Instant Sedation

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Toby: Datura knockout darts. POW! Guy goes down for 12 hours, wakes up, doesn't know who the hell he is, and his head's splitting like a cord of firewood.[1]

Xander: I was shot twice with those.

A character is drugged and goes out like a light in just a few seconds. Just as often, they wake up in short order, groggy but otherwise none the worse for the experience. Delivery methods can vary, from gas, to darts, to controlled injection, to a liquid added to food or drink.

This is Artistic License Medicine in the extreme. In Real Life, drugs can take anywhere from a few seconds (as with inhaled sedatives and anesthetics used in surgery) to several minutes (as with intramuscular injections of many animal tranquilizers, as frequently observed in wildlife documentaries) to several hours (as with sedatives that are administered in food or drink) to take full effect. Similarly, dosage matters; the amount required to sedate a muscular man or a large animal would kill a smaller person, with the converse also true: a dose safe for a normal person might barely faze a Big Guy. For a full treatment of these and other issues, see the Analysis page.

Knockout Gas is an area-effect variant subtrope, which is subject to different, but related rules. Tranquilizer Dart is another common delivery method. Compare Magic Antidote, Stun Guns, Tap on the Head and Slipping a Mickey. Not to be confused with Instant Seduction. Often used as part of a Knockout Ambush

Examples of Instant Sedation include:


Anime & Manga

  • In one episode of Pokémon, Ash and company were helping out at a hospital that, due to overcrowding at the local Pokémon center, had to take in some injured monsters. While trying to sedate a patient, the head doctor accidentally stabbed himself with a hypodermic needle, and was conscious just long enough to warn our heroes that he'd be out for a few hours and they were on their own.
  • Averted in Michiko to Hatchin. Michiko appears to be very resilient when hit by a dart from a tranquilizer gun. Twice.
  • The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya plays this pretty straight.
    • In the novels, Mikuru ends getting kidnapped by agents of the rival Esper and Time travel groups who knock her out with some kind of sedative. It works very fast, so fast that her kidnappers were actually surprised and wondered if she was used to getting KO'ed.
    • Also, in "Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody", Mikuru puts Kyon to sleep so he won't see how time travel works, and then later (or 3 years earlier) Adult!Mikuru puts Young!Mikuru to sleep (from a distance) so that she won't see her future self. Neither of the victims suffer any ill effects when they wake up. Of course they do come from the future, so perhaps it's justified.
  • Averted in New Getter Robo, though the writers were probably more concerned with the Rule of Cool than realism. Ryoma gets hit by an animal tranquiliser in the first episode, but it doesn't stop him from running across the street and dropkicking his two attackers before going down. Note that this is after he had just fought a 3-on-1 fight against some Yakuza goons and had gotten a knife buried into his shoulder.
  • In the world of Ranma ½, knockout gas, sleeping powder, sleeping pills, and the like are in extreme abundance. Lots and lots of characters use them at one point or another.
    • The best-known examples are Kodachi's rose bombs and tainted food.
    • Gosunkugi also does the "chloroform rag" trick on Akane.
    • Even worse, most characters (but especially Ranma) have a tendency to munch and swallow anything put in their mouth, even against their will, rather than spit it out. Ranma has been neutralized once by tea mixed with a paralytic that Sentarō just threw toward her mouth. Another time, she's fed a drugged ricecake by Kunō—and the worst part is that it was Ranma who laced it with sleeping powder in the first place.
    • Another common way of putting a character to sleep is with pressure points; notably used by Happōsai.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne had Folken do this to Van once via an injection to the back of the neck.
  • Detective Conan
    • Played straight with Conan's wrist-watch tranquilizer needle gun. Kogoro barely has time to mumble a few words before keeling over.
    • Also nicely subverted in that Conan, who is stuck as a six-year-old, will go down quicker when knocked out compared to the teenagers and adults... But the method of sedation is normally a cloth covered in narcotics or chloroform, instead of intramuscular injection.
    • Somewhat subverted in the crossover with Lupin III. Conan uses his dart on Inspector Zenigata, who is so tough that it wears off in no time (though he still goes down quickly). Conan is pretty surprised.
  • Hanaukyo Maid Tai La Vérité episode 8. Three security maids are rendered unconscious in seconds by a drugged handkerchief over their mouths.
  • In Dragon Half, Rosario shoots Mink with a knockout dart and she instantly falls. Then Rosario puts two more darts into her right away, setting up a gag where he and the king think Mink died from the overdose. Strangely, at first Rosario accidentally inhaled and got the dart stuck in his tongue, but nothing ever came of this.
  • City Hunter often has Ryo protecting or otherwise dealing with beautiful ladies. Often these ladies manage to get themselves kidnapped right under Ryo's nose via a three-second chloroform rag attack.
  • The thugs in Durarara!!, rather than using the standard "chloroform on a rag" trick, pour it into a bottle that has a face mask attached. It still goes to work very, very quickly.
  • In episode 4 of Season 2's Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu, during a card game, Hideyoshi is called on a card he placed down, and begins to strip his shirt. He immediately gets knocked out by slightly drunken Himeji, who claims he's simply "tired". When Kouta attempts to bring up the topic of the chloroform bottle laying nearby, she swipes it at him, causing him to "get tired" as well.
  • Played with in Bleach. Shinigami have access to three tranquiliser drugs that they can use as necessary: shinten, gaten and houten. Shinten is used on targets with weak spiritual pressure whereas gaten and houten are used on much stronger opponents. Hanataro has been seen using shinten to knock out low-level guards when rescuing Rukia. Yoruichi uses either gaten or houten to knock out Ichigo and rescue him from Byakuya. Kira uses gaten to knock out Yumichika during the fake Karakura Town battle. All the drugs work instantly but are also fantasy drugs made up for the setting and therefore able to work to whatever rules the author wants.
  • Cowboy Bebop. When Spike confronts Vicious and is shot with a tranquilizer dart. He's also blown backwards, so it looks like he really did get shot.


