The Aggressive Drug Dealer

Not much of a choice.

"You might remember that these naggy junkies were a common theme in all anti-drug education of the time. It would have saved a lot of film if someone told educators that teaching children how to avoid getting expensive drugs for free is like teaching children how to escape from unicorns with a bag of magical shrieking peanuts. I can't remember ever saying, 'Fine, mister, I'll have some of your free heroin if you just get off my back.'"

A trope of yesteryear, born from The Eighties' DARE programs and resulting commercials, "inspirational films", and very special episodes.

The Aggressive Drug Dealer is out there trying to force your kids into doing drugs. He won't take casual avoidance for an answer, and will seek out and use intimidation just to coerce his target. So a type of training is required to "Just Say No."

This isn't how it happens. No drug dealer in their right mind would attract attention to themselves this way, especially not in the middle-class environs these commercials are aimed at. Any who do will get caught very quickly, and be far less likely to actually get customers. Plus the fact that, as Harlan Ellison pointed out in one of his essays, the image of dope dealer as The Fagin was outdated by the late 60s. The dope dealer kids were most likely to encounter was another kid.

Also, the purpose of selling drugs is to make money — yet many of these types of films seem to imply that dealers are just really evil people who like getting little kids hooked on drugs, even if they have to give said drugs away for free. The dealer giving away free drugs or forcing it onto the victim is the equivalent of burning a bag of money.

Granted, legitimate businesses do give out free samples all the time, but the drug "samples" would have to be enough to actually get someone high, and the lady at the supermarket handing out free morsels of some new cookie isn't risking 25 years for doing so. It is theoretically possible that the Aggressive Drug Dealer would be pressing drugs on kids so that when they are addicted they will then have to get the money (whether stealing it from their parents, selling their belongings, etc.) to buy drugs. But again, this would be high risk for minimum gain. It's easier to find people already willing to buy drugs and sell to them at a low-to-moderate price to get them hooked on one particular reliable dealer.

This villain took away the need to actually address the culture-gap between adults and children/teens. "Talking to your kids" by scaring them with this monster was a lot easier than trying to understand the social environment one's child was in, and instilling values that would stand up and that parents agreed with. It's much easier to demonize an evil outsider inexplicably hell-bent on getting you addicted to drugs than to talk about the fact that the people who are actually likely to be encouraging you to try drugs will be your friends and peers.

Modern anti-drug PSAs have been taking a different approach in the last few years, by encouraging children to be "above the influence" in all respects toward peer pressure, not just in regard to doing drugs. If your friends go get high after school, you don't have to go with them, and they'll just agree to see you tomorrow instead. However, this trope can be Truth in Television, as some of the examples below show. Go figure.

It's worth noting that while this trope tends to take it to the extreme (as in drug dealers aggressively pushing their product on kids and continuously harassing them about it), "the first taste is free" is an Older Than Dirt practice among drug dealers (as well as any legal businesses with an addictive product). Let the customer get hooked on a free sample and they will be back for more at full price (they might even bring friends). Also, in most Real Life cases, there's no need for an aggressive sales approach, as most people are already sold on the product or at least interested in something related.

A subtrope of Drugs Are Bad.


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  • Noted as a trope that is not Truth in Television in an educational video hosted by Kirk Cameron, possibly made in response to paranoid children who took Scare 'Em Straight tactics too much to heart. The video tried to explain that politely turning down a drug dealer is good enough, as they will not hire their bully friends to pin you to the ground and stab you with needles full of drugs that will give you horrifying hallucinations and make the world change all the wrong colors. The kicker was that they felt the need to animate that part of the film (and two others discussing other incorrect depictions of drugs) as "What will not actually happen to you", so it still gave everyone nightmares anyway.
  • Subverted in a few-years-old public service announcement. The aggressive drug dealer turns out to be a trusted adult who was role playing with the kid.
  • How about this "Snake" PSA from 1986/87? The aggressive (and not particularly subtle) drug dealer's transformation to a literal snake was definitely scary.
  • Parodied by Progressive Insurance, which has one commercial in which spokesperson Flo hangs out in a dark alley and aggressively sells insurance in a manner that copies the standard 80s portrayal of the aggressive drug dealer.
  • In the late '60s and early '70s, the slogan was "Why do you think they call it DOPE?" Here's the original 1969 PSA featuring an aggressive dope dealer on a playground and a Mouthy Kid who knows all about the various substances for sale.

