No Medication for Me

"One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice, when she's ten feet tall"
Jefferson Airplane, "White Rabbit"

I got a condition. It's bad to forget your medicine when you got a condition.
—Marv, Sin City

When a character takes medication for a mental illness, they might feel that something that made them unique is taken away. Alternatively, the side effects make them miserable, or they might miss their friends. It is also common both in reality and fiction for individuals with a mental illness to get on their meds, become functional, then decide they are "cured" because the symptoms are gone, or have some kind of epiphany, or have found the All-Natural Snake Oil, and decide they don't really need the medication anymore. So the character (or sometimes a parent/guardian) decides to drop the Blessed with Suck meds, and live life insane but alive, often accompanied by a shot of the character throwing the bottle of pills in the trash.

In fictionland, this tends to result in, at worst, hangover-like withdrawal and possibly a grudging admission that the medication helped, and at best, the pills having been only a Magic Feather and it was all in their heads. Cue Crowning Moment of Heartwarming and roll the credits. Reality, however, does not work this way: going off of psychiatric medications without medical supervisionnote  can cause serious harm or even death.

Covered in and used as a justification for "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, Amiboshi offers Miaka a potion (that he has been given by his foster parents) that will allow her to forget all about the stresses of being a priestess, her own world, her conflict with Yui, her tumultuous relationship with Tamahome, her entrance exams, and everything else. She would then be able to live a normal life in the Universe of the Four Gods as his girlfriend. Miaka is tempted to take it, but ultimately decides against it, because even though being the Priestess has brought her a lot of stress and woe, it has also brought her a lot of good things.

  • Doc Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, takes regular medication to treat his Manic/Depressive bipolar disorder with delusional episodes, but his 'stabilised' self is also less inventive. In 52, a group of Super Villain Mad Scientist types kidnap him, confiscate his medication, and set him to work, intending to get him to recreate the Doomsday Device Plutonium Man that he made the last time he went nuts. However, this does not lead to the results that the mad scientist types had hoped for, and Magnus winds up tearing apart their criminal organization from the inside.
    "You shouldn't have taken away my meds! I told you... I do crazy things without my meds!"
  • Todd Rice aka Obsidian of Justice Society of America and Infinity, Inc. averts this and knows he needs to take medication for his schizophrenia, and when he starts acting strangely his teammates wonder aloud if he's gotten off of it (turns out it was due to something completely unrelated).
  • In Lab Rat, the prequel comic to Portal 2, Doug Rattmann avoids taking medication for his schizophrenia. In a subversion, however, he recognizes he needs it, but because he's running low he saves it for when he really needs it to escape. It later turns out to be Double Subverted though, as the Companion Cube he had been hallucinating was giving him advice and warnings. When he takes his meds, the Cube disappeared, and Rattman nearly dies because he didn't have the Cube to warn him about a trap.
  • Count Vertigo of the Suicide Squad didn't take medication for his bipolar disorder not because he didn't want to, but because it doesn't help. When speaking to a psychiatrist, he explains that he'd tried practically every medication to help with his disorder, but ultimately none of them stuck. Ironically, he's completely cured as a side-effect of Poison Ivy's drugs, and refuses to believe it when told the first time.
  • Mad Artist/Mad Doctor Batman villain Professor Pyg.
    You look at me like I'm out of shape. Like I drank too much and forgot my medication. I'm an artist! Who can expect me to work on antipsychotics?
  • One-shot Batman villain Karl Kyle, King of Cats and Catwoman's brother, was ultimately revealed to be off his meds, promising to begin taking it again after Selina convinces him to end his crime spree. Later issues reveal he kept this promise, even becoming an ally to Batman.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Suggested by Rainbow Dash when she hears about Twilight's titular Illness in the fanfic of the same name. Twilight counters with a good part of the Don't Try This at Home disclaimer above. And one of the meds is a magic suppressor since it partly affects her illness.
  • Like many mental illness tropes deconstructed in Brainbent when Sollux, who has rapid cycling bipolar disorder, tries going off his meds once. The results are not pretty.