  • In one of his routines, Bill Cosby talks about how, as a child, he had his tonsils removed. He described being knocked out as the doctors telling him to count backwards from one hundred and him making it to about ninety-nine before passing out. He adds that he felt rather embarrassed about that, since he was sure that his alcoholic father could have lasted longer. Usually it takes less than 10 seconds though.

Comic Books

Films -- Animation

  • In Monsters vs. Aliens, a syringe the size of a missile filled with Instant Sedative is used to drop a frightened young woman (that happens to be 49'11", but it is still rather rude) who accidentally wrecked her wedding. Her staggering around for a few seconds before collapsing is downright impressive compared to those silenced at a later briefing for mentioning Area Fifty--*thunk* ZZZZ...
  • Played very straight in the Jet Lags cartoon Leo the Lion: King of the Jungle, when Tooie's mother is shot with a tranquilizer dart. It comes out of a rifle with a blast of fire and a loud bang, and she goes down hard mid-run, so much so that her cub flies out of her mouth. Tooie later implies he thought she'd been killed, and with good reason.

Films -- Live-Action

  • One early use was in the Universal Frankenstein, where the enraged superhuman monster is once brought down in about ten seconds by a (rather large) injection in his back.
  • Averted in the The Andromeda Strain. In the climax, a character has to get to a sub-station to stop a self-destruct. He gets shot with a tranquilizer dart that is meant for small mammals (such as monkeys). He starts staggering and moving more slowly but can still function.
  • A Lampshaded aversion in The Gods Must Be Crazy, which explicitly explains that tranquilizer darts don't take effect immediately. That's why they are rigged to be so easily removed that the victim doesn't know they've been tranked (they feel only the sting, that can be attributed to insects).
  • Ace Ventura
    • In the first film, Ace uses the chloroform-soaked-rag routine on a football player twice his size, which takes about 5 seconds to work.
    • When Nature Calls uses the humorous muscle paralysis angle, but Ace is still blacking out after a rather short chase. Of course, he was running and three darts are too much. Not to mention the four others he took in the back.
  • In the opening scene of The Rock, the mercenaries use tranq darts on the soldiers guarding the chemical weapons depot. All of them fall unconscious immediately.
  • Parodied in the Woody Allen comedy Sleeper: Woody is able to knock out a security guard by holding a large hunk of bleu cheese under his nose.
  • In Bananas, Woody Allen's revolutionary character has to use a hypodermic to knock out a government official, but in the scuffle he also knocks out his assistants—as a passing policeman takes notice, he props them up against a car and desperately tries to look casual.
  • In X2: X-Men United, the military guys use Instant Sedation darts on the students when they invade the school. While they knock out the children instantly, multiple darts fail to have any effect on Wolverine. Justified by his larger body mass, Healing Factor, and adrenaline as well, since he doesn't show any effects while killing the immediate threat. After all the enemies in his vicinity are neutralized, he pulls the darts out and shakes his head, indicating he was becoming at least a little woozy or disoriented. Removing the source of the sedative lets his healing eliminate the rest of it in his body.
  • Averted in Pan's Labyrinth. Captain Vidal gets doped with sleeping pills, but they only make him drowsy.
  • James Bond
  • Spies Like Us. Emmett Fitz-Hume and Austin Millbarge knock out five Soviet soldiers instantly with "high-compression tranquilizer pistols".
  • In the short film made of Battleground by Stephen King, The Nameless hitman shoots two security guards using a tranquilizer gun. While one goes down immediately, the second guard (a strong, fit-looking man) just yelps from the dart and reaches for his own gun, but the hitman is prepared for this and quickly knocks him out physically.
  • Played for laughs in Star Trek: McCoy hyposprays Kirk with a sedative. Kirk asks, "How long will this take t--" and collapses backward on the bed, completely out.
  • Discussed in Kangaroo Jack when the protagonists accidentally shoot a dart to their airplane pilot while they are airborne; the pilot experiences the effects in stages as noted by one of them.
  • In The Man Who Knew Too Little, Wallace gets jabbed in the arm with a needle disguised as a pen and he's unconscious in seconds.
  • Subverted in Suicide Kings. The main characters, one of whom is a medical student, expect their kidnapping attempt to go like this, and are nearly killed when they find out just how difficult it is to sedate an unwilling subject in a moving car.
  • The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother. The pills Sacker puts in the wine during the opera scene. When the actors drink the wine they instantly collapse.