    Anime and Manga 
  • In A Certain Scientific Railgun, the gangster Trick sells Level Upper, a sound file that enhances Esper powers in those who hear it. If people try to refuse or can't pay, he and his thugs beat the crap out of them.
  • Abe no Kai from Lone Wolf and Cub is a variant in that he addicts people to a drug called afuyo, which triggers severe withdrawal symptoms, essentially enslaving people through their addiction to it.
  • The Terraist Church from Legend of Galactic Heroes spikes the food and drinks of pilgrims with Thyoxin, an highly addictive drug that can be used for brainwashing, to effectively enslave them. And if the pilgrims catch on before they are fully addicted, they are brought to the infirmary and forcefully addicted there.

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics would occasionally have anti-drug mini comics in the books. One specific example has two children accosted by drug dealers, complete with the girl crying "Oh, Jimmy, I'm scared!" They are saved by two generic super heroes.
  • This strange species of drug dealer turns up in the Teen Titans anti-drug specials (produced as part of the "Just Say No" initiative).
  • Superman villain Nick O'Teen.
  • One bizarre example pops up in a Captain America anti-drug comic where Cap has to fight this type of drug dealer. Who also happen to be a race of aliens who seek to subjugate humanity by using drug addiction to weaken humans.
  • One anti-smoking comic featuring Luke Cage, Storm, and Spider-Man, averted this. The people supplying a high school athlete with cigarettes pretend to be his friends. Their goal is to make sure he loses a race that their supervillain boss has bet a lot of money on, and they believe smoking will reduce his performance.
  • One of the deservedly obscure "Tandy Computer Whiz Kids" comics took this to absolutely ridiculous levels. The villains are completely focused on getting kids hooked, apparently For the Evulz — profit doesn't even seem to be a factor, apparently they just want to addict people to drugs.
  • Diabolik provided a Justified example, with the drug dealers forcefully addicting inspector Ginko to heroin to completely ruin his life in revenge for him busting too many mob operations.

  • Frankie Lideo, the villain of Moonwalker's "Smooth Criminal" segment. It's a particularly egregious example since, unlike your average Aggressive Drug Dealer who's in it to get kids hooked so as to keep a healthy flow of customers, he appeared to be in it for the sheer malicious joy of getting kids hooked on drugs.
    • Well, that and the fact that if he actually manages to pull off infecting the world's children with drugs, he'll be famous and make it into the history books. Famous as a monster, of course, but famous nonetheless.
  • This was the Evil Scheme in the movie Live and Let Die — Mr. Big intends to flood the US with free heroin, driving the Mob out of the market, then cornering it at a highly inflated price to the multitudes of new addicts.
  • In Pusher 3, Kurt insists on giving Milo some of his heroin. Kurt knows that Milo is a recovering addict, and he has a beef with Milo for his actions in the second film.
  • The two corrupt hicks in Foxy Brown hold the title character hostage and deliberately get her addicted to heroin. Or, at least, they try to.
  • Jason makes up this story about Leo in Mystery Team.
  • Chris-R, the ruthless drug dealer from The Room, who is willing to sneak into Johnny's apartment while he and three other people (Lisa, Mark, and Claudette) are inside, and then work his way up to the roof and force Denny at gunpoint to give him the money, but can't wait five minutes for it to arrive.
  • Inverted in Walk Hard, as each time Dewey stumbles upon Sam doing drugs, the conversation starts with Sam saying "You don't want no part of this shit." The first one (marijuana) in particular is hilarious, as Dewey keeps guessing reasons why it's so bad, only to be corrected each time that it doesn't give you a hangover, it's not habit-forming, you can't OD on it, it makes sex even better, and it's not only not expensive but ...
    Sam: It's the cheapest drug there is. You don't want it!
    Dewey: I think I kinda want it.

