Ch'Vorthq: Sergeant, you will be drinking a very heavy stimulant cocktail cut with shampoo and inert ultra-tensile carbon.
"Man, I guess spinach is an expensive habit to keep up if Popeye's turned to drug dealing."
—Linkara, Atop the Fourth Wall
When writers want to do a Very Special Episode but don't invent a one-shot abuser friend, they generally feel skittish about having their character suddenly use so-called 'hard' drugs. Coupled with this is the infamous rigidity of broadcast standards and practices, who sometimes frown on the depiction of drugs even if it is completely negative. Thus, any drugs commonly portrayed are just unnamed drugs in a ominous-looking context, such as red-and-white caplets or vaguely white powder. Occasionally over-the-counter but still-unnamed drugs are used, which carries a bit more realism.
A riskier prospect is to depict a named drug, but with ridiculously overblown effects considering the known real-world impact of the drug and the shortness of the storyline. This was commonly done with marijuana despite the public perception of its effects as "bland," and thus a major reason such depictions are avoided in case they are not taken seriously. In any case, the strength of any drug never seems to result in symptoms of withdrawal in further episodes.
In comedies, a complete non-drug may be treated as if it were, like sugar addicts or milk-alcoholics: that's I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin!. In Speculative Fiction, the drug may be entirely fictional, making it a Fantastic Drug (which, if it gives superpowers, would be Psycho Serum).
- The Level Upper in A Certain Scientific Railgun is a sound file that amplifies the powers of any esper that listens to it. However, it comes with the side-effect of causing its users to collapse into a coma. It's distributed illegally throughout Academy City by shady people and it's generally treated as if it were a deadly drug.
- In the Welcome to The NHK light novel and manga, nearly the first thing we see the protagonist do is snort a small amount of a 'legal drug' he 'brought off the internet'. In the anime, the drug was totally removed, and the resulting trip was changed from a drug-induced hallucination into a psychotic hallucination.
- Repo! The Genetic Opera averted this hard with Zydrate. The promo stuff made it seem G-rated, but then it's first appearance in the actual movie was when Grave-Robber extracted it from a corpse, and it has some pretty nightmarish effects. Towards the finale, Amber Sweet, the daughter of the owner of Gene Co, Rotti Largo, has her face fall off because of a shoddy, last-minute surgery to fix her accidentally-scarred face right before the opera. The really nightmarish thing is that she isn't screaming because she's so high off Zydrate.
- Thoroughly averted in Nine. 8's addiction to magnetism got the movie's rating bumped up to PG-13.
- El Indio in For a Few Dollars More smokes what is presumably marijuana, but it's never mentioned exactly what it is. There's a few points where we see him so stoned he falls asleep with his eyes open or ends up giggling uncontrollably, but other than that the film deliberately makes it unclear whether Indio's psychotic behavior is caused by the drugs, or whether he's actually medicating a mental illness with them and without them he'd be even worse. (The fact that he twitchily requests joints from his underlings after killing people for trivial reasons supports this interpretation). Presumably, the intention was to placate Moral Guardians in America, without ending up in the Reefer Madness hysteria school by claiming weed will turn you into a bipolar rapist.
- The drug-fueled, hallucination-laden madness that is Naked Lunch (the film, at least) revolves around Lee's addiction to...extermination powder? Granted, it was meant as an indirect adaptation of the original novel, in which heroin was the culprit.
- In the less than mediocre Chuck E. Cheese in the Galaxy 5000, there's "Zoom Gas." The antagonists flood their cockpit with it then start acting all giddy and driving at absurd speeds. Hmmm....
- In The Smurfs, Grouchy has a scene in which he overindulges in M&M's and has a "candid" conversation with a green M&M plushie.
- In Worldwar by Harry Turtledove, it turns out that ginger is an extremely addictive drug to the Race (with effects similar to cocaine) and within a few months of the invasion, drug smuggling rings have sprung up and humans are exploiting the addiction. The bigger problems start when females arrive and it turns out that ginger sends them into estrus (they normally mate in seasons). This results in two new institutions among the Race: prostitution and romantic love.