  • Garden State is something of a subversion, since it's made clear he never really needed the medication in the first place. His father acted as his psychiatrist (which the film lampshades as very bad practice) and reacted quite emotionally to him pushing his depressed mother in a childish outburst just as the dishwasher door accidentally opened, which caused her to fall over and become paraplegic. The fact that the father was unwilling to accept it as a freak accident caused him to conclude his son had intense emotional problems; hence the unnecessary medication.
  • Subverted in the movie Prozac Nation, the protagonist refuses to take her medication since she sees it as poison (she is bipolar). As a result, she loses her boyfriend, writes gibberish (writing is her passion), drops out of college and only gets better when she takes her medication, although she wonders if the medicated person is really her.
  • In A Beautiful Mind (itself ostensibly based on John Nash's life), his anti-psychotic medication impairs his mathematical ability. Because of this, he ends up dropping it so he can continue his career. This is also subverted, since he mentions to his colleagues during the Nobel ceremony that he is taking the latest medications (probably due to the fact that modern medications have less side-effects). As well as that, when he's off the medication, he occasionally has to consult with people he's familiar with (e.g. his students) to make sure the things he's seeing are real. The Real Life Nash never got back to medication, and as a result tended not to be allowed to give speeches at his award ceremonies, for fear he'd go into anti-Semitic ranting. Ron Howard added the line to the movie specifically to avoid the negative implication toward anti-psychotic medications, but this has been decried by (some) mental health advocacy groups.
  • In Observe and Report, the main character is a bit of a delusional blowhard while on his medication, but once he comes off it he becomes even more unhinged.
  • Lampshaded/played with in Repo! The Genetic Opera. We never find out what Nathan's medicine was intended for, and it's definitely got some nasty side-effects given what it does to Shilo. And going off it may not have made any major difference - but we don't know that it really helped either, since Nathan is noticeably free-falling off the edge, if not actually leaping off of it, by the time the opera rolls around and he wasn't exactly the poster child for mental stability beforehand, and Shilo wasn't sick in the first place since Nathan was just trying to keep her in the house.
  • A rare inversion in As Good As It Gets: Obsessive-compulsive Melvin starts taking medication for his disorder because Love Interest Carol makes him want to be a better man.
    "I've got this, what—ailment? My doctor, a shrink that I used to go to all the time, he says that in fifty or sixty percent of the cases, a pill really helps. I hate pills, very dangerous thing, pills. Hate. I'm using the word "hate" here, about pills. Hate. My compliment is, that night when you came over and told me that you would never... well, you were there, you know what you said. Well, my compliment to you is, the next morning, I started taking the pills."
  • Played straight in What the #$*! Do We Know!?, when the main character tosses away her anti-anxiety medication after she starts feeling good about herself.
  • In Thor: The Dark World, Dr. Erik Selvig is seen with a big bag of meds after having "had a god in [his] brain" from The Avengers, due to thinking himself crazy (admittedly, he's not the only one). Upon seeing a flock of birds fly in an S-pattern, disappear at the start of the S-pattern, then reappear flying out of the sidewalk under his, Darcy, and Ian's feet, he quickly decides "There's nothing more reassuring than to know that the world is even crazier than you are" and dumps the meds in the nearest trash can.

  • In Terry Pratchett's Discworld:
    • Making Money: Mad Artist Owlswick Jenkins is healed via turnip transplant (which leaves him quite content, but creates a seriously troubled turnip), but, alas, he loses his artistic talent. He switches back and tries some non-radical coping methods instead.
    • Thief of Time: Jeremy Clockson has a spoonful of medication every day, as his Igor reassures a man checking on him, without mentioning that he pours it down the sink once he found it suppressed his creativity. Of course, that creativity was being used by a manipulative benefactor to destroy the world. And then there's the fact that the last time he stopped taking his medicine, he beat his assistant to death with a hammer.
  • In Isaac Asimov's short story "Light Verse", a robot that is malfunctioning is the creator of light sculptures. When its unique problem is "fixed", it can't create anymore. The robot's owner murders the scientist who fixed it, but it's noted that the victim (who has just realized that he's singlehandedly cut off what could have been a fruitful avenue of robotics research) utterly — perhaps intentionally — fails to defend himself.
  • In The Phoenix Dance, Phoenix is bipolar and becomes incredibly creative in her "up" moods, so she starts taking less of her medicine to keep the good moods. Unfortunately, this just means that her bouts of depression come back, too.
  • In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest it is mentioned that the anti-seizure medication causes your teeth to fall out, which is a good reason why some of the patients don't want to take it. One gets the unfortunate side effect mentioned above, and decides he'd rather have the seizures; the other is terrified of having a seizure, and takes the medication intended for the first epileptic as well as his own to make sure he avoids it. In real life decreased salivation ("cotton mouth") is a side-effect of most psychoactive drugs of various kinds and daily use over a long period of time is likely to wreck your teeth.
  • Serge Storms, the protagonist of the Florida Roadkill novels by Tim Dorsey, is supposed to be on quite a lot of anti-psychotic drugs. He often skips doses because they keep him from thinking clearly. When he skips doses for too long (Something that he is usually in the middle of doing in every single book), he goes on killing sprees.
  • In the Experiment In Terror series, Dex frequently forgoes taking his antipsychotics; he prefers the mental clarity (despite the slight paranoia and hyperactivity) that comes with being sober.