  • Mocked, as early as 1967, in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. A small boy finds a chocolate bar on the ground and his twelve-year-old sister tells him that it was probably put there by a drug dealer and full of "dope" to get him hooked. Even allowing that it was a more innocent time, it was partly used to illustrate the character of the sister as someone less worldly-wise than she thought, and extremely prone to pointless worrying.
  • Parodied in the Discworld novel, Feet of Clay, where dealers try to sell the drug 'slab' to troll-children. The troll watchman Detritus runs his own version of the 'Drugs — Just say no' posters, aimed at the dealers: "Slab: Just say AarrghaarrghpleasennononoUGH". Considering the reputation of Detritus and his converted siege-crossbow 'The Piece-Maker', it's probably one of the more effective methods of scaring 'em straight.
  • In Hal Clement's novel Iceworld, the protagonist is sent to infiltrate a criminal syndicate which has discovered a drug vapor that addicts those who inhale it with one dose. The story takes place among aliens who live at very high temperatures, and the drug is tobacco, acquired via robot probe from a human who has no idea why the aliens are willing to trade gold for cigarettes.
  • The Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Eight Doctors has a Very Special Subplot involving one of these. Justified — maybe — by the fact that the drug dealer is a schoolkid whose classmate intends to tell on him, and he hopes that by forcing her to take crack, he'll get her addicted and she won't want to tell on him any more. However, the fact that a teacher claims that, "One single rock is cheap enough. Some dealers even give the first one away. It's a good way to make new customers, especially young ones," is about when you start to realize that you are reading a book propelled solely by Narm Charm.
  • In Glen Cook's Garrett, P.I. series, the crime syndicate has been known to use drug addiction as a method of recruiting and controlling underage prostitutes. Garrett is not happy about this.
  • Justified in Harry Turtledove's World War series, as the drug in question is ginger; ginger is a) much cheaper than street narcotics; b) completely legal (until the Race tries to ban it); c) kickstarts the Race's mating instincts, causing them to spontaneously create prostitution and (sadly) rape and d) the powers behind it were the human governments that were at war with the Race and were interested in disrupting the Race's society as much as possible rather than making money.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Taiwanese Series Black and White, Gao Yi sends a subway train full of hostages hurtling down a dead-end spur while simultaneously aerosolizing a potent narcotic so everyone on board is zoned and now hooked on it.
  • Viciously mocked by Chris Rock on his HBO special Bring the Pain:
    Drug dealers don't really sell drugs. Drug dealers offer drugs. ...You say "no", that's it! Now Jehovah's Witnesses, on the other hand...
  • In the "Blue Paradise" episode of The Flash series, said drug's creator produced a huge batch with plans to release it in a cloud over the entire city. Somewhat justified in that this drug was explained to be EXTREMELY addictive. Plus, the drug's creator frequently used his own products.
  • Spoofed in an episode of Friends. Ross, after accidentally injuring a Girl Scout, attempts to make amends by selling cookies on her behalf. Monica resists buying any, having been addicted to them as a child, but Ross tries to persuade her by giving her the first box for free, claiming that "all the cool kids are eating them".
  • Occasionally, the villain of the day in Walker, Texas Ranger. Since the focus of the show is Walker kicking ass, this creates a Holding Out for a Hero Family-Unfriendly Aesop where the theme seems to be "If You Just Say No, Drug Dealers will Kill You, Unless Chuck Norris is There To Protect You."
  • Justified in The Wire, when Police Captain Colvin cruises up to a corner crew of drug dealers, causing a dealer to mistake him for a hesitant customer. The shocked Colvin gives increasingly less subtle clues that he's a cop, but the dealer keeps trying to make a sale. Finally, when Colvin puts on his police cap, the kid figures it out and scampers off. This trope was Truth in Television for Baltimore, at least, at the time. Dealers would scatter free heroin along the sidewalk to fish for new customers and keep junkies hooked.
  • Wayne Brady is on on the Chappelle's Show episode with him, with scenes right out of Training Day. "This ain't no damn after-school special! SMOKE IT!"
  • Jesse in Breaking Bad turns into one of these when he needs to persuade a shy young girl cashier to accept payment in meth for the gas he just pumped. Though she's never done meth before, she's apparently not opposed to drugs in principle (she mentions she's smoked pot "a lot") and after some initial reluctance ("That's stuff's really addictive, right?") she seems to mainly be afraid she'll get caught. Which, if you squint just right, seems a lot like one of the writers believes in the "gateway drug" theory.
  • Kendo in My Mad Fat Diary.
  • Parodied in an episode of Engine Sentai Go-onger. Gunpei offers a child a suitcase full of candy in exchange for his missing Engine Cast; but his trench coat and sunglasses lead the child to mistake him for this trope and run away screaming.
  • Parodied in Brooklyn Nine-Nine when Jake meets up with Isaac, an informant of his and a former drug dealer who gets offended when the cops refer to him as a drug pusher:
    Isaac: Dude, drugs don't need pushing. They push themselves. People love drugs.
  • Parodied on Good Eats, in the episode "Live and Let Diet" with a guy dressed as a milk carton trying to tempt Alton into eating cookies. (Which Alton cites as the reason he's stopped drinking milk.)
  • In the Heat of the Night: The two-parter "A Small War" has a gang of these coming from the "big city" of Jackson (the state capital of Mississippi) and setting up shop in Sparta, especially among the high school kids.
  • In True Blood, the werewolf JD Carsons tells his pack to drink vampire blood (it greatly enhances physical attributes and gives a Healing Factor, but is highly addictive and has nasty withdrawal symptoms). When some refuse, he beats them up and force feeds them the blood. His goal was to make them stronger and make them addicted so they can not leave and obey him more easily.