- Animorphs, maple and ginger instant oatmeal is highly addictive to the Yeerks, unfortunately it also permanently removes their need to leave their hosts to feed, and drives them insane, although it does also weaken their ability to control the host's body.
- Characters in Shades of Grey use different colours as recreational drugs. "Lime" is seen as a gateway drug, while "Lincoln" is more dangerous.
- In The Dresden Files, pizza is this for pixies. Harry Dresden keeps a small army of them on as retainers for recon work and other support jobs (plus picked up a faerie extermination squad to keep roaches and rats out) in exchange for a weekly "bribe" of hot, fresh pizza. Lampshaded in Changes when Harry does this in front of Sanya.
Sanya: You are a drug dealer. To tiny faeries. Shame.
- In Kage Baker's Company series, the cyborg process gives (along with superpowers) immunity to all the usual drugs — but, unexpectedly, cyborgs get stoned on chocolate.
- How I Met Your Mother plays this for laughs, having the father refer to marijuana as "sandwiches", and even the live action has the characters puffing on them as though they were blunts. In one episode they baked a bag of "sandwiches" into brownies.
- Not really a drug more of a reference. Power Rangers Samurai aired an episode "A Strange Case of The Munchies" on April 21 a day after 420 whether it's intentional or coincidence since Power Rangers don't air on Fridays is unknown.
- Saved by the Bell had Jessie, caffeine pills, and one of the most memorable scenes in the history of television.
- Small Wonder had an episode called "Vicki and the Pusher." Instead of consuming the drug she obtained in the schoolyard, Vicki hid it in a flowerpot.
- Welcome Back, Kotter: The episode "What Goes Up ..." featured Freddie (one of the show's four main students) becoming addicted to painkillers after being prescribed them to heal a basketball injury. He convinces a scared Horshack that the pills are really just "vitamins" (but is unsuccessful with his teacher or other friends), only seeing the light when Horshack tries to contact the pusher who sold Freddie the pills.
- In Family Ties, Alex Keaton becomes addicted to unspecified "diet pills" (in the days when this would likely be an amphetamine or NDRI) which operate as a stimulant, in an attempt to handle the stress of scholastic life. He eventually crashes, missing the big exam that has been the build-up of the entire sequence.
- In the show California Dreams they had a very special episode in which one of the girls is convinced to take steroids to qualify for an Olympic volleyball team. She's eventually found out, and has an intervention (complete with breakdown in the middle of the local teen hangout) after which it is never referred to again.
- Fraggle Rock had "Wembley's wonderful whoopie water" although the episode that featured it was NOT about drugs.
- The Young Ones: "Vyv - can you actually, like, kill yourself with laxative pills?"
- What do you think Cholera does?
- Stephen Colbert's painkiller addiction on The Colbert Report, which lasted for the duration of the actor's wrist injury. The broken wrist was real; the painkillers were SweetTarts.
- Averted (as you might expect) in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where Dennis and Dee intentionally get addicted to crack.
- NCIS: Abby and her Caf-Pow! It's definitely treated like a coffee addiction, there's episodes of her trying to quit and episodes that mention that she drinks a lot of Caf-Pow.
(Gibbs walks into her lab with his hands behind his back)
- The Doctor Who serial Nightmare of Eden has the drug Vraoxin, an organic substance whose origin are unknown but whose properties are ultimately lethal.
- The Gaia Memories in Kamen Rider Double give their users superpowers, but improper use results in addiction, insanity, and withdrawal symptoms. It doesn't help that people who use them are called Dopants. Don't even think about mainlining one; it will mess up your body. And may your deity of choice help you if you get an adulterated Gaia Memory from a shadier-than-usual dealer...
- And most Dopants only use one Memory for a VERY good reason, the only one shown to have used more than one (in fact a large number) got a VERY disturbing death.
- Zodiarts Switches in Kamen Rider Fourze have a very similar effect to the aforementioned Gaia Memories, with the major difference being that Zodiarts Switches are Magical Space Drugs instead of Magical Earth Drugs.
