Created By: fulltimeD on December 21, 2012 Last Edited By: fulltimeD on January 23, 2013

Drug Enhanced Heroics

Better Heroics Through Elective Chemistry

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
Peter: Walter? Are you tripping?
Walter: Most definitely.
--A typical exchange from Fringe

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. And so do mind-altering drugs. Sometimes, these things arrive in the same package.

This is a character, (usually) on the protagonists' side, whose abilities, whether mental or physical, are significantly augmented by his or her use of mind-bending substances. They are not always The Hero, but they can be. When they are The Hero, they run a high probability of also being a Science Hero (probably because this trope is to recreational drug use what Science Hero is to Applied Phlebotinum). Just as often, they will be a sidekick, but even then, expect their drug-induced antics to take center stage every once in a while. These characters are highly prone to being Cloudcuckoolanders, for very obvious reasons. More rarely, they may be an Erudite Stoner. The unifying factor is that, where drugs would debilitate other characters, drugs enhance or enable this character's creative genius, super-strength, or other unusual abilities. Whether the ability is "mundane" or "fantastic" doesn't matter, only that it is enhanced by recreational drugs. In very extreme examples of this trope the writer plays up the drug use with the same epic proportions as the heroics; however, it's usually Played for Laughs.

Please note that this trope generally doesn't cover G-Rated Drugs, as these are not actually drugs in-universe. Popeye's infamous Spinach-Dependency and Scooby and Shaggy's extreme love for Scooby-Snacks are not examples.

Subtrope of Functional Addict. Sistertrope of Drunken Master.

This is a Super Trope to Addiction Powered, which is about people who gain superpowers from taking chemical substances they're addicted to.

Due to Missing Supertrope Syndrome many of the examples on that page aren't about substances the user is addicted to, and are thus actually this trope.

This trope does not cover characters who frequently use substances without a generally positive effect on their abilities. Scotty, for example, was famous for his love of liquor, but it was never stated or suggested that he's a better engineer when he's drinking, so he is not an example. Just using substances isn't enough; the substance has to empower the character or augment their abilities.

Examples:

Audio Play

  • In the Firesign Theatre's The Giant Rat of Sumatra comedy album, the protagonist Hemlock Stones, the Great Defective, used huge amounts of nose candy (cocaine) to help him solve the mystery. (Unlike the character he was parodying, who only used cocaine between cases, to distract himself.)

Comic Books

  • Gilbert Shelton had a couple:
    • The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers spent most of their time getting high or trying to get high. Without drugs, they fall into a depressed stupor, and they frequently consumed specific drugs to escape from particularly perilous situations.
    • Dealer McDope, a spin-off of the previous, featured the on-going adventures of the world-trotting dope dealer.
  • Spider Jerusalem, the protagonist of Transmetropolitan, consumes an almost endless stream of various sorts of drugs to help inspire him in his journalism.

Film

  • Eddie Jessop from the film Altered States (one of the inspiration sources for Fringe, see below) attempts to unlock the mysteries of the universe using a psychoactive extract of a drug made by native shamans in Mexico. Whether he could be called a "hero" though probably depends on whose version of the story one favors: Jessop's, or his wife's and best friend/lab partner.
  • The senior Douglas Fairbanks starred in a 1916 comedy short The Mystery of the Leaping Fish, as hero detective Coke Ennyday, who wore and used a bandolier of syringes.
  • Jay and Silent Bob of the View Askewniverse (the setting of most of Kevin Smith's films) generally fit this role when they are featured as main characters, or as aids to other characters, such as in the film Dogma. Apparently, the Real Life Jason Mewes ("Jay") is a tragic aversion.

Literature

  • The protagonists of The Illuminatus! Trilogy use drugs to achieve altered states of consciousness, which grant them protection for the eponymous global conspiracy's mind control techniques.
  • In Chester Anderson's Hugo-nominated The Butterfly Kid (first book of The Greenwich Trilogy), the protagonists' extensive experience with drugs allows them to cope with the effects of the alien's "reality pill" and use the manifested hallucinations to fight off the aliens.
  • In the Marid Audran series, Audran regularly uses his favorite "triphets" (a form of speed) to help him keep up with and out-think his opponents.
  • In the Gaea Trilogy, Captain Cirocco made sure to bring her (now-legal) cocaine supply along with her on the trip to Titan, to help with her duties.
Literature
  • In the Fourlands Trilogy, Comet Jant Shira uses the hallucinogen Scolopendium to mentally travel to another plane of existence known as "The Shift", where he gains insights into the origin of the intelligent insects who are besieging the empire.