  • Tom Lehrer's tribute to a "lovable old character" who had "never been properly recognized in song", The Old Dope Peddler:
    He gives the kids free samples, / Because he knows full well / That today's young innocent faces / Will be tomorrow's clientele.
    • It should be added that, as the entire song portrays the Old Dope Peddler as if he was selling candy, not dope, it's Played for Laughs. Also, this song was recorded in 1953.
  • Since it inspired an alt-title for this page, Steppenwolf did a song, "The Pusher", about the evils of drug-pushers, "God Damn the Pusher Man".

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Mocked as unnecessary by Chris Rock
    Yo man, drug dealers donít sell drugs. Drugs sell themselves. Itís crack. Itís not an encyclopedia. Itís not a fucking vacuum cleaner. You donít really gotta try to sell crack, OK? Iíve never heard a crack dealer go, ďMan, how am I going to get rid of all this crack? Itís just piled up in my house."

    Tabletop RPG 
  • Paranoia adventure Send in the Clones. When the PCs meet Hall-Y-Wud-5, he'll try to hook them on the drug he pushes, co-cola. He'll persuade them to try it with a sales pitch, and will offer them a free taste ("First hit is no charge.").
  • In the post cyberpunk RPG "Fates Worse Than Death", the Drug Lords have recently managed (after years of hard work) to produce the "holy grail" of illegal street drugs: a drug that is dirt cheap to create, is instantly addictive, and has no effects whatsoever except for absolutely horrible withdrawal symptoms. No more of this tedious "convincing people to buy drugs" crap: their pushers just grab you while you walk down the street, give you one injection, and from that point on you have to pay them ridiculous prices to avoid the withdrawal symptoms of doom.
    • Yet the drug is cheap enough for their victims to make? That formula won't be staying secret for long...
  • In Exalted, the Guild imposes trade embargoes on any nation that dares to try to keep itself drug-free. Since the Guild basically controls all international commerce in Creation, this is usually enough to bring a government to its knees fairly quickly. If it isn't, the Guild is not above hiring a mercenary army or two to invade the offending nation, depose its rulers, and install a Guild-backed puppet on the throne.
  • Subverted in Myriad Song, the "Pusher" career is mechanically a medic who's good at lying, and whose "medicine" is powerful but has a chance of getting the "patient" addicted.

