Created By: SpaceWolf on July 14, 2012 Last Edited By: SpaceWolf on July 28, 2012
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Chemical Messiah

When a drug is percieved by characters as a savior to mankind

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This is the Crystal Dragon Jesus of the Crapsack World. A drug (often of the illegal variety) is seen as either an object of salvation or as vital to the structure of society and is therefore worshipped or hoarded. Sometimes it's a cancer cure. Sometimes it's a simple street drug. Whichever the case, things become so bad that the general populace depends on drugs as their last hope of survival. This isn't always because people are horribly addicted to it. People, whether correctly or incorrectly, believe that it will end their catastrophe. Thus, they stockpile as much of it as possible. This more often than not goes horribly wrong. Sometimes, it will plunge the world into further chaos because people begin to abuse it. Other times, it will have been abused already and those who are addicted to it will think of it as their last hope. In either case, people will do anything to get it. Even as it causes further damage, they will continue to believe that it will make things better.

This often overlaps with MacGuffin. This is a more cynical version of Destructive Saviour. It is related to Terminally Dependent Society, where a society is so dependent on a piece of Phlebotinum that it can't function without it. See also Utopia Justifies the Means. Compare and contrast with Dark Messiah. It is not to be confused with a Messiah figure who snorts Meth.

Examples:

Film

  • Mostly edited out of the final cut of RoboCop 2, but the villain Cain was a cult leader who thought the drug he used and was distributing, "Nuke", was the key to higher consciousness.

  • Serenity. The Alliance wants its populations to be docile and peaceful, so it develops the drug Pax (G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate) and tests it on the planet Miranda, causing most of the population to lie down and die and the rest to turn into the Reavers.

  • In Equilibrium, the drug Prozium makes people emotionless. The top brass sell it as a solution to man's tendency to war and strife. It isn't addictive, though going off of it can be difficult for people because it's almost like going on a drug, with a flood of emotions that are hard to control or hide.

Literature

  • Melange from Dune counts as this.

  • In Under the Dome by Stephen King, there's a character known as the "Chef" who cooks meth for the Big Bad. He regular uses his own product and spends the majority of his time in a meth-induced hyper-religious haze, wherein he believes he's doing God's work.

  • In The Dresden Files, the drug Third-Eye has a vaguely new age style following it also does seem to give muggles some degree of magical power.

Live-Action Television

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Symbiosis" features a medicine that supposedly cures the race of a planet from some sort of illness. Except that the medicine is really a drug curing them of nothing more than severe withdrawal symptoms! The people believed that it was their last saviour of mankind, but it wasn't. OK, so yes it did cure them at one point, but now the people of the planet had become drug addicts.

  • Wild Palms: The drug Mimezine, used to make holographic images appear more real, had religious overtones, considering that the Scientology-like antagonist cult (Synthiotics/The New Realism) in the miniseries controlled the pharmaceutical labs where it was manufactured as well as the media outlets which benefited from its use by consumers. Senator Kreutzer, the Big Bad, certainly thought that opening the doors of perception using Mimezine was one of the first steps to enlightenment in the New Realist/Synthiotics paradigm.

  • In an episode of Sliders, the crew visit an alternate Earth decimated by plague. Eventually they realise that antibiotics were never discovered in this timeline, so Arturo creates some penicillin, which becomes the Chemical Messiah for this world.

    • In another episode of Sliders, nanite-tainted water absorbs people into a Hive Mind.

Video Games

  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution has Neuropozyne; any augmentation that will be moved by the mind requires a neuroprosthetic junction, essentially a chip in the brain that acts as the interface between body and machine (cybernetic arms, legs, eyes, etc). However, this process causes what is described in-game as "nerve scars"; these scars eventually interfere with the integrity of the chip and it causes the body to reject the augmentation. The only way to prevent that is to take weekly doses of Neuropozyne, a drug that's avilable as prescription only and whose distribution is heavily monitored which has lead to it selling for exorbitant prices on the secondhand market.

  • This is more of an individual thing, but Norman from Heavy Rain wears sunglasses that function as a reality warping device that assists him in investigations. The problem with this is that they seriously screw with his perception of reality and cause him to hallucinate. He gets dangerously addicted to this. To counteract this, he takes a fictional drug called Triptocaine, which functions similarly to cocaine and certain narcotics/pain meds. The Triptocaine causes him to get even more addicted and screwed out of his mind. He also suffers withdrawals from it, which have a slew of symptoms. The only ways to stop these are drinking or rinsing himself in cold water, waiting it out, or taking more Triptocaine.