- You Can't Do That on Television attempted to cover drug abuse in one episode. Rather than show actual drug use, they showed sketches of kids addicted to getting cream pies in their faces.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation had an episode called "The Game" that did it with a video game that directly affected neurotransmitters in all kinds of ways and was described constantly as addictive.
- TNG also had the first season episode "Symbiosis", which featured a planet of people addicted to the narcotic "felicium" because it was a virus cure (and therefore invoking this trope) and another planet that did nothing but supply the drug even after the disease it was supposed to treat had long been eradicated, since the residents were so addicted to it.
- The Gua in First Wave can easily get addicted to table salt, although their High Command frowns on such weakness and orders the addicts killed. This was discovered by accident when Foster was interrogating a wounded Gua and poured salt on the open wound. The result was a seriously stoned Gua. Given the Gua mastery of genetic engineering, it's strange they don't remove this weakness from their hybrid husks.
- iCarly played Spencer's pranking obsession like a drug addict relapsing, complete with an intervention to try and break his habit.
Spencer: At first I was just pranking on weekends.
- The TV series Dollhouse features a mysterious "memory drug" in SE 01 E 07 ("Echoes") that supposedly triggers suppressed memories. Effectively, the characters in contact with it act like they are on a strong psychotic substances like mescaline.
- Sliders has an episode where the main characters slide into a Prohibition-like world, where caffeine has taken the place of alcohol. Along with the clothing and music styles of the 20s, they also got speakeasies, where coffee is sold in tiny bags for $5 each, gangsters, and corrupt cops.
- Another episode had the opposite. A world where there are no illegal drugs, and being an addict is mandatory. Cops walk around with tranq guns to calm down those who have gone off meds, until they can get an implant that allows easy injections directly into the bloodstream.
- In an episode of MythBusters, Tory Grant and Kari tested a myth about smugglers smuggling contraband across borders by driving with no lights on to evade detection. The (theoretical) contraband being smuggled in this scenario? Canadian maple syrup.
- The Cookie Monster confessed his addiction to Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report:
"Me have craaazy times in 70s and 80s. Me like the Robert Downey, Jr. of cooookies."
- Parodied (in their usual absurd fashion) by Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! with an advertisement for the fictional children's product, the Cinco i-Jammer and e-Bumper. The device is a digital jukebox with "two revolutionary dance tones", which clearly seem to have some form of highly questionable effect. Then, you factor in the fact that it makes you so wonky that you have to eat food paste ("Oh Hungee")
- Characters in Young Blades are occasionally shown getting extremely high on coffee. In one episode, the royal doctor convinces the king to ban coffee due to its harmful effects, suggesting that people "indulge in some harmless stimulant like tobacco" instead.
- Kenan and Kel with Kel's orange soda. There's an episode where he gives it up and some of the effects...well...
- For some reason, in the original Hawaii Five O episode "Up Tight", every reference to LSD was removed and the word "speed" substituted. The women's behavior when they were using it, and the charismatic Leary-like guru who dispensed it, all indicated LSD, not speed.
- In Farscape, sugar is like the best heroin in the world to a Hinerian as Rygel so delicately proves.
Rygel: [excited and jittery] Crichton! How illegal is this dren?! You've got to get me more!!!
- Children's radio show Jungle Jam and Friends had an episode in which characters discover that they get a pleasant buzz from being knocked on the head by a falling coconut.
- Heavy Rain has Norman Jayden, an FBI agent with a Boston accent that comes in and out from line to line and a powerful addiction to blue luminescent powders, even more over the top in the end because it's hard to know what's coming from the drugs/withdrawal, his magic sunglasses from the future or the way he himself seems a bit unhinged to begin with.
- Yoshi's Island: Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy and the entire screen will turn Technicolor, swirl and walking straight will become a challenge.
- In Sly Cooper 2, Rajan is a seller of illegal "spices" and acts very much like a drug mogul.
- Monster Party used 'pills' that turned Mark into a flying gargoyle that would shoot lasers, essential making him a much more powerful character. The effect would be temporary and would often leave the player scrambling for another pill.
- The Warriors (the video game) has a healing drug called "Flash" that is sniffed.