  • Closely related - the Bad Idea Bears in Avenue Q exist solely to try to push other characters into having more sex and alcohol.
  • Conversed in The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Padraic is convinced that James Henley "pushes his filthy drugs on children" while James claims that he sells reasonably priced weed to university students. To top off the Comedic Sociopathy, Padraic is perfectly fine with him forcing Protestant children to take drugs, but James sells to Catholics too...

     Video Games 
  • Kingdom of Loathing has A Suspicious Looking Guy, who gives you a free sample of "Goofballs", which boost your stats for a while, but make your parents worry about you. If you don't keep taking them, you suffer Goofball Withdrawal, which is one of the worst (Non-) Standard Status Effects in the game. Each time you go back for more, the price goes up. Aside from getting you addicted, and then price-gouging you, he's not particularly aggressive.
    • And spoofed roughly five times a year, when because it's "Halloween" and you knocked on his door looking for "sweet treats" he's giving out free "candy" (meaning "sugar" and "artificial flavors" to get you all "buzzed") all night! (They're Rock Pops, and perfectly fine for you if you don't follow up by drinking cola.)
    • There's also a guy in Bad Moon that will forcefully shove a pill down your throat for free, which gives you so-so spooky resistance, but make you super weak to fire and stench damage. invoked
  • In Fallout 2, Jet was specifically engineered to be extremely addictive (as well as produce a short high, so customers would need to buy more). However, the dealers aren't particularily pushy, since the client base in the three areas it can be found (New Reno, The Den and Redding) are well-established. However, if you take on the quest to solve the Jet-overdose murder of Chris Wright, his father will insist that the boy was forced to take the drug; he's vehemently anti-drugs, has made his stance clear to his whole family, and refuse to even consider the alternative of his son doing it voluntarily. It eventually turns out that it was actually an assassination, as completing the quest reveals that the victim was poisoned and that the initial suspects (the mob family that controlled the Jet supply) weren't behind it, it was actually a different family that was trying to provoke a war between the two (which would, of course, leave both badly weakened to the point that the third family could fairly easily take over both of their territories).
  • A random encounter on the road in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an orc who will offer you some of the banned drugSkooma. You have the option to buy some off him or refuse and threaten to report him and if you choose the latter, he will attack you.
  • Joule from Galerians.