  • Frank Drebin's cufflink tranquilizer darts in the first NakedGun movie. However, they're not quite instant enough, since the bad guy staggers around long enough to fall over a railing to a Cruel and Unusual Death.
  • Subverted in the remake of The Wolf Man. Lawrence gets a number of injections while in the asylum, presumably to sedate him, but none take effect immediately. When a doctor tries to inject him with a sedative as he turns into a werewolf, he isn't affected at all.
  • Law Abiding Citizen: Gadgeteer Genius Clyde sets up a huge gambit to capture the thug who killed his family, the centerpiece of which is a boobytrapped pistol-boobytrapped to stab a dozen paralytic-enhanced pins into the hand of anyone who tries to fire it. The thug falls for the gambit, stealing the pistol from him and getting a surprise. The thug isn't even able to take a step before being frozen in his tracks.
  • Thor plays it straight when the title character becomes combative in the hospital. The sedative knocks him out instantly in mid-sentence.
  • Downplayed in The Fast and the Furious. In the opening scene, a trucker is shot with a tranquilizer dart. He has enough strength to swing his billy club at the shooter three or four more times, although he's still unconscious within ten seconds.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes does it a few times...Landon sedates Rocket to stop him fighting with Caesar and drops him in a few seconds
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol shows an agent poking a target at the back of the hand with a tiny needle on a ring. The target starts feeling groggy almost immediately and is out within seconds.
  • In Audition, Aoyama is injected under the tongue with a paralytic agent that seems to start working in seconds.
  • Averted in Sherlock Holmes. It takes a couple of minutes for the drugged wine Irene Adler feeds him to take effect.



  • Larry Niven's Known Space books feature "mercy needles". They are bullets made out of crystallized anaesthetic, that dissolve after penetrating the skin and knock the target out immediately. (Law enforcement uses them to capture criminals alive, so they're in good condition when sentenced to being broken up for spare parts.)
  • A staple of covert operations in Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth universe, Instant Sedation darts are most prominently used in Bloodhype, when Kitten Kai-Sung, Mal Hammurabi, and Porsupah are infiltrating the AAnn enclave on Repler. Possibly justified by being in The Future, but it also fails No Biochemical Barriers. Oh, well.
  • Harry Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat books feature several uses of sleep capsules; break one open under a mark's nose and they lose consciousness instantly.
  • Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian:
    • In the story "The Pool of the Black One", the ship finds an island, and the crew eats a strange golden fruit, which puts them to sleep so quickly that some are still holding the fruit they were eating.
    • In "Queen of the Black Coast", Conan is struck down by the presence of the black lotus.
  • In Licence Renewed, the first of John Gardener's updated James Bond novels, Bond uses a cigarette lighter filled with halothane that seems to have an instaneous effect (provided it is deployed directly into the target's face).
  • Justified in Dune. Paul and Jessica Atreides are both dosed with a sedative that renders them unconscious for several hours. Jessica knows that for such a sedative to work, the assailant would have to have precise knowledge of their weight, age, and medical histories. By process of induction, she realizes her personal physician, Dr. Yueh, must have been the culprit.
  • Averted in the novel Jurassic Park, where the big Tyrannosaurus Rex (yes, there are two Tyrannosaurs) takes over an hour to feel it when she's shot with several times the so-called recommended tranq dose. In fact, she nearly eats the kids while everyone's waiting for her to pitch over.
  • Averted in Stolen—the characters are attacked by people with tranquiliser guns, and one seems surprised when, after being shot, Elena just plucks the tranq out with no problems. (She comments in the narrative that werewolves need an elephant-sized dose to knock them out.)
  • Non-knockout variant: In the Ghost Finders novels, Happy Jack Palmer's various mood-altering pills seem to take effect upon him within a few seconds of being swallowed. May be a subversion, as it's possible their initial effect on him is that of a placebo.
  • Dreamless Sleep Potions in Harry Potter.
  • This is a minor plot point in the tie-in novel Final Destination: End of the Line, in which a handful of med students engage in "Sux racing", wherein they inject themselves with a dose of suxamethonium, a general anaesthetic, and see how far they can run down the hall before the drug kicks in.
  • The Nancy Drew series uses chloroform a few times.