Live-Action Television

  • Fringe:
    • Walter Bishop, also a Science Hero, is an uber-example, a literal Mad Scientist whose creative use of mind-altering substances very often proves essential to solving the case of the week or defeating the Big Bad. Walter also uses drugs fairly often to calm himself in tense situations, aid his fragmented memory, and generally explore the nebulous boundaries of reality, all while munching on candy and saving the world. About once a season, the show endeavors to explore the inside of Walter's mind while he is enjoying one of his drug concoctions (most frequently Marijuana or LSD), and the titles of these episodes are usually named for specific drugs ("Brown Betty," "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide" and "Black Blotter").
    • William Bell is a more neutral or antagonistic, depending on the timeline example. Like Walter, he came up with most of his best ideas on drugs. He and Walter were old lab partners and frequently dropped Acid together.
    • Olivia Dunham, whose brain chemistry and physiology were altered as a child using the "do-anything" drug Cortexiphan, also counts. Let's count the ways: first, her mundane skills (like her eidetic memory) are enhanced to near superhuman-levels by Cortexiphan; more fantastic is her ability to see into the Alternate Universe and even to cross over at will when properly stimulated. Many episodes of Fringe revolve around artificially stimulating the cortexiphan in Olivia's system, or dosing her with more of the drug. Or dosing her with other drugs like LSD that interact with Cortexiphan. There's a lot of drug use on Fringe.
  • Farscape:
    • John Crichton falls well into this territory when he's not being a Science Hero or Badass Longcoat. His use of drugs isn't always voluntary, though. Sometimes Noranti or another alien will dope him up, but this will almost always be treated as a Chekhov's Gun when whatever alien drug he's on turns out to be the reason he's immune to the bad guys' powers. Most notably, Noranti supplied Crichton with a drug that he used in the 4th season to try to get over his feelings for Aeryn, as well as defeat Grayza's interrogation pheromones.
    • This also gets rather humorously inverted in "A Clockwork Nebari" where the Nebari take over Moya and "Mind-Cleanse" the crew. Crichton, due to the influence of Scorpius' neurochip (a device that drives him insane over the course of 2 seasons), is immune to the Mind-Cleanse, but spends most of the episode pretending to be affected and talking like a stoner so as not to tip the Nebari off that the cleansing didn't work.
    • Noranti herself is an example of the sidekick version. She uses her pharmacological knowledge on several occasions to aid the crew by making their enemies hallucinate.
    • Both D'Argo and Crichton are Druggies Heroes in the episode "Scratch n' Sniff," which is set on a Pleasure Planet that's home to a narcotics ring that "milks" the popular drug Freslin from sentient beings. D'Argo and Crichton use some of Freslin's more interesting properties to defeat the drug lord and save Chiana and Jool.
  • Most of the season arcs on Trailer Park Boys involve complicated schemes to make money from distributing drugs, usually Marijuana, although it never grants the main characters any special abilities. However, the main antagonist on that show, Mr. Lahey, displays traits of this with regards to his alcohol consumption (technically he's on the side of the law, and he certainly sees himself as the hero of his own story). The amount of alcohol consumed by Mr. Lahey is a kind of special ability in itself, as demonstrated by this scene. He doesn't handle his alcohol as well as he can drink it down, though.
  • In Todd and the Book of Pure Evil, Todd and Curtis like to smoke pot to help them figure out how to cope with The Book's latest shenanigans--although some of the other cast members doubt just how effective this really is.
  • Two major Aversions in Breaking Bad:
    • Walter White, who never samples his own Meth product, and whose only drug use so far on the show has been smoking some of Jesse's weed. Like many of the examples, Walter is a Science Hero who uses his knowledge of chemistry to defend himself and negotiate on several occasions, such as by cooking up a batch of explosives disguised as Crystal Meth.
    • Jesse Pinkman is the other aversion; although he is a heavy drug user, especially in early seasons, his drug use doesn't augment his abilities in any significant way, and instead tends to impair his functioning.
  • Season 1 of Heroes had Isaac Mendez, a heroin addict who could paint scenes that accurately predicted the future, but only after a fix.

Music

  • The title track of the New Riders of the Purple Sage's album Panama Red was about a fast-talking, dope-smoking cowboy hero. (The name comes from a variety of marijuana that was very popular in the late 1960s.)

Video Games

  • This is possible in the Fallout series, where your character can use all manner of stimulants and stat-enhancing substances. If you overdo it, though, you can become addicted and will suffer stat penalties while in withdrawal.
  • In EVE Online, capsuleers can use reputedly dangerous drugs to enhance their performance in combat. These drugs are illegal in all four empires, and so must be transported carefully.