- The later installments of Mega Man Battle Network have a variant in the form of Dark Chips. The chips are extremely powerful when used in battle, but harms the Net Navi to use them; said Net Navi becomes addicted to them with repeated use, until they are too far gone for their operator and they eventually get deleted.
- All of the Fallout games use made-up drugs with drastic effects far beyond those of real-world drugs (for example, drinking a beer will make the character objectively stronger for a short time, letting him/her carry more and use heavier equipment). Fallout 3 was set to contain real-world morphine, but Australian Moral Guardians led to the game being banned until "morphine" was replaced with the generic "Med-X." New Vegas even introduces "Fixer," an anti-drug that will kick your addictions in exchange for some Interface Screw.
- Amazing Super Powers found someone's lampshade.
- As mentioned above, Sergeant Schlock is addicted to Ovalkwik mix, which he eats directly from the can - although the ingredient statement suggests it might not be so G-rated, containing among other things nicotine, codeine, and something called "hyper-ephedrine."
- Rare Candy, Zinc, Carbos, etc. in 151 Hidden Depths.
- Played with in Tokyo Mew Mew in a Nutshell, where the gymnastics team offers Ichigo steroids so she can look mannish like them.
- Linkara can stop collecting old Power Rangers toys any time he wants to, dammit!
- Steve Buyer warns that lettuce is pretty much exactly the same as tobacco, so be careful (and stop regulating tobacco).
- According to Strong Bad, too much "blue drink" will apparently warp a child's mind enough to start creating imaginary friends.
- An episode of Arthur featured a popular candy bar that contains a chemical which works almost exactly like a real drug (directly affecting the brain chemistry to make the person consuming the candy bar extremely happy but making the consumer feel sad when the chemical wears off until they get more of it) and the in show explanation on how said chemical works sounds like an extremely simplified way of explaining how real drugs work.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender had an episode where Sokka (and Momo) was high on cactus juice almost the entire time.
- Clone High parodied this in an entire episode revolving around Abe's destructive addiction to smoking raisins. After learning that you can't actually get high on raisins, the students decide to kick the habit for good and "smoke crack, instead!"
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- During the movie, Spongebob gets a hangover from too much ice cream.
- Many episodes portray Krabby Patties more like an addictive drug than a fast-food hamburger, with characters going nuts from withdrawal without them. And they're clearly very bad for you.
- Rocko's Modern Life also used ice cream as a fill-in for alcohol, complete with a bachelor party for Filburt at an ice cream parlor and Heffer getting a eventual "ice cream hangover."
- Tiny Toon Adventures used alcohol, yet with amusingly sarcastic bookend scenes; Buster points out the obvious hyperbole in them doing a Very Special Episode and closes by optimistically assuming they'll get to do a "funny" episode again.
- Speaking of The Smurfs, "The Lure Of The Orb" has several Smurfs hooked on the power of a magic orb that's supposed to give heightened illumination to whoever uses it, with all the attendant effects of being on drugs.
- An episode of Disney's Doug centered on Nic-Nacs, a legal, gum-like "relaxant" that was clearly tobacco in all but name (its main ingredient was "nicoglutenousmonopexterate"). The episode was a pretty heavy-handed screed against the tobacco industry for a kids' show.
- There was an episode of Static Shock featuring a Bang Baby with the ability to give other people super powers temporarily...at the price of not telling anyone where they got them, of course; oh, and they have to steal stuff for him. Well, if you want to get high—I mean, get super powers...
- In one episode of The Powerpuff Girls, Mojo Jojo offers 4 kids Chemical X-induced, temporary superpowers.It's also implied that Mojo put something in the Chemical X to make them do anything to get more of it.
- The Simpsons
- In the episode "My Sister, My Sitter", the Comic Book Guy is at Dr. Nick's clinic after overdosing on cheeseburgers, brought there by a Krusty Burger clerk using a wheelbarrow. "Ooh, loneliness and cheeseburgers are a dangerous mix!" he groans.
- Ahem, Maggie's pacifier. As seen in "And Maggie Makes Three", she started this habit about a minute after she was born.
- Crystal Twist from COPS.