Live-Action TV

  • Often seen in House. The protagonist should be considered an Improbable Weapon User; he never misses a vein, and the drug is the exact amount needed for the specific person. Sure, it's Gregory House, but it's still amazing.
    • House does feature a subversion in the episode "One Day, One Room", when he takes down a patient that's freaking out and injects him with something. Cuddy is initially surprised that the patient still has his eyes open, and House gleefully announces that he didn't use a sedative, but a paralytic, meaning the patient is still in pain. And will stop breathing quite soon.
    • In the episode "Last Resort", when his hostage-taking "patient" insists his medication gets tested on one of the hostages first, House chooses the fat one in the hope his higher body mass will keep him conscious long enough for him to inject the gunman.
    • Very much played for laughs in "Living the Dream", where House sedates a soap opera star with a syringe to the neck while having an unrelated conversation with Wilson.

House: It's all about her and whatever hapless salesman wonders into her sights. She's going to lie, steal and trade your testes to get whatever she wants -- hold on, I've got to do something before he dials his second 1 (stabs man in the neck with syringe before continuing) -- you're going to end up holding her purse, humiliated, and going home to sleep on a mattress you hate.
Wilson: (watches man fall unconcious to the floor) What the hell are you doing?
House: He needs an MRI.

  • ER, too.
    • At least one episode of ER plays it straight, though. A drug-addict takes a hostage for drugs, but the nurse switches the vial. He wasn't struggling, so she got it in the vein. He made it to the parking lot.
  • Subverted in an episode of Lost, where Sayid is shot twice with tranquilizing darts. He pulls one dart out and we're led to believe that the trope is playing straight until he surprises the shooter, who approached him to confirm unconsciousness. Pretty much played straight in a lot of other episodes, featuring darts, gas and chloroform. Namely, some episodes in this respective order are: "Live Together, Die Alone", "Left Behind" and "Something Nice Back Home".
  • Common on Mission: Impossible, where the need for anesthetics that worked instantly was frequently a plot point.
  • In The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Instant Sedation is often used by both U.N.C.L.E. and THRUSH in such situations. Most common varieties: various forms of tranquilizer darts (the U.N.C.L.E. Special handgun was early established as being capable of firing "sleep darts" as well as conventional bullets, but on at least one occasion THRUSH operatives used similar darts to capture a target of their interest) and knockout gas (often lobbed, grenade style, in spherical glass containers, into the midst of a group of Mooks needing disablement).
  • Stargate SG-1
    • The episode "The Broca Divide" has both sides of this: early in the episode, they have to tie a thrashing character down and wait for the sedative to take effect; later, they go into another thrasher's isolation room, hold him steady, and inject him, making him stagger within 10 seconds.
    • In "In the Line of Duty", when Sam/Jolinar gets tranqued twice, the first case with "enough to knock out an elephant," it takes a minute before she's out.
    • In one episode Daniel shoots Osiris with a tranq dart, and she pulls it out, looks annoyed, goes and activates some transporter rings, then leaves in a spaceship. The last shot of her shows that she's just a tad off balance, and that's about two minutes after getting shot. Note that he's using a Goa'uld-specific sedative.
    • In the later seasons, people are using tranq darts all the time and they often knock the victim out in less then a second, and occasionally cause the victim to throw themselves away from the dart.
  • In Stargate Atlantis this is played with. Even the Wraith stunners, which were probably engineered to produce an electrical shock to take out the target instantly, allow those hit to react for several seconds before they fall, and that's the characters without resistance. The resistant characters can take two or three hits before falling.
  • Subverted once on The Red Green Show. Ed Frid once shot himself in the foot with a tranquilizer dart and remained conscious long enough to calculate how long he would sleep, give Red instructions on how to deal with the animal they'd captured and lay down comfortably.
  • Used in nearly every episode of Dexter as well. Although in this case, they reveal the name of the sedative, which is an animal tranquilizer that really does work that fast. It also causes significant damage to the kidneys and frequently stops hearts, but given these people won't be alive for long....
    • The one time it takes the tranquilizer longer to work, the target is an animal control worker who is holding a tranquilizer gun loaded to take down an alligator. He has enough time to shoot Dexter with it before he collapses. Dexter also has a bit of time to pull the dart out before losing consciousness. They both wake up in an ambulance with some really worried EMTs.
    • Another time Dexter is forced to inject himself with his own syringe and goes down almost instantaneously. He was faking it
  • Averted in Firefly. During a routine treatment for injury, Simon covertly injects Jayne with a sedative when he begins to show signs of planning to take command of the ship, but several minutes pass before Jayne gradually loses consciousness (mid-takeover rant, no less).