    Western Animation 
  • A huge Massive Multiplayer Crossover inspirational film Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue including Garfield, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Smurfs, Alf, Winnie-the-Pooh, Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters, Bugs Bunny, DuckTales, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Muppet Babies was create to combat this enemy, which included a foreword from George H.W. Bush. It's always fun when a sitting president has to talk about a show featuring Smurfs, especially one that clearly didn't know what a Smurf was five minutes before they turned the camera on.
  • Avoided in the Jem and the Holograms episode "Alone Again", with Bobby Braddock, a sweet-talking drug dealer.
  • The public service announcements for the G.I. Joe cartoon had aggressive criminals. Two kids home alone, revealing over the phone that they are home alone. A stranger's car drives up to the house... and drives off when noticing the Joe soldier Roadblock, a tall bald black man in a skimpy top, standing on the lawn. Fridge Logic kicked in years later.
    • What? That they left because you can't sell drugs to what appears to be a meth lab, and Roadblock was the lookout.
      • Then there was the Very Special Episode two-parter that had the Joes and Cobras team up in an Enemy Mine scenario against an eeevilll drug dealer known as the Headman, who dressed like the Hamburglar and had gotten family members of both Joes and Cobras hooked on his stuff. Apparently, drugs are so bad that even an organization committed to genocidal acts of terrorism and once created a clone made from the DNA of Genghis Khan and Hitler will gladly embark on a crusade to stop them.
  • Spoofed, skewered, and danced on in the Clone High episode "Raisin the Stakes: A Rock Opera in Three Acts". The eeeevil "Pusher" causes the entire student body to get addicted to (wait for it) ...smoking raisins. Ironically, he's actually far LESS pushy (at least directly) than examples that are played straight. Beyond using a bit of Reverse Psychology to create a demand, all he really does is sit in the shadows and quietly sell his wares to a willing customer base.
  • In an episode of Captain Planet, the villain Verminous Skumm was a dealer of a highly addictive drug called "bliss", had some people resort to stealing to get the drug, and he encouraged them to take it and wouldn't accept no for an answer. Eventually, the drug leads to the death of Linka's cousin. Of course, Skumm was one of the Captain Planet villains who was in it strictly For the Evulz, so it was a more believable portrayal of this trope.
    • If I remember correctly, he was this indirectly by convincing Boris, a cousin of main character Linka, to spike some of her food with the drug in exchange for another dose, leading to Linka getting addicted as well.

    Real Life 
  • A few of these have shown up on various World's Wildest Police Videos specials, with one infamously latching on to the undercover cop's car as she drove away. These dealers are usually extremely amped up on their own product. Notice that they get caught.
  • The drug-laced lollipops mentioned in one urban legend. These are not to be confused with Actiq and its generic counterparts, which are fentanyl-laced lollipops used as painkillers in pediatric oncology. (Although the odd Actiq gets abused from time to time, messing with anything containing fentanyl (an opioid much, much more powerful than morphine) is almost always a bad idea; just ask anyone who survived something like the China white scare, where a fentanyl analogue was sold as heroin and quite a few junkies died of what they thought was a modest dose.)
  • It's an urban myth that pimps do this to keep their prostitutes from leaving them, simply because purchasing drugs eats into their profits. However, there are plenty of prostitutes who work to support a drug habit. It's also possible for someone to be both a pimp and a drug dealer at the same time, and if any of the prostitutes working for said person were addicted to the drugs they were selling it could certainly appear as if it were a deliberate action on the part of the pimp, regardless of how it had actually occurred.
  • Apparently, these actually do exist at the middle school level when kids are most susceptible to pressure. Sometimes with "free samples." Of course, it tends to not stay free forever, which might explain why it nearly isn't as common in real life as the media would make it out to be. Drug dealers don't want to "push this junk on kids" just For the Evulz. They're doing it to make money, and kids have very little money of their own. It's a lot more likely to occur at the high school and college level, where the pressure is very similar but disposable income is more likely.
  • If you can count the Christian preachers of "Holy Ghost intoxication" as being drug dealers of a spiritual sort, there are those who are rather aggressive as to use intimidation tactics and peer pressure from the congregation unto the doubters and those who see from Scripture that such a thing is a spurious claim that comes from misinterpretation, usually of Acts chapter 2 and Ephesians 5:18, to support that idea. Some preachers like Rodney Howard Browne and John Crowder don't hide the fact that they advertise themselves as "Holy Spirit drug dealers", but rather claim that it is The Moral Substitute to getting high from real drugs.
  • Undercover narcotics officers will sometimes act like this to try to catch users in the act of buying drugs. However, since actual users and real dealers are too smart to fall for this, undercover officers often target high schoolers or first time users for an easy arrest, which brings up serious questions about the war on drugs, and the exact definition of entrapment.

Alternative Title(s):

Goddamn The Pusherman