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. This isn't always because it's a simple street drug that people are horribly addicted to. Sometimes, it's actually a cancer cure, Super Serum
, or another form of Applied Phlebotinum
. Whichever the case, things become so bad that the general populace depends on drugs as their last hope of survival. 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 a Sub-Trope
of Terminally Dependent Society
, in which 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
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- 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.
- 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.
- In Embassytown, the local Starfish Aliens become addicted to an imperfect form of their Starfish Language produced by human settlers.
Live Action TV
- The 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, 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.
- 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 the droplets 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.
- 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.
- Heroin, and even its name reflected this, being derived from "heroisch," meaning "heroic." When it was first synthesized and produced, it was seen as a great painkiller and cough medicine (which it is, although to the degree that a nuclear bomb is a great demolition device), a cure for alcoholism and morphine addiction without people realizing that it was itself addictive, and a new wonder drug alongside aspirin for this - even being sold over the counter and being stored and used by people in various contexts....
- Methamphetamine. When it was first synthesized (and plain amphetamine before it) both were seen as "wonder drugs" for their ability to keep soldiers and military pilots awake for hours on end. Both Adolf Hitler and the Imperial Japanese Army were on near-constant doses, and there are some theories that so much of the near-psychotic evil engaged in by both the Nazis and Imperial Japanese was all done on a massive meth bender. It didn't help that post-war, all those stocks of methamphetamine poured into the Japanese market - making meth to the day of this writing still one of Japan's most popular illegal drugs, with everyone from yakuza to salarymen to artists and musicians becoming heavy users or addicts - and in those post-war days, meth made its way around the world, becoming a problem in far more places than it originally was.
- Cannabis, for as much as it may seem to be presented as such by its more devoted fans and users now, is actually an inversion: due to prohibition, propaganda, and more, the safety and utility of both hemp (the nonpsychoactive plant in the family) and to cannabis itself dropped off of the public radar in much of the Western world and in the places influenced by its demands for drug control. Only over time and beginning around The Sixties and The Seventies did use increase, and the studies and science actually followed the use, only slowly catching up to prove its relative safety and relatively low toxicity in comparison to other psychoactives, create strains and methods of consumption that focused on different effects for both recreation and health, and even discover a potential cancer-fighting application for cannabis and rediscover potential environmental benefit for hemp, which ironically may be a Plant Messiah so to speak - an easily growable, easily prolific, drought-tolerant plant that can possibly be used to make everything from food products and fuels to buildings and clothing, and that if it even could take over half the uses of petroleum and forest trees globally, would solve major "unsolvable" environmental dilemmas.