Jayne: Now we're finishing this deal, and then maybe -- maybe we'll come back for those morons... got themselves caught... and you can't change that by getting all... bendy.
Wash: All what?
Jayne: You got the light... from the console to keep you... lifting you up... They shine like... little angels... (falls to the deck)
Wash: Did he just go crazy and fall asleep?
Simon: I told him to sit down.

  • Star Trek, especially Voyager, has magic off-button hyposprays that knock people out almost instantly. Possibly justified (but more likely handwaved) by being set 400 years in the future.
  • Averted in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Wire". Garak injects himself with a sedative in an attempt to dull the pain he's in. When Bashir has a look at the dose, it's apparently "enough to anaesthetise an Algorian mammoth". Not only does it not dull the pain Garak's in, but it doesn't slow him down and he tries to give himself a second dose which would almost certainly kill him. By the end of the scene (which lasts for several minutes), Garak never acted as though the sedative had ever worked... probably justified as the pain he's in is caused by a malfunctioning brain implant that's wrecking havoc with his blood chemistry. It's also possible that, as part of his Obsidian Order training, he's built up an immense resistance to anything that someone might want to inject him with.
  • The A-Team must have had a ton of it, with how often they knocked out B.A.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    • Willow's vampire Evil Twin is instantly sedated. Also, said Evil Twin is a vampire, and thusly has no pulse to spread the sedative.
    • Also happens Once Per Episode whenever Oz's werewolfishness is involved. Not always to Oz, either.

Giles: Ow!
Buffy: Oh! Sorry!
Giles: Oh, right. Bloody priceless. (instantly unconscious)

    • The chloroform version is used by Xander, on Dawn, when Buffy wants him to get her out of town before the final battle with the First. She's not happy with him when she wakes up, TASERs him, and drives them back to town.
  • Eureka equips Taggert, the Crocodile Dundee-esque dogcatcher, with these. Used twice, to take down Fish Out of Water Marshall Jack Carter, and inadvertently, the owner of the town's biggest (and possibly only) café.
  • Subverted in Malcolm in the Middle, where trapped with a pair of lions, Malcolm shoots down the zoo personnel's idea of tranquilizing them on the grounds that the beasts would have just enough time to get angry and tear them apart (the show puts it at three minutes, which is almost certainly selling the lions short, but it's the thought that counts).
  • Mash
    • In one episode, Trapper tries to subdue a sleep-deprived Hawkeye with a syringe. He accidentally injects Frank Burns, and a few seconds later he drops to the ground, passed out.
    • In another, an unrestrained combative patient grabs a syringe of anesthetic and threatens the staff. Col. Blake tries to talk him down and then grabs the syringe. He gets a handful of the needle.

