rest of the bottle, grabs a jetpack and flies off. The scientists don't understand, as it was non-alcoholic champagne.
- Studies have shown that kids given non-alcoholic beverages will act drunk when told they are alcoholic. Placebo effect + conformity + societal expectations = just as potent as chemicals.
- Even in situations where everyone understands that no mind-altering substances are being taken by anyone, some people will act in ways the mirror the behavior of drunk people because that's what you do at parties: you go wild and get crazy, even when you're stone sober.