- There was an episode of The Simpsons which depicts Bart as addicted to Focusyn, which seems to be a stand-in for Ritalin until the end of the episode where Marge says she's getting Bart off of Focusyn... and back on Ritalin.
- In the episode where Bleedin' Gums Murphy dies, he mentions squandering money on his "$1500 a day habit." Cut to a flashback of him buying Faberge Eggs.
- In one episode, Bart and Milhouse go on a bender after drinking a Slushee "made entirely of syrup", which leads to Bart joining the local scout troop and Milhouse getting a rude word shaved into the back of his head.
- In "Love, Springfieldian Style", Lisa as Nancy Spungen and Nelson as Sid Vicious get hooked on chocolate as if it were cocaine.
- In He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the episode "A Friend in Need" has Ileena become addicted to a blue potion given to her by a "sorceress" who uses her addiction to try and get her to steal the Transmutator. She starts to suffer a withdrawal and Prince Adam becomes concerned...but obviously not much, since he coldly dismisses her instantly when the weeping girl says she can't tell him what's wrong!
- While Fantastic Planet is hardly G-rated, the film abounds with drug imagery, drug effects, hallucinatory other-worlds - and yet, no real drugs.
- South Park has had episodes based around people getting high on cough syrup ("Quest for Ratings") and cat urine ("Major Boobage"), and in another episode, Cartman snorts the skin off of illegally-obtained KFC ("Medicinal Fried Chicken"). "Medicinal Fried Chicken" additionally has a story where many of the male adults deliberately get testicular cancer so they can smoke all the medical marijuana they want.
- You can get high off cough syrup. And if you buy the wrong kind, and ingest enough to get high, the additional chemicals can kill you.
- Again, Family Guy isn't G-rated in the least, but it had a rather... unique interpretation of Chester Cheetah's addiction to Cheetos.
- Popeye. Come on, you honestly never thought of the spinach = steroids connection?
- one Popeye cartoon has Bluto replacing Popeye's spinach with locoweed.
- Futurama has such addictive things as Slurm (It's highly addictive!). Fry is shown to be extremely addicted to Slurm - even after he finds out what it's made of. When going more than twenty minutes without a Slurm he starts to twitch and get shakes. It doesn't help that he's tasted the super-addictive Super-Slurm.
- Apparently there are no bad drugs in that time. Hermes smokes pot (and doesn't lose it when his young son steals a "cigar" and smokes it). Crack is sold in vending machines, as well as crack mansions. Robots are fueled by alcohol. Bender becomes Iron Cook/Zinc Saucier by (unknowingly) dosing the meal with large amounts of LSD; once the Professor analyzes the liquid, Bender offers to cook a meal knowingly dosed, and everyone accepts eagerly.
- Captain Planet: 'Bleeesss...I NEED Bleeesss...'
- Somewhat subverted considering it's obviously a real drug and killed a person who overdosed on it.
- The Frosty Freezy Freeze slushie from Fanboy and Chum Chum, a Trademark Favourite Drink of the eponymous duo. They can get a little obsessive over it and it becomes a major plot point in too many episodes to let it slip. Perhaps best evidenced by this sequence, from the episode "Berry Sick".
- Even Hey Arnold! had this, with chocolate of all things. Regular chocolate. Chocolate Boy once went into a withdrawal, curling up into a ball and shivering when he didn't have it, as well as digging through dumpsters to find some.
- The Smoggies had purple silly sauce, which was a G-Rated Drug powerful enough to contaminate an entire eco system and cause whomever came into contact with it to involuntarily sing and dance perpetually, even in diluted amounts. The song they would sing, "The Purple Rag" was an Ear Worm as well as being a state of And I Must Scream.
- Mac on Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends gets hyperactive when he eats sugar. In an episode where Bloo throws a massive rave at Foster's, Mac unwittingly ingests sugar, then proceeds to go through a climbing-the-walls-nude drug trip from the effects. The post-rush withdrawal reduces him to a shivering wreck that's equal parts jonesing junkie and Gollum parody.