Col. Blake: Ninety nine, ninety eight... *thump*

  • Doctor Who
    • Possible subversion in the serial The Talons of Weng-Chiang. The title villain uses an unspecified knockout drug on a cloth to capture Leela, and she goes down fast... but she has enough time to tear the villain's mask off. Given the time period, it was probably either chloroform or ether.
    • Played straight in "New Earth", with a spray bottle of sedative that works ridiculously quickly (you can see it in action at 5:59; don't blink or you'll miss it). Possibly justified either by improvements in tranquilizer technology (the episode takes place about five billion years in the future) or by the differences between human and Time Lord physiology.
  • Played hilariously straight in the fourth season of Heroes where the bad guys use tube of chemicals administered nasally to sedate and disable the powers of the specials, which turned them out like a light when inserted. Used in reverse during the numerous escape and rescue scenarios, where even after days or weeks of sedation a simple removal of the tube had the heroes instantly up and ready for anything.
  • Chuck. Every time tranquilizers are used, unless the victim is Badass Normal Casey. When they have to tranquilize Jeff and Lester, Lester goes down instantly but Jeff takes multiple darts and a few minutes to lose consciousness. Jeff is a bigger guy and his past drug use made him more resistant.
  • On Arrested Development the Franklin puppet soaked in ether can immediately knock people out.
  • Subverted in The Adventures of Pete and Pete's Christmas Episode; Little Pete shoots the Garbage Man with a tranq (actually hitting a major vein!), and it takes a couple minutes of real-time to start taking effect.
  • The Prisoner used it more than once:
    • In the opening title sequence, the title character is sent promptly into unconsciousness by Knockout Gas.
    • A doctor's hypodermic needle carries a sleep drug in "A Change of Mind".
  • Subverted in Friends when Phoebe is shot in the backside with a dart. She never passes out, though she does comment that her buttock is asleep (and that the other one has no idea). Of course, the dart was intended for a very small monkey, so there probably wasn't much juice in there anyway.
  • Happens to the title character in several Wonder Woman season 1 episodes. "The Nazi Wonder Woman": a Nazi spy knocks her out with a chloroform soaked rag.
  • In 24, there is an episode where the guy actually acknowledged that he has used a paralytic on the president's husband. However, it was in a drink (the slowest way to get any kind of drug to work, since it needs to go through the digestive system first) and took a minute, max, to completely paralyze the victim everywhere, even the vocal cords. In spite of being that complete of a general paralytic, for some reason, it didn't touch the president's husband's lungs, as evidenced by his ability to, well, live a good hour or so while he was still under the influence of the paralytic.
  • Played straight in an episode of Leverage, in which Parker asks an auctioneer the traditional question, "does this rag smell like chloroform to you?", and knocks him out in about 2 seconds.
  • Happens a few times in Monk, with the most notable being when Adrian is being drugged with chloroform. He grabs the cloth, sticks his face into it, smells it, and repeatedly asks "Is this chloroform?"
  • In an episode of Burn Notice Michael narrates that injecting someone with a sedative might not knock them out right away so it is best to approach from behind and physically subdue them while the sedative takes effect. This was then subverted when the target spots them and they end up simply tackling him and tying him up
  • Averted in Law and Order Special Victims Unit. A mentally unstable suspect has a psychotic break in the interview room, Benson and Stabler have to restrain him while Dr. Wong injects him with a sedative, the man is even more unhinged, and Dr. Wong says it will take at least 10 minutes to work.
  • Batman
    • "The Bookworm Turns". The sleeping gas released by the Bookworm's booby-trapped book renders Robin unconscious in seconds.
    • "While Gotham City Burns". The Bookworm uses a package booby-trapped with sleep gas to render Alfred and Aunt Harriet unconscious so he can steal a book from the Wayne manor library.
    • Let's be honest, Batman invoked this trope constantly.

Pro Wrestling

  • At Wrestlemania IX, nefarious villain (and terrible wrestler) Giant Gonzalez used a chloroform soaked rag during his match against The Undertaker. This did knock out The Undertaker in under a minute, but got Gonzalez disqualified; so The Undertaker won anyways. Somewhat subverted in the fact that while it took less then a minute to knock him out, The Undertaker woke up very shortly afterward and chased Gonzalez out of the ring.
  • In one episode of Raw, The Big Show was shot by a tranquilizer dart used to take down dangerous animals. He may be a giant, but a rampaging deer still weighs more than twice his size. They didn't show a concern for him overdosing, but they did have him raging and ready to fight until it kicked in five minutes later so it's up to you to decide if this was played with, played straight, averted, inverted, or subverted.