Western Animation
  • Suberted on South Park with Towelie, a walking and talking towel, who gets a "Popeye Power Up" from marijuana - but only uses it to try to get more marijuana.
Community Feedback Replies: 40
  • December 21, 2012
    Koveras
    • The protagonists of The Illuminatus Trilogy use drugs to achieve altered states of consciousness which grant them protection for the eponymous global conspiracy's mind control techniques.
  • December 21, 2012
    chihuahua0
    I would question Fringe being the Trope Codifier, however.
  • December 21, 2012
    fulltimeD
    I'll take that out, even though I think it's appropriate.

    I'm using Fringe as the page quote though, since it's such an extreme example.
  • December 21, 2012
    KTera
  • December 21, 2012
    MrRuano
    --Disregard--
  • December 21, 2012
    reub2000
    Subtrope of Functional Addict. Sistertrope of Drunken Master.
  • December 21, 2012
    Xtifr
    This has been around since at least the sixties, though it was more common in underground works back then.

    I'm also wondering if things like Dune count?

    Audio Play
    • In the Firesign Theatre's The Giant Rat of Sumatra comedy album, the protagonist Hemlock Stones, the Great Defective, used huge amounts of nose candy (cocaine) to help him solve the mystery. (Unlike the character he was parodying, who only used cocaine between cases, to distract himself.)

    Comic Books
    • Gilbert Shelton had a couple:
      • The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers spent most of their time getting high or trying to get high. Without drugs, they fall into a depressed stupor, and they frequently consumed specific drugs to escape from particularly perilous situations.
      • Dealer McDope, a spin-off of the previous, featured the on-going adventures of the world-trotting dope dealer.

    Literature
    • In Chester Anderson's Hugo-nominated The Butterfly Kid (first book of The Greenwich Trilogy), the protagonists' extensive experience with drugs allows them to cope with the effects of the alien's "reality pill" and use the manifested hallucinations to fight off the aliens.
    • In the Marid Audran series, Audran regularly uses his favorite "triphets" (a form of speed) to help him keep up with and out-think his opponents.

    Music
    • The title track of the New Riders of the Purple Sage's album Panama Red was about a fast-talking, dope-smoking cowboy hero. (The name comes from a variety of marijuana that was very popular in the late 1960s.)
  • December 21, 2012
    TehMastehSord
  • December 21, 2012
    billybobfred
    • Subverted (?) in the Flash game Get Home. When you do accomplish the title task, your significant other chews you out for your potion use.

    Not sure whether that's a subversion or a straight example, since you do need the potions to finish the game (the first time).
  • December 21, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    Live-Action TV

    Season 1 of Heroes had Isaac Mendez, a heroin addict who could paint scenes that accurately predicted the future, but only after a fix.
  • December 22, 2012
    Chabal2
    The Doctor from The Authority was a complete junkie before he reincarnated.
  • December 22, 2012
    Arivne
    This is a Super Trope to Addiction Powered, which is about people who gain superpowers from taking chemical substances they're addicted to.

    Due to Missing Supertrope Syndrome many of the examples on that page aren't about substances the user is addicted to, and are thus actually this trope.
  • December 22, 2012
    fulltimeD
    I would think Dune would definitely count. These are great examples. I'll ad them and update the description later.
  • December 22, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Suberted on South Park with Towelie, a walking & talking towel, who gets a Popeye Power Up from marijuana - but only uses it to try to get more marijuana.
  • December 22, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^^ Actually, now that Arivine mentioned Addiction Powered, I think Dune would probably fit better there. The other examples should still be fine.

    While I'm at it, I should point out that the first Farscape example is violating the Example Indentation guidelines. "The shortest version: If there is only one item at the indentation level, it ain't indented right."

    eta: might also be worth mentioning that this trope saw a bit of a revival when Cyberpunk came along.

    Literature
    • In the Gaea Trilogy, Captain Cirocco made sure to bring her (now-legal) cocaine supply along with her on the trip to Titan, to help with her duties.