- Beavis' alternate persona, The Great Cornholio, is created due to a large consumption of caffeine. One episode had Beavis having a sugar crash and was given a powerful cappuccino to keep going (he was in a poetry night thing. Don't ask) and, in the movie, he downs a number of caffeine pills after a well-meaning old woman gives him some to help him (first to help with airsickness, the second after the bus driver kicks his ass).
- In Transformers Animated, motor oil is treated like beer/alcohol, with Those Two Guys Mixmaster and Scrapper being especially fond of it.
- In Transformers Prime, Ratchet creates Synthetic Energon and then injects himself with it, causing him to gain immense strength, but renders his mind unstable, making him aggressive and incredibly arrogant.
- In an episode of Totally Spies!, the villain of the week owns a cookie company and adds a chemical that makes them not only incredibly addictive, but also causes the consumer to gain absurd amounts of weight in a very short time. Naturally, one of the girls becomes addicted to them during the episode.
- The Looney Tunes Show has Bugs Bunny addicted to Sparkle, an energy drink he acquires from Yosemite Sam. He is extremely hyper and euphoric when he consumes large amounts of it and freaks out when his supply runs out to the point of threatening Yosemite Sam for more. Subverted when it turns out that Sparkle's secret ingredient is an illegal drug.
- Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers gives us Monterey Jack, whose cheese-addiction is often played like this.
- The Double Dragon cartoon series, notable for having an Aesop at the end of every episode, had an episode that focused on the Shadow Master producing a designer drug, known as Euphoria, which basically turned users into wide-eyed, green-eyed zombified people. Presumably in attempt to avoid portraying real drug abuse methods, the green liquid Euphoria was not ingested nor injected, but rather poured onto bare skin, though it was often applied this way to the forearm.
- In the episode of X-Men where Mojo was the villain, he constantly drank from a flask of pink liquid. Given how obese and unpleasant Mojo is, this seemed to imply he was drinking Pepto Bismal right out of the bottle.
- Caffeine. Just look at all the new products that have come into play over the last ten years. Yeah sure, we've always had coffee and tea, and Red Bull isn't exactly new, but whose bright idea was it to cram all the crap of an energy drink into a 2 oz. package?
- Nutmeg contains a natural hallucinogen, although most people who experiment with it can't get past the taste, and that's why it's never caught on as a drug.
- Nepeta, also known as catnip. In humans it has "soothing" and numbing effects and is used as a flavoring in tea, it's also mixed with tobacco or marijuana and smoked. A study found that a 4-year-old child who had eaten 3 raisins soaked in the stuff got high. Why do you think cats like it so much? Has its own subtrope.
- Calamus root. Theoretically, it's mildly stimulating and in large quantities becomes hallucinogenic. Practically, its taste is "interesting"—if you used to drink black coffee without sweets—but even then trying to chew that much of roots will probably sooner get your whole digestive tract (along with the taste center in brain and maybe skin on the back of your ears) tanned for good than it will make you really "high."
- In Russia, extremely strong tea (leaves boiled to black sludge-strong) known as Chephyr, is sometimes used as substitute for Amphetamine in prisons.
- For a more innocent example, the sunflower seeds ("semki") are immensly popular and are positively IMPOSIBLE to stop nibbling.
- For Retro Studios' staff during the Troubled Production of Metroid Prime, it were Atomic Fireballs. The crew reports 72 gallons were consumed while making the game.
- Salvia divinorum is still legal in most parts of the world, but produces an extremely intense half hour of hallucinations, euphoria, and/or panic when extractions are smoked.
- It has no health effects and is not addictive. However, there's a media campaign against it.
- Dextromethorphan is a cough medication available without prescription in most parts of the world - despite the fact that it's an opioid closely related to codeine, and a potent hallucinogen in high doses.
- Those who have made the decision to quit smoking sometimes pick up another habit to cope with the absence of cigarettes, such as eating a certain kind of snack
- Benadryl, also known as diphenhydramine. Remember how your mom used to give it to you to sleep? People get high off of it. Large quantities, usually 700 mg at least (they refer to it as "joining the 700 club"). There's an entire imageboard devoted to talking about tripping on Benadryl.
- For diabetics, too much insulin causes symptoms that mimic drunkenness. Insulin shock is actually a medical emergency.