Video Games

  • Averted in Deus Ex. JC's mini-crossbow can be loaded with Tranquilizer Darts which take several seconds to subdue the target. And, furthering the aversion, the victim runs around yelling for help before falling unconscious. Though shooting them in the head plays it straight, earning you an instant knock-out.
    • The Tranquilizer Rifle in Human Revolution works the same, and further averts the trope in that there is a small chance of it killing someone (it seems some enemies are randomly given the trait of dying when hit with any non-lethal attack but a take-down).
    • Also alert enemies take longer to fall over and shots near the head work quicker.
  • Played straight and averted in Metal Gear Solid. Hitting somebody in the head or the heart with the tranquilizing weapons (that is, not the stun grenades or the taser-like weapons) knocks out instantly while hitting the belly or the limbs delays the effect. Some of the boss characters are bizarrely resiliant to tranquilizer rounds, though, and can take several rounds to the head before passing out, even though Otacon insists that the tranquilizer rounds are potent enough to knock out an elephant.
    • The MGS bosses are simply that badass.
    • There's also the rag and gas cigarette items in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater which both instantly knock out enemies. But don't use the rag too much of it might knock Snake out himself. They are also especially handy because Snake can use them while wearing the certain camos.
  • Final Fantasy IX plays this straight after the Festival of the Hunt. Princess Garnet puts a sedative in the food that her uncle Cid provides, making sure to leave it out of her own food and Steiner's. Within less than a minute, everyone who has consumed the affected food is down for the count, and Garnet is able to make her planned escape.
  • Hitman makes liberal use of this, particularly in later games.
  • Averted with the Lantern Spider enemies in The Funhouse level from American McGee's Alice - while they have needles with what is symbolically a sedative liquid, getting jabbed by one of them causes the screen to go bizarre for a few minutes.
  • Occurs in Crysis, although given the capabilities of your nanosuit it may be a tiny bit more realistic.
  • Played straight in the Ultimate Spider-Man video game when Silver Sable tries to kidnap Peter Parker by knocking him out with a couple of tranquilizer darts... for a few minutes anyway. Then his enhanced metabolism kicks in allowing him to wake up earlier than he was supposed to and resist all subsequent shots. Cue boss battle where he has to fight off both Silver Sable and her mercenaries while trying not to succumb to the effects of the tranquilizers in his system.
  • Second Sight has people staggering around for a few moments after being hit with tranquillizer darts,then reacting like they have been punched in the chest and falling over. Hitting them in the head takes them down instantly.
  • In The Several Journeys of Reemus: Chapter two, Reemus is shot from offscreen by a dart so loaded with sedative that it actually sprays a considerable amount on Liam when it hits. Liam has just enough time to identify the sedative before he, too, is shot and goes under. Later on, they have to collect a sample of it (it's a type of honey made by a particular bee, which is so potent that even a small amount contains enough sugar to induce a temporary diabetic coma) to exploit its faux-sedative properties.
  • Used frequently in the Monster Hunter series, with Tranq Bombs, Tranq S bowgun ammo, and even Tranq Throwing Knives, required for monster capture quests. Though, to be fair, first you have to weaken them significantly and catch them in a trap. They have no effect otherwise.
  • During Rachel's gag reel in Continuum Shift, Litchi destroys the candy Kokonoe's offering due to it possessing a powerful sleeping pill. Kokonoe confesses, but not before adding that "This shit would knock the Black Beast out!"
  • Pokémon have various methods of instantly inducing "sleep" including Sleep Powder, Hypnosis, Sing, and Lovely Kiss.

Web Comics

  • Subverted and Lampshaded in The Last Days of Foxhound. When Liquid is possessed by Big Boss and he is threatening Raven, he is shot in the head with a high dosage tranq dart by Wolf, and it takes him several seconds to fall unconscious, causing Raven to say "That took way too fucking long". Also subverted when the Cyborg Ninja is tranquilized and remains conscious long enough to flee.

Wolf: I can never get ze dose right vith zese super-humans.