  • n a post-apocalyptic RPG Neuroshima, there is a Maybe Magic Maybe Mundane phenomenon called black tornado, a moving cloud of unknown substance, leaving hardened droplets in its wake. Those who get caught too close and inhale the cloud or purposefully eat a droplet go catatonic for about 20 hours while their mind seemingly experiences Mental Time Travel to a body of a random person, allowing them to experience the last day before the bombs fell. Obviously, there are people who follow news of black tornado, gather the droplets and sell them as drugs. But there are also people who fully believe in the visions and take drugs day after day, hoping that one day the random person will be the president of the U.S. and they will get a chance to stop the war from happening.

Western Animation

  • In the South Park episode Timmy 2000 (Season 4, Episode 4), all of the kids are prescribed Ritalin after they are diagnosed to have ADD. This applies on a lower level.
Community Feedback Replies: 36
  • July 14, 2012
    Lumpenprole
    Mostly edited out of the final cut of Robocop 2, but the villain Cain was a cult leader who thought the drug he used and was distributing, "Nuke", was the key to higher conciousness
  • July 14, 2012
    raven2785
    • Deus Ex Human Revolution - has Neuropozyne, any augmentation that will be moved by the mind requires a neuroprosthetic junction, essentially a chip in the brain that acts as the interface between body and machine (cybernetic arms, legs, eyes, etc), however this process causes what is described in-game as "nerve scars", this scars eventually interfere with the integrity of the chip and it causes the body to reject the augmentation, the only way to prevent that is to take weekly doses of Neuropozyne, a drug that's avilable as prescription only and whose distribution is heavily monitored which has lead to it selling for exorbitant prices on the secondhand market.
  • July 14, 2012
    Earnest
    This is related to Terminally Dependent Society, where a society is so dependent on a piece of Phlebotinum that it can't function without it. See also Utopia Justifies The Means.

    • In Equilibrium the drug Prozium makes people emotionless. The top brass sell it as a solution to man's tendency to war and strife. It isn't addictive, though going off of it can be difficult to people because it's almost like going on a drug, with a flood of emotions that are hard to control or hide.
  • July 15, 2012
    Arivne
    The Other Wiki's List of fictional medicines and drugs may have more examples you can use.
  • July 15, 2012
    triassicranger
    Star Trek The Next Generation episode "Symbiosis" features a medicine that supposedly cures the race of a planet from some sort of illness. Except that the medicine is really a drug curing them of nothing more than severe withdrawal symptoms!

    I'm not sure if this counts because the people believed that it was their last saviour of mankind, but it wasn't. OK, so yes it did cure them at one point, but now the people of the planet had become drug addicts.
  • July 15, 2012
    DragonQuestZ
    Would the Melange from Dune count?
  • July 15, 2012
    Blubble
    Funny, I instantly thought of the spice melange as well and was about to add it. I definitely think it counts, besides I have a vague memory that in one of the books it's mentioned that the spice can be consumed as a drug or something.
  • July 15, 2012
    LordCirce
    In the South Park episode Timmy 2000 (Season 4, Episode 4), all of the kids are prescribed Ritalin after they are diagnosed to have ADD. This may apply on a lower level.
  • July 15, 2012
    SharleeD
    The example write-ups you've listed are rather lengthy. Any chance you could summarize some of them to avert the Wall Of Text effect?
  • July 16, 2012
    SpaceWolf
    I have a lot to do today. Could you cut them down for me?
  • July 16, 2012
    Generality
    Should we allow real-life examples? If so, LSD and peyote probably qualify.
  • July 16, 2012
    Shnakepup
    • In Under The Dome by Stephen King, there's a character known as the "Chef" who cooks meth for the Big Bad. He regular uses his own product and spends the majority of his time in a meth-induced hyper-religious haze, wherein he believes he's doing God's work.
  • July 16, 2012
    zarpaulus
    From most of these examples I don't think the given name is entirely appropriate. I see very few where the drug is "worshiped".
  • July 16, 2012
    SpaceWolf
    It's not so much of a worship thing as it is a savior thing. But I will either get better examples or change the name.
  • July 16, 2012
    SpaceWolf
    Real life examples would be fine, Generality.
  • July 16, 2012
    SpaceWolf
    Admittedly, Zarpaulus, my description is rather open to interpretation. Maybe I should add further clarification to avoid ambiguity?
  • July 16, 2012
    SpaceWolf
    Could somebody hunt down some examples for me in which the substance in question is legitimately worshiped?
  • July 16, 2012
    raven2785
    I think we should get rid of the fallout example in the videogames section, yes, you can addicted to mentats in all fallout games but it's not because of a "drugs are our savior" narrative thing, it's a function of the game engine, use of any consumable (except for food) in fallout games will cause you to get addicted to it, hell you can get addicted to Nuka Cola.
  • July 17, 2012
    peccantis
    I would suggest Chemical Messiah but I kind of want to reserve it in case I ever need to name a band.
  • July 17, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Live Action Television