    Live Action TV 
  • An episode of Boston Public had a hyperactive genius piano player, who gets put on Ritalin and doesn't want to play anymore.
  • Any and all Monk episodes where they try to cure Monk's OCD. He becomes really annoying and can't solve mysteries very well.
  • Ally McBeal angsts that medication that takes away her hallucinations takes away her uniqueness.
  • Law & Order:
    • The original series was the first to explore this trope with the episode Pro Se. A schizophrenic man who has been off his meds for years kills about 8 people in a clothing store. When forced to take his medication, it's revealed that he is quite the brilliant attorney and represents himself, almost beating McCoy in court. When his sister comes forth with damning testimony, he pleads out and goes back off his medication. His reasons for not taking it are the reasons many people on anti-psychotics refuse to:
      James Smith: I'm using every ounce of strength I have just to talk to you. I feel like I'm pawing through a wool blanket. I feel stiff, and like I'm half a mile behind everyone else. I get so damned tired. It takes so much effort, holding on to reality.
    • A few criminals have tried to invoke this to avoid a conviction. One episode had a man suffering from parkinson's not take his medication for the trial. His constant shaking was both distracting and meant to show to the jury that it would be impossible for him to hold a gun steady. Another stopped taking his meds to induce himself into a controlled coma. Both attorneys argued that the court can't force their clients to self medicate. The argument was successful in the former, but not so much in the latter.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • Several episodes featured schizophrenics of this type, who were usually forced to take drugs to testify after witnessing crimes. It explored both sides of this trope at different times. In one instance, the medication allowed the guy to get his life back together, and he eventually reunited with his estranged wife and son. Another episode had a different schizophrenic, who was so used to living with hallucinations that, when the drugs made them go away, he missed them so much he got depressed and killed himself.
    • Then there's the episode where John Munch's uncle (starring Jerry Lewis in a performance based on himself) goes off his meds to punish himself for murdering a suspected rapist during a manic episode as a sort of mental Seppuku.
    • Also thoroughly Deconstructed in one episode when a girl goes off her meds because a rock star tells her to, leading to her making a False Rape Accusation against two boys she had consensual sex with and causing a crash that kills a little girl and injured several others.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Detective Goren, who has experience with mental illness in the family, spells out the faulty thought process that often leads to this trope (when it's not a conscious choice):
    Goren: Only sick people take medications. If I don't take the meds, I'm not sick.
  • "Haywire" in Prison Break loses his photographic memory (and perhaps his mathematical genius) when he takes drugs to treat his collection of mental disorders.
  • Averted in New Tricks. If Brian "Memory" Lane stops taking his meds then, as he puts it himself (when he was speaking to a medicated schizophrenic), "I turn into Mr. Loopy, like you." A couple of episodes demonstrated this; when he didn't take his meds, he was intensely manic and unstable, and thus no good at his job whatsoever.
  • Tragic example: Heroes Season Two's flashback episode sees Niki trying to treat her Split Personality with medication, only to find herself as lively as a pile of seaweed. She surreptitiously stops taking it, and soon loses control of herself again, losing her husband in the process.
  • The entire premise of United States Of Tara—she went off her meds to discover the cause of her DID.
  • In Criminal Minds, Reid's schizophrenic mother went without her meds when she was pregnant with him. She goes off them again during the timeline of the series in an attempt to remember an event from Reid's past.
    • The episode "Haunted" is about a man who went off his antipsychotic meds (with the approval of his psychiatrist) in order to access repressed childhood memories. These memories end up being much worse than anyone had imagined, causing him to snap and go on a killing spree.
    • In another episode, the UnSub stopped taking his medication years prior following his mother's murder, resulting in a complete psychotic break. In his delusions, he views himself as a Vigilante Man when in reality he is a homicidal maniac.