  • An example not using chemical means: in The Law of Purple, we discover that Wraithe can send electric shocks through soft tissue, strong enough to knock someone out almost immediately. Daimon does this to Blue via kiss, though that method was used more for the psychological effect.
  • Girl Genius
    • The webcomic has "stun bullets" and several varieties of sleeping gas grenades. No word on how they actually work, but the stun bullets at least look like they're killing their targets. Unless it was just that Tarvek looked pretty messed up to begin with and Lucrezia wasn't paying much attention, which is very possible.
    • When Gilgamesh blew extract of Somnia dust and Zola used a gas grenade looking much the same, those knocked out instantly, but the victims recovered fairly quickly.
  • Dominic Deegan has instant paralysis darts that, bizarrely wear off moments after being removed.
  • In The Dragon Doctors, this is explicitly one of surgeon Goro's talents: managing magical sedatives and anesthesia. Surgery in the far-flung (and magical) future is vastly quicker and easier. During the Die Hard in a Hospital chapter, Goro knocks out two of the thieves with a single injection to the neck (it helps that she has the talent to aim directly at the carotid artery).
  • Used in Inhuman, where Cinne is stabbed with an anesthetic to keep him from running away. To be fair, they do note that it won't take effect immediately, and the doctor is using an injector, rather than a straight needle. Played straight, however, as in the confusion of the situation, the doctor only managed to get the needle in at his shoulder blade, yet it is still treated like it will affect him as fast as getting stabbed in a vein.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • An episode of The Fairly OddParents in which a Drill Sergeant Nasty, Jorgen von Strangle, is quickly rendered insensate using two darts (humorously marked "K" & "O") during a fit of animalistic rage.
    • This trope is also a favorite of Vicky's in several episodes, whether she's using tranquilizers or Truth Serums.
  • Jonny Quest TOS episodes:
    • "The Quetong Missile Mystery". In what may be a Lampshade Hanging, Race Bannon makes a note of how fast anaesthetic darts work on enemy guards.
    • "Pirates from Below". Race and Bandit are knocked out by a tranquilizer dart rifle wielded by an enemy operative.
  • Max Steel used this at least twice.
  • Family Guy
    • In an early episode, Peter's boss devises a contest for the company picnic, which involves taking shots at the employees with a tranq rifle and seeing who can last the longest. Most of the employees drop like stones the moment they get shot... except for Peter, who ends up with more than a dozen tranquilizer needles stuck in him, and still manages to stay conscious long enough to win the contest. It would seem that this is due to his relatively high body mass, which (in theory) would require longer for the chemicals to spread through his body.
  • The Venture Brothers
    • Subversion where the Fake Ghost Pirate Captain has not only developed a resistance to Instant Sedative but is actually addicted to the stuff.
    • Also subverted in the first episode; Brock takes about a dozen butterfly darts, and only goes down when hit with a truck. Of course, it is Brock.
  • The Simpsons
    • Bart has just been "taken" by a monkey at a local zoo, and Homer tries to save him by putting a tranq-dart into a tube and putting it into his mouth. He then inhales, and it gets self-explanatory after that.
    • Subverted in another episode when Barney is shot with a bear tranquilizer dart. He actually pulls out the dart and drinks the remaining sedative before passing out.
  • Subverted in a Ren and Stimpy cartoon parodying nature shows; Ren is accidentally shot with a tranq dart by Stimpy, and it takes a minute for him to go down. In the meantime, his voice slows down.
  • In Gargoyles, when Brooklyn is hit with one, he goes down almost instantly, but is still blinking groggily when he's dragged away—so it may not have put him out completely at all.
  • The Herculoids. In "Sarko the Arkman", the title Villain uses a sleep mist on Zandor.
  • Space Ghost episode "The Looters". Brak uses a sleep gas missile on a ship.
  • In one of the Gorillaz short animated idents, 2D is knocked out cold by just a whiff of gas.
  • In Wakfu season 2, the Justice Knight captures fugitives with his Justice Train by trapping them inside the wagon, which then fills with a golden Knockout Gas. The effects are shown to be immediate even with the heroes.
  • Invoked frequently in Inspector Gadget, usually in the form of a knockout gas.
  • Subverted in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Sideshow". Killer Croc has just escaped from a train transporting him to prison, but not before being shot with a sedative in his upper arm. He manages to tussle with Batman, attempt to crush a downed Bats' head with a rock, run through the woods for, at the very least, several minutes, push down a full-grown tree, and fight off Batman again, all while only experiencing moderate dizziness from the sedative. He finally goes under after falling down a waterfall.
  • Played straight in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Bad Hair Day", where a naturalist who's mistaken a hair-covered Candace for a rare tangerine orangutan gets shot with one of his own tranquilizer darts, and is conscious just long enough to ask Mrs. Johnson (Jeremy's mom) to go after the "orangutan". Oddly averted later in the episode, where Dr. Doofenshmirtz gets covered in Candace's excess hair and ends up getting shot with a tranquilizer, and he's merely groggy and delirious aftewards. The episode ends with a still-barely-conscious Doofenshmirtz stumbling through a nature preserve singing a random song about getting "Shot in the Butt with a Dart", only to fall asleep in the middle of his song.
  • In King of the Hill, Bill adopts a dog to participate in a dog dancing competition, which turns out to be highly vicious and corners Bill in his shower. Bill attempts to grab some sleeping pills from the medicine cabinet using a wire hanger and get the dog to swallow them. He is out cold within seconds.

Real Life

  • The RSI (Rapid Sequence Intubation) cocktail: low-dose fentanyl (pain management), etomidate (rapid-acting induction agent), and succinylcholine (rapid-acting paralytic). Injected IV, will take a patient from awake and screaming to unconscious and paralyzed in 30 seconds. Of course, the objective is to intubate the patient (who can't breathe for himself at this point), after which you'll start a sedative drip (such as propofol) for maintenance.
    • Alternatively the fentanyl can be substituted for midazolam or lorazepam (or another benzo) for amnestic effect.
  • Averted rather heavily when Russian special forces attempted to defuse a hostage situation by filling the building they were being held in with gas meant to neutralize the terrorists. However, they ended up inadvertently killing hundreds of hostages with the gas.
  1. Note that datura poisoning is actually similar in effect to nightshade, including acute hallucinations, and death.