    • Wild Palms: The drug Mimezine, used to make holographic images appear more real, had religious overtones, considering that the Scientology-like antagonist cult (Synthiotics/The New Realism) in the miniseries controlled the pharmaceutical labs where it was manufactured as well as the media outlets which benefited from its use by consumers. Senator Kreutzer, the Big Bad, certainly thought that opening the doors of perception using Mimezine was one of the first steps to enlightenment in the New Realist/Synthiotics paradigm.
  • July 17, 2012
    Bisected8
    • In The Dresden Files, the drug Third-Eye has a vaguely new age style following it also does seem to give muggles some degree of magical power.
  • July 17, 2012
    fulltimeD
    Would nanite-tainted water that absorbs people into a Hive Mind count as a drug? If so, there's a 5th-season episode of Sliders that probably deserves mention here.
  • July 17, 2012
    Earnest
  • July 18, 2012
    SpaceWolf
    Who all votes for Chemical Messiah?
  • July 19, 2012
    PaulA
    I agree with "Chemical Messiah".
  • July 19, 2012
    fulltimeD
    me too
  • July 19, 2012
    fulltimeD
  • July 19, 2012
    robinjohnson
  • July 20, 2012
    Arivne
    Chemical Solution might be confused with the chemistry term for a substance dissolved in another substance.
  • July 22, 2012
    robinjohnson
    Yes; it's called a pun.
  • July 22, 2012
    Nekojin
    Dead Rising 2 has a drug called Zombrex; the driving point of the game is The Protagonist getting doses of it to keep his daughter from turning into a zombie. Of course, the drug has to be taken daily, and there's only a limited amount of Zombrex available...
  • July 22, 2012
    Mozgwsloiku
    In a post-apocalyptic rpg Neuroshima, there is a Maybe Magic Maybe Mundane phenomenon called black tornado, a moving cloud of unknown substance, leaving hardened droplets in its wake. Those who get caught too close and inhale the cloud or purposefully eat a droplet go catatonic for about 20 hours while their mind seemingly experiences Mental Time Travel to a body of a random person, allowing them to experience the last day before the bombs fell. Obviously there are people who follow news of black tornado, gather the droplets and sell them as drugs. But there are also people who fully believe in the visions and take drugs day after day, hoping that one day the random person will be the president of the U.S. and they will get a chance to stop the war from happening.
  • July 23, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^^ Trope names that are likely to confuse readers are pretty much forbidden nowadays, mainly because they make the trope much more difficult to find.

    See Naming A Trope, Clear Concise Witty, Bad Trope Namer and Bad Snowclone.

    If someone reads the name Chemical Solution they're much more likely to think it's about the chemistry term than "drug that means salvation".
  • July 23, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Not familiar if it qualifies but their was a drug in Firefly that was supposed to cause peace, it didn't go well.
  • July 23, 2012
    robinjohnson
    • In an episode of Sliders [not the one mentioned already], the crew visit an alternate Earth decimated by plague. Eventually they realise that antibiotics were never discovered in this timeline, so Arturo creates some penicillin, which becomes the Chemical Salvation [or whatever the trope gets called] for this world.
  • July 24, 2012
    Arivne
    ^^ @captainsandwich: That was in the film Serenity.

    Film
    • Serenity. The Alliance wants its populations to be docile and peaceful, so it develops the drug Pax (G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate) and tests it on the planet Miranda, causing most of the population to lie down and die and the rest to turn into the Reavers.
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