Characters consuming what they think is a drug, they start acting accordingly, but turns out to be a placebo. Whether it's an oregano joint, a mysterious pill that turns out to be aspirin, or non-alcoholic beer, you'd never know it by the way the person is acting.
Related to Magic Feather
(which is what The Placebo Effect is called around here).
See also I Can't Believe It's Not Heroin
and Drunk on Milk
, for when this isn't an accident.
Anime and Manga
- Spider-Man: Peter getting drunk at Aunt May and Jonah Jameson Senior's wedding was retconned into this several issues later. He had about half a glass of actual champagne, but was so nervous about seeing Mary-Jane again that he never noticed his amused roommate was filling his glass with soda.
- Happens in Eurotrip when two characters walk into a Jamaican coffee shop in Amsterdam and order what they think are hash brownies.
- Go! had the characters selling fake ecstasy, with a scene where people are faking the high.
- In Blotto, Laurel and Hardy get drunk off a bottle of liquor that's actually tea put there by Stanley's wife.
- In 50 First Dates Adam Sandler's character will often give his dates large drinks which he says are alcoholic, but really aren't. He's found that this way the women get just as slutty as they would if they were actually drunk, but still retain all their motor skills when having sex.
- In The Birdcage, Albert believes that the "Pirin tablets" that Agador gives him actually calm him down. Guess what two letters Agador scratches off the tablets? That's right, they're really just aspirin.
- A Running Gag in The Truth; Mr. Tulip is constantly snorting various substances, but none of them are actually drugs. Many of them are quite unhealthy household chemicals, however.
- An episode of Absolutely Fabulous has the characters travel to France. Patsy gets bored and does some coke, which loosens her up enough to tolerate Saffron's presence and play table tennis. On the way back home, the drugs are found by airport security, but they determine that they were fake all along. Patsy is horrified, not because she spent a fortune on phony drugs, but because this meant she actually enjoyed playing table tennis.
- Arrested Development: Maeby drinks some virgin martinis and thinks she's drunk. George Michael tries to explain that "virgin" means non-alcoholic, but the venture is fruitless.
- There was also an incident where they drank several bottles of Gob's fake wine. It ends with the two of them getting to second base
- On Murphy Brown, Corky throws a New Year's Eve party and makes it a point not to serve any alcohol (if a guest brought a bottle, she gave it to the party next door), as Murphy is a recovering alcoholic. Miles drinks some of the punch and acts drunk - until Corky tells him there was no alcohol in it.
- Raj on the The Big Bang Theory needs alcohol before he can talk to women. In one episode he has a beer and starts hitting on Summer Glau, until Howard points out the beer was non-alcoholic, and Raj can't continue.
- In Degrassi The Next Generation Sean swaps the Ecstasy JT and Toby bought for aspirin. The two 7th graders act like lunatics for an hour or two while Sean laughs his ass off.
- Frasier combines this with Mushroom Samba (the inversion). Niles gets a hash brownie, but Martin eats it without realising what it is, and replaces it with a normal brownie. And even when Frasier actually explains what happened, Niles still doesn't realise:
Niles: Well someone must feel pretty out of it, being the only one here who isn't completely burnt!
Frasier: Oh, knock it off, you imbecile! You're as sober as I am!
- Freaks and Geeks after the geeks swap the beer at the freaks' Wild Teen Party for non-alcoholic beer. Only Seth Rogen notices the difference, and used it to his advantage to win a ton of money at Quarters.
- In one sketch on French and Saunders, two teen girls sit in their room describing their LSD trip with vivid detail. It isn't until one friend realizes that her tab tastes minty that her companion lets slip that the pill was just a Tic-Tac.
"Look at my Pocahontas curtains — they're like really Pocahontasy!
- In The Inbetweeners Will swallows a quantity of hash without first preparing it for consumption. Despite this it still has some strange effects on him, mostly making his arms twitch.
- My Family had a marijuana joint that actually turned out to be made of cinnamon and oregano powered by the placebo effect shared by Ben and Susan. Effects range from Susan overcoming her habitual mental block as to how horrible her cooking is, to Ben correcting the lyrics to Jimi Hendrix songs at the top of his voice.
- On one episode of Night Court, Roz takes Christine to a bar to bond and Christine gets really drunk on the drink she orders. At the end of the episode, Christine asks Roz what was in the drink. Roz reveals that the drink contained absolutely no alcohol.
