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 worshiped 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, Government Drug Enforcement and Fantastic Drug.
- In Equilibrium, the drug Prozium makes people emotionless. The government touts it as the solution for man's tendency to war and strife. Self-administering the drug or dosing is required on a strict schedule. Civilians are trained from a young age to police their peers for signs of emotions, and to report any outbursts of emotion to the authorities. Prozium itself isn't addictive, though going off of it can be difficult as it results in a flood of emotions that are hard to control or hide.
- Mostly edited out of the final cut of RoboCop 2, but the villain Cain is a cult leader who believes that the drug he uses and distributes, "Nuke", is 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.
- Melange from Dune, more commonly known simply as "Spice". Without it, safe interstellar travel wouldn't be possible, and society would collapse.
- In Embassytown, the local Starfish Aliens become addicted to an imperfect form of their Starfish Language produced by human settlers.
- Octavia Butler's short story "The Morning and the Evening and the Night" takes place in a setting where a miracle drug had been invented and gone into wide distribution, curing cancer among other things. Unfortunately, the children of people treated by this drug had an upsetting condition that eventually caused them to "drift", lose awareness of the outside world, and start violently attacking their own bodies. Years after the fact, a special diet exists that prolongs the mentally functioning life of people with this condition somewhat, but there's a major stigma against them and people who have it tend to feel doomed.
- In Storm Front, the drug Third-Eye has a vaguely New Age-style following. It also does seem to give muggles some degree of magical power.
- In Under the Dome, a character known as the "Chef" cooks meth for the Big Bad. He regularly 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 an episode, the crew visits an alternate Earth decimated by plague. Eventually, they realize that antibiotics were never discovered in this timeline, so Arturo creates some penicillin, which becomes the Chemical Messiah for this world.
- In another episode, nanite-tainted water absorbs people into a Hive Mind.
- Yet another world has Government Drug Enforcement, with anyone who refuses to take drugs being arrested and forced to.
- The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Symbiosis" features a medicine supplied to the Ornaran race by the Brekkinas which supposedly cures the former of some sort of illness... except that the medicine is really a drug, curing them of nothing more than severe withdrawal symptoms. Yes, it did cure the Ornarans at one point, but now the people of the planet have become drug addicts.
- Wild Palms: The drug Mimezine, used to make holographic images appear more real, has religious overtones, considering that the Scientology-like cult Synthiotics/The New Realism controls the pharmaceutical labs where it's manufactured as well as the media outlets which benefit from its use by consumers. Senator Kreutzer, the Big Bad, certainly believes that opening the doors of perception using Mimezine is one of the first steps to enlightenment in the New Realist/Synthiotics paradigm.
- Neuroshima has a Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane phenomenon called "black tornado", a moving cloud of unknown substance which leaves 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.
- ANNO: Mutationem: The N series serve as the medical technology created to heal wounds and cure specific diseases. The panacea N540 was the latest that has the capacity to cure-all types of illnesses, until it proved so much efficiently that civilians ended up fighting and killed over the medicine resulted in it being pulled from production and all traces of its existence were erased to prevent further dispute.
- In Astral Chain, the Hermits of Zone 09 rely on a Fantastic Drug called Blue Evolve, said to prevent redshift. It also allows them to see and fight chimeras, monstrous entities from the Astral Plane that are Invisible to Normals. Unfortunately, the drug has some nasty side effects, like turning the user into a chimera themselves and merging the real world and the Astral Plane together.
- Command & Conquer does this with Tiberium. The Brotherhood of Nod forms a pseudo-religious cult around Tiberium, believing the substance to be the future of humanity's evolution. The degree varies between games; in the first it was merely useful because they developed harvesting technology first (with the resulting cash infusion making them an N.G.O. Superpower practically overnight), in the second and the FPS set during the first it was played straight, in the third it was played straight at first but later revealed they were faking it, and in the finale it was Nod technology and an alliance they initiated that rid the world of Tiberium forever.
- 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, which causes the body to reject the augmentation. The only way to prevent that is to take weekly doses of Neuropozyne, a drug that's available as a prescription only and whose distribution is heavily monitored which has led to it selling for exorbitant prices on the secondhand market. Thanks to genetic experiments performed on him when he was an infant, Adam doesn't need Neuropozyne.
- Far Cry:
- Yogi and Reggie in Far Cry 4 are supposed mystics in the country of Kyrat whose religious practices largely consist of getting high on their numerous drugs which they test out on themselves and on Ajay Ghale. Then again, given that their drugs are what enable Ajay to first start experiencing visions of Shangri-La, they may have a point.
- The Bliss, some kind of scopolamine derivative, is extremely important in the Eden's Gate cult of Far Cry 5. While the leaders really use it for brainwashing the followers, it's presented as being a method of getting closer to God and becoming spiritually healthier.
- Heavy Rain: Norman 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.
- StarCraft II: Terrazine is a substance found in certain Protoss worlds and it has the ability to boost psionic powers but is also addictive and comes with side effects. In the co-op campaign, Stetmann, a non-psionic human, had long-term overexposure to Terrazine and gets glowing purple eyes and starts hearing the voice of the planet. The Tal'darim in particular worship it as sacred substance and erected shrines around its harvesting zones. Terrazine may actually have some "divine" connections, as it's heavily implied to come from the Void where the fallen xel'naga Amon resides in.
- Heroin: 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 non-psychoactive 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 '60s and The '70s 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. That "possibly" has a tendency to get lost in the excitement; actual practical applications are mostly still at the "probably worth looking into at some point" stage.