Drug Enhanced Heroics YKTTW Discussion

Drug Enhanced Heroics
Better Heroics Through Elective Chemistry
Tropeworthy? Motion To Discard
(permanent link) added: 2012-12-21 12:25:13 sponsor: fulltimeD (last reply: 2013-01-23 13:12:58)

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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.


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.


  • 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.


  • 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.
  • 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.


  • 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.
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