- An episode of the 90s talk show parody Night Stand With Dick Dietrick had host Dick and his assistant Mueller trying out a new drug that was all the necessary drugs for a day in a single pill. Not knowing he took a placebo, Dick's first words after taking the pill: "Whoa! Did anyone else just see a cow fly by here?" Needless to say, it gets better.
- In one episode of Peep Show Sophie and her new friends from Brighton take Mark to a gay club and they all do pills... except Mark, who merely pretends to swallow his and then pretends to be feeling its effects. He gives himself away when he claims "I think I'm getting the famous munchies!"
- On Saturday Night Live, a Christmas sketch of "The Delicious Dish" had the hosts drunk on eggnog. That is until they discovered it was non-alcoholic eggnog.
- An episode of Welcome Back, Kotter had Horseshack stumbling around drunk on beer. When the other sweathogs wrest the "beer" away from him, it turns out only to be A&R Root Beer.
- Brian injures himself on one episode of Wings and tries to kill the pain with beer. Unfortunately, he finds Joe's stash of non-alcoholic beer to use. Not surprisingly, the Placebo Effect works until Joe points out the beer is non-alcoholic.
- One American sitcom had the older sister pull this on her younger brother. She was a former delinquent that was making up for it. However her younger brother wanted some Ectasy for a party. She was going to tell him off, but then got a Imagine Spot of him dying from getting bad ecstasy from a drug dealer. So she gave him midol and told him it was ecstasy.
- In A Different World Season 2 episode, "If You Like Pilgrim Coladas", Whitley and Kim go to a bar with a fake ID and are found out when they act drunk after several of the eponymous drink, which contains no alcohol.
- The subject of a comedy routine by Adam Sandler in which a partying guy keeps telling the host how awesome his (acid/weed/beer) is, only to be told it's none of those things (the beer was nonalcoholic).
- In Persona 4 Teddie, Yukiko, and Rise get utterly smashed at a nightclub while on a school trip... except Naoto informs you that the club doesn't even serve alcohol.
- One Strong Bad e-mail has Strong Bad performing a science experiment of the effects of caffeine on Strong Sad. So he slips a spoonful of Sanka — instant decaf — into Strong Sad's orange juice, and Strong Sad instantly goes into a caffeinated blitz.
- Oddly subverted; Strong Sad didn't know anything was being slipped into his orange juice, so it can't be a placebo effect. Apparently his body is just that sensitive to caffeine.
- In one Dork Tower strip, Matt's stoner brother thinks he is high after smoking Matt's basing floc.
- Referenced in The Order of the Stick when Soul-Splice Vaarsuvius starts to behave in an evil manner, even though the soul splices can't actually affect his/her alignment. According to the fiends, "A good way to get a good person to do something horrible is to convince them they're not responsible for their actions." It's compared to someone drinking beer they didn't know was non-alcoholic and feeling drunk anyway because they expected to be.
- Happens at least twice in Questionable Content.
- Raven says she got drunk at a party by having seven Shirley Temples. "You can't even taste the alcohol in them!"
- Later she relates the story of how her female friends in college would get so drunk they'd make out with each other, all the time.
Faye: I think you're confusing bisexuality with substance abuse.
Raven: No, but I think they were.
- Girls with Slingshots: After Hazel gets uncharacteristically prudish while accompaniying Jamie and her younger sister, Fiona on a trip to a lingerie store, Fiona offers Hazel a pull from her hidden flask. Hazel goes from mortified to Genki Girl after a couple of swallows. Fiona confesses to Jamie that her flask was just water. Her boobs are just that awesome.
- Snooch made the mistake of watching a special on rock stars and copying their cocaine use ... sort of.
Eben: Tell me you didn't actually SNORT an entire box of Pixie Stix from 1987.
- Studies have shown that kids given non-alcoholic beverages will act drunk when told they are alcoholic. Placebo effect + conformity + societal expectations = just as potent as chemicals.
- Even in situations where everyone understands that no intoxicating substances are being taken by anyone, some people will act in ways that mirror the behavior of drunk people because that's what you do at parties: you go wild and get crazy, even when you're stone sober.
- There's quite a bit of evidence that there is no such thing as a sugar high - it's all the placebo effect. A 1994 study found that mothers who thought their children had been given sugar reported more wild behavior (and hovered closer, and criticized more) than mothers who were told their children had been given unsweetened drinks, regardless of the actual activity levels of the children.