Created By: Larkmarn on March 29, 2013 Last Edited By: StrixObscuro on April 21, 2015

Chemically Induced Insanity

A character is given drugs to make him seem insane.

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Trope
Despite being perfectly sane, a character is given drugs that make people around him think that he is insane. This is usually done maliciously and without the character's knowledge. Frequently done to get a character out of the way when killing them would be too messy, or simply to discredit them

Often this would be maintained by having a caregiver giving the patient "medicine" to treat their mental illness, but in reality is dosing them to keep them insane.

Compare Psycho Serum where a character intentionally takes a drug to enhance himself, but it induces insanity as a side-effect; also compare Infectious Insanity which is another "manufactured" way to cause insanity.

Examples

Live-Action TV
  • Sierra's backstory in Dollhouse. After spurning the advances of a rich man, he is so angered that he doses her and has her put into a mental ward.
  • Used a few times in Psych:
    • In "Shawn Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Shawn goes into a mental ward to try to prove that a crimelord is faking insanity to get an Insanity Defense. Turns out this trope is at play instead, and he is being continually dosed by one of the nurses.
    • Happens to Lassiter in "Heeeeeere's Lassie", where the killer is putting a chemical in the air vents to drive certain residents insane.
    • Occurs yet again when a law firm has a man dosed so that people think he's an insane conspiracy nut to discredit them when he is building a case against them when he finds that they've had some shady dealings.
  • In It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Frank ODs on a number of mental medications, leading to him wandering the street in soiled pants. He then gets taken to a mental ward (an Actor Allusion, as Danny DeVito was in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). Once the medication wears off, he breaks out.
  • One episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has a villain of the week who has a girl she was abusing (who witnessed her murder another child in her care) committed and drugged (she managed to convince the staff that the girl was legitimately insane, but the trope was otherwise in effect). Another episode inverts it, by having a corrupt nursing home take a patient off his meds to prevent him from telling anyone about a patient who died due to negligence.
  • The X-Files: In the second season finale, it is revealed that Mulder's erratic behavior of late was due to drugs in his water supply, presumably done by The Conspiracy to discredit him.
  • Diagnosis: Murder, season 6, episode 6 'Alienated': in a possible Shout-Out to The X-Files and its 'Anasazi' episode a doctor is poisoned by a pharmaceutical company inducing paranoia regarding a secret military base to destroy his credibility in respect to a new drug.
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • March 29, 2013
    Koveras
  • March 29, 2013
    Bisected8
    • One episode of Law And Order Special Victims Unit has a villain of the week who has a girl she was abusing (who witnessed her murder another child in her care) committed and drugged (she managed to convince the staff that the girl was legitimately insane, but the trope was otherwise in effect). Another episode inverts it, by having a corrupt nursing home take a patient off his meds to prevent him from telling anyone about a patient who died due to negligence.
  • March 30, 2013
    Arivne
    Literature
    • In John D. McDonald's Travis McGee novel Nightmare in Pink, McGee has a hallucinatory drug slipped into his drink. When he loses control he's taken into custody by the bad guys and sent to a mental hospital so he can be interrogated and lobotomized.
  • March 30, 2013
    Koveras
    May be administered by Tampering With Food And Drink and/or Water Source Tampering.

    • In The X Files episode "Anasazi", The Conspiracy attempted to make it look like Fox Mulder finally snapped by pumping LSD into his water pipes.
  • March 30, 2013
    WeAreAllKosh
    .
  • March 30, 2013
    Lumpenprole
    Real Life: In the bad old days of mental health care, a person accused of being mentally unsound would often be brought to their competency hearing doped to the gills- for their own good of course.Being drugged into drooling semi-conciousness isn't conducive to making a good impression.
  • March 30, 2013
    DracMonster
    Maybe this should be expanded to when someone is made physically ill with drugs as well.

    When I saw this thought of the scene in the 2009 Star Trek film where Bones makes Kirk sick with a drug to sneak him aboard the Enterprise on the pretense of having to keep him under observation.

    Artifically Induced Illness
  • March 30, 2013
    Alvin
    Live-Action TV: Diagnosis Murder, season 6, episode 6 'Alienated': in a possible Shout Out to The X Files and its 'Anasazi' episode a doctor is poisoned , I think, by a pharmaceutical company to destroy his credibility in respect to a new drug.
  • April 15, 2013
    SteveMB
    If we expand this properly, we might be able to include other forms of insanity inducement. Remote audio inducement:

    Live Action TV:
    • NCIS: One Victim Of The Week was driven mad by a hidden speaker with a radio receiver.
    Western Animation:
  • April 15, 2013
    StarSword
    Literature:

    • In the Warhammer 40000 novel Blood Angels: Deus Encarmine the traitorous Inquisitor Stele drugs a Blood Angel who stumbled onto his plot to trigger the Black Rage in him.
  • April 16, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Would amnesia count as "insanity"? In an episode of Get Smart a doctor secretly working with KAOS gives Max pills to help "cure" his amnesia but it really makes it worse. Every hour, just as Max's memory starts to come back, it's time for another pill.
  • April 16, 2013
    Noaqiyeum
    Compare Gaslighting, another way in which one character can make another seem insane.
  • May 13, 2013
    SteveMB
    In one "Treehouse of Horror" story, Kodos and Kang spray Homer with rum so people will dismiss his alien-abduction story as drunken ravings.

  • April 13, 2015
    StrixObscuro
    Literature
    • In Crash Deluxe, Parrish Plessis is nearly driven insane by Glorious and her powerful pheromone blends.
    • In the opening of the Venus Prime series, Sparta has spent several years of her life being drugged into oblivion by the Free Spirit.

    Live Action TV
    • Inverted in an episode of Leverage where Parker checks into an addiction-treatment center as part of the team's latest con, where she is given anti-depressants and becomes temporarily relieved of her kleptomaniacal tendencies.
  • April 13, 2015
    zarpaulus
    • In Red 2 Dr. Bailey was given drugs by the mental institution where he was locked up that made him hyperactive and babble incoherently. However, once he's off his meds he tries to start WWIII.
  • April 13, 2015
    Generality
    • In Second Sight, this is how the Big Bad disposes of Jayne- by putting her in an asylum, doped up on meds that make her seem schizophrenic. After some time to recover post-rescue, and a bit of psychic healing, she snaps out of it.
  • April 13, 2015
    DAN004
  • April 13, 2015
    Chabal2
    SCP Foundation: Dr. Clef once held an orientation meeting with new researchers on the subject of Reality Warpers. He'd spiked the food and drink with hallucinogens so that when he started yelling at them that reality was being changed, they believed it, driving home just how helpless you are against such SC Ps.

  • April 14, 2015
    DAN004
    Compare Addled Addict.
  • April 21, 2015
    Gowan
    • In Dragon Blood, the protagonist is given drugs as part of a plot to make him seem unfit to rule. The reader gets to know what he thinks his surroundings look like (people talking to him are monsters, etc).
  • April 21, 2015
    randomsurfer
    Would amnesia count as insanity for this?
    • In an episode of Get Smart Max gets a Tap On The Head and is diagnosed with amnesia. He's given some pills which are supposed to help. However, the doctor is actually working for KAOS and the pills cause amnesia. Every hour, just as he's starting to remember things, he has to take a pill which sets him back to square one.
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