    Live-Action TV
    • In Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil, Todd and Curtis like to smoke pot to help them figure out how to cope with The Book's latest shenanigans--although some of the other cast members doubt just how effective this really is.
  • December 22, 2012
    chihuahua0
    For the "Get Home" example, I think it's probably lampshading.
  • December 22, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    .
  • December 24, 2012
    Xtifr
    Comic Books
    • Spider Jerusalem, the protagonist of Transmetropolitan, consumes an almost endless stream of various sorts of drugs to help inspire him in his journalism.
  • December 25, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    The senior Douglas Fairbanks starred in a 1916 comedy short The Mystery of the Leaping Fish, as hero detective Coke Ennyday, who wore and used a bandolier of syringes.
  • December 25, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Question: How is Mario an example? Please provide some context or the example cannot be included.
  • December 25, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Also, edited, but still a work in progress.
  • December 25, 2012
    reub2000
    I think some people have interpreted the power up mushrooms as drugs.
  • December 25, 2012
    fulltimeD
    yeah I wouldn't say that that counts. This has to be confirmed in-universe.
  • December 25, 2012
    Treblain
    I'm not sure I get how it's a trope and not just a list of drug-using characters not portrayed negatively. Where's the connection that makes it a trope which these examples have in common? Using drugs to fuel superpowers or to get visions are tropes, but the supertrope of "using drugs for specific benefits" is not "using drugs for any purpose".
  • December 25, 2012
    chihuahua0
    Well, I know that at least with Walter and possibly Olivia and William Bell in Fringe, drugs help their abilities and such.
  • December 26, 2012
    fulltimeD
    @Treblain: I'm assuming you're not very familiar with the examples. I think I and the other contributors have done a pretty good job demonstrating a consistent pattern of drug use by characters to achieve specific ends, usually by empowering themselves or enhancing an already existent power, whether mundane or fantastic. That's a better definition and justification for a trope than most entries on ykttw these days. Sorry if I seem rude, but if you want targets to shoot the "not a trope" arrow at, I can point you in the direction of much more deserving non-trope ykttws.
  • December 26, 2012
    fulltimeD
    I mean, after all, Scotty from Star Trek isn't on this list of examples for a reason. His drinking, frequently shown, was never stated to have any effect on his incredible engineering skills.
  • December 28, 2012
    Luc
  • December 28, 2012
    TheMutant
    Would Sherlock Holmes qualify? He at times used the famous 'seven per cent' solution of cocaine in the ACD books (as well as sometimes morphine, it's implied), until Watson got him to stop. I'm not sure if it counts, since the cocaine doesn't actually give him super detecting powers or anything, it just stops him from becoming overly bored when there aren't cases to work on.
  • December 30, 2012
    fulltimeD
    I wouldn't include that; I am trying to make a case for this trope here
  • January 1, 2013
    fulltimeD
    What are peoples' suggestions for fixing this up?
  • January 1, 2013
    Xtifr
    I think a better name might help. The current name does sort of sound like it's just about heroes who happen to take drugs. Maybe something like Drug Enhanced Hero?

    (And no, Holmes wouldn't count--his drug use was exclusively between cases.)
  • January 2, 2013
    BOFH
    Literature
    • In the Fourlands Trilogy, Comet Jant Shira uses the hallucinogen Scolopendium to mentally travel to another plane of existence known as "The Shift", where he gains insights into the origin of the intelligent insects who are besieging the empire.
  • January 3, 2013
    McKathlin
    Video Games
    • EVE Online capsuleers can use reputedly dangerous drugs to enhance their performance in combat. These drugs are illegal in all four empires, and so must be transported carefully.
  • January 20, 2013
    fulltimeD
    bump. I think this is tropeworthy. I'm willing to take suggestions, but I'm really pushing for this one.
  • January 20, 2013
    IsaacSapphire
    In Heroes, Isaac Mendez's power doesn't actually require drugs to work; he can paint the future without drugs, although he has difficulty doing so, plus Peter (with zerox power) can use Isaac's ability without drugs. Isaac's just psychologically dependent.

    Would Real-life use of amphetamines by pilots count?
  • January 20, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • A 1988 sketch on Saturday Night Live presents the All Drug Olympics, where steroids and other performance enhancing drugs are expected, nay required for all participants. Hundreds of world records are broken.
    • Implied to be the case in the Simpsons universe, if the following dialogue is to be believed:
      Lisa: I've grown a futuristic tomato by fertilizing it with anabolic steroids.
      Bart: The kind that help our Olympic athletes reach new peaks of excellence?
      Lisa: The very same.
  • January 21, 2013
    Chabal2
    • Superman The Animated Series: A soldier is testing out a suit of Powered Armor, and gets so addicted to the increased agility and power it gets treated as a drug (he gets jittery when not in it, slaps his girlfriend when she suggests he spends too much time in it), leading to his becoming a villain.
    • In Warhammer 40 K, several units make use of combat drugs, most notably the Dark Eldar and Slaaneshi-aligned troops, who are anything but heroic. On the Imperial side, the Eversor assassin and Penal Legions make liberal use of combat drugs.
  • January 21, 2013
    Arivne
    Tabletop Games
    • Classic Traveller
      • Combat drug increased Strength and Endurance by two points for about eight minutes. Slow drug allowed the user to act twice as fast as normal. Both drugs caused damage to the user after they wore off.
      • Double Adventure 3 The Argon Gambit/Death Ship had improved forms of combat drug that raised Strength and Endurance by 5 points or increased them to 15 points. They could make a combatant truly superhuman.
    • Shadowrun had a number of drugs that increased combat ability such as Cram, Jazz, Kamikaze and Nitro.
  • January 23, 2013
    fulltimeD
    will update soon...

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=g3e67yncq7ugnmhii3b7j0w7