  • The reason Billy goes off his meds in Six Feet Under.
  • This is one of House's reasons to stop taking the Methadone, which cured his pain in the leg better than Vicodine, but he also felt that the lack of pain affected his deducting abilities. He uses the same argument in the first episodes of Season Six when Dr. Nolan insists in giving him SSRIs, he's afraid of losing himself and his abilities. He ends up taking them, anyway.
    • In the episode "No More Mr. Nice Guy" occurs a little variation of this trope: House employees test a sample of his blood without his consent and discover that he has neurosyphilis. They assume that the effect of the disease in his brain is the reason House is such a huge jerk. They prescribe him with a medication. Suddenly he starts acting a little nicer. All the employees then start asking themselves whether they did the right thing or if he is going to lose what makes him so unique. In the end of the episode it was all a prank of House, of course.
      Kutner: We gave Van Gogh chelation therapy. Turned him into a house painter.
      Taub: Maybe not, maybe we just put Hitler on Ritalin.
  • ER has this be the reason why Abby's mother keeps going off her Lithium, for her bipolar episodes. Her mother rather enjoyed her moodswings and especially loved her manic episodes. With her medication evening her out, she thought of life and herself as boring.
  • Duncan spends most of an episode of Veronica Mars avoiding taking his antidepressants. After jumping off a set of bleachers and injuring his head and then having an atypically vivid daydream, he ends up deciding that he's better off taking them after all. However, unlike many other examples, he actually consults a doctor regarding going off the medication.
  • In Harper's Island, Henry's brother J.D. needs to regularly take multiple pills. Though he tends to stop taking them now and then because it makes him feel "foggy". When he's off his pills he tends to do irrational things, like gutting a deer's throat and leaving it on the hood of someone's car and smearing threatening messages on their windshield with its blood.
  • Discussed on Glee. Emma finally started seeing a psychiatrist for her severe OCD and she initially rejected the notion that she should take medication. Her psychiatrist helped her understand that mental illness is like any other illness and that medication can seriously help. Her taking her meds at the end of the episode is a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
  • Has happened to both Craig and Eli in Degrassi.
    • Eli's storyline with his meds has been handled fairly realistically; the first thing they put him on made him feel completely emotionless (leading to this trope) while subsequent adjustments have brought him into better balance. He also became manic a few times while he was off them.
  • M*A*S*H episode "White Gold": Col. Flagg is getting a self-inflicted wound in his head stitched and tells Hawkeye he wants no Novocain.
    Trapper: You heard the manic.
  • Happens on The L Word when Alice has a nervous breakdown after Dana breaks up with her. In her case, though, she was downing pills like they were Pez and finally became sick of how dependent on them she had become.
  • The show Black Box is about a psychiatrist who herself is bipolar. One of the constant themes of the show is her frequent refusal to take her meds, resulting in occasional nights of "poor decisionmaking". She also starts hearing music and runs on the streets. This also strains her relationship with her boyfriend, especially when she admits that she cheated on him once after refusing to take the meds. And then again when she tries having rough sex with him while also off her meds, only for him to be put off. He later admits that he wasn't put off by her behavior, but by the fact that he found himself liking it.
  • In the Doctor Who episode In The Forest Of The Night, Maebh's medication stops her hearing the voices of the mind controlling the forest.
  • In NCIS, a Navy Lieutenant who aspired to be a Naval aviator but washed out is revealed to have started self-medicating to treat his depression, then stopped abruptly to pass the drug portion of the civilian pilot's license exam. The sudden stop in medication is stated to have caused hallucinations and delusions which lead to him loading his plane with explosives with the intention of crashing it into an aircraft carrier. Gibbs talks him out of it, but he detonates the explosives mid-air instead of landing.

  • The Panda Bear song "Take Pills" is about getting off of antidepressants.
  • The Switchfoot song "Mess of Me" states "There ain't no drug to make me well".
  • The Wall directly mentions this in the form of Pink's BSOD Song The Wall Part 3. "I don't need no walls around me./I don't need no drugs to calm me!/I have seen the writing on the wall./Don't think I need anything at all!" By this point Pink has finally realized that he must come to face with the problems of his life that lead him to build the eponymous wall having been removed from the hedonistic lifestyle he built up as a rock artist to escape it, making this instance especially poignant. Somewhat justified in that even those drugs that aren't flat-out illegal are given to him by a quack who cares more about getting him back on stage than about his well-being, although in Real Life rehab overseen by a competent professional would probably have been a smarter option than self-administered cold turkey.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Patton Oswalt has a bit where he says he went off of his depression medication because he didn't want to be burdened by it in case of a zombie attack. He describes his resulting depression like a pet dog being overjoyed to go outside and play.

     Tabletop Games 
  • An Invoked Trope in one scenario for the Transhuman Space character Shandy Xaxa Dack, in which an Edgehunter (someone who seeks out new trends before they happen) becomes a fan of the somewhat unstable teen's poetry and wants to set her on a less self-destructive path ... but without actually using any of the easy and safe cures for mental imbalance they have in the 2100s because that might interfere with the poetry.

  • Diana from Next To Normal insists on this multiple times, most notably in "Didn't I See This Movie?", after her doctor recommends electro-shock therapy.
  • Rebecca and Sara in Code 21 feel this way, with good reason.
  • In Blood Brothers, this gets slightly twisted: Mickey wants to stay on his medication for chronic depression, but his wife and mother both pressure him to quit. His wife specifically tells him that she's depressed a lot, but doesn't need any pills to get over it!

    Video Games 
  • When we first meet Gary in Bully, he says he's taking meds for ADD and other problems. At the end of the game's first chapter, he says that he's gone off them and feels great. Because he's the main villain, this just ends up making him more unhinged.
  • Depicted in Fallout: New Vegas with Lily Bowen. Like most Nightkin, Lily has schizophrenia (she hallucinates that "Leo" is telling her to "do bad things") and sometimes goes into psychotic fits where she becomes violent and uncontrollable (such as when she's reduced to 1/4 health). However, she keeps some semblance of sanity due to her medication, but she only takes half the recommended dosage. You can advise her to keep doing that, take the full dose (which causes her to stop having psychotic fits, but makes her forget her grandchildren), or stop taking the medicine altogether (which causes her to have fits at 1/2 health, but buffs her stats permanently). If you tell her to stop taking the meds her ending shows that her sanity kept slipping until she became permanently stuck in the psychotic mode.
  • In Until Dawn if Sam escapes the psycho, she can find evidence that Josh has stopped taking their meds. It turns out he's the one behind the horrors of the first chapters, and his insanity definitely shows once he's tied up in the shed.

    Web Comics 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons had one where Bart takes "Focusyn" to combat ADHD, and it makes him wicked paranoid. Major League Baseball is out to get us! Turns out...Major League Baseball was out to get us. Not quite a Broken Aesop, not quite a Rule-Abiding Rebel, just another Simpsons plot with no actual point.
    • The doctors that gave him the medicine do say he shouldn't suddenly cease dosage — instead recommending a variety of other meds to "ease him off" first. However, this wasn't portrayed as the standard procedure with any medication, but rather as another sign that particular drug was so dangerous no one should be using it in the first place and that all the doctors' ideas involve more drugs.
  • Deconstructed in Justice League Unlimited, Flash villain The Trickster isn't actually a bad sort, but only taking his medication when he's "feeling down" means he's also open to the delusions that make him go out and commit crimes. At the time Flash confronts him, both over the medication and to find out information, he isn't even aware he's in costume until it's pointed out to him. Said scene was an in-joke of sorts to the dramatic difference between the short-lived live action The Flash (1990) series, which portrayed Trickster as an insane Joker-rip off and the comic version of Trickster, who is more or less a villainous conman, who by the late 1990s had fallen into Anti-Hero territory as far as aiding the Flash against his former villainous allies. The fact that cartoon Trickster was voiced by Mark Hamill, who played the live action version of Trickster (as well as voicing the Joker in the DCAU) added to the wink-wink to the audience.
  • In one episode of King of the Hill, Bobby is (apparently mis-) diagnosed with ADD, and abandoning the medication is seen as good. In another, however, Kahn goes off his manic-depression meds and despite his mania practically being a Disability Superpower, it's soon apparent that he really needed those pills.
    Bobby: There's some milk in the refrigerator that's about to go bad ... and there it goes.
  • An episode of American Dad! reveals that Steve's friend Barry, an obese, slightly retarded boy is actually a crazed diabolical mastermind, who takes on a menacing British accent (voiced by Craig Ferguson) when off his meds.