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Cyanide Pill

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"Shoot him! He's trying to commit suicide!"

Chief: This pill, when swallowed, will bring painless death in about 20 seconds. Are there any questions?
Maxwell Smart: How do I get them to take it?
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It takes a heroic level of dedication to be willing to die for a cause... but it takes an altogether higher (some would say crazy) level of dedication to be willing to kill yourself for a cause. Sometimes, a particularly devoted henchman will not only be willing to kill themselves but will carry around a mechanism to do this cleanly and quickly should the need ever arise. The classic example is the Cyanide Pill carried in a hollow fake tooth — the henchman simply opens the tooth with his tongue, bites down on the pill, and lets death embrace him.

It should be noted that this takes an altogether far higher level of devotion than that possessed by the standard Mook-for-hire. Absolute belief in the rightness of the cause is necessary for someone to take this step. Therefore, it's usually employed by cultists and secret agents in service to their country. However, it can also be used to imply that the Big Bad is so terrifying that death is preferable to the punishment he would visit upon his henchmen for failure. If you are facing a Fate Worse than Death, a Cyanide Pill would be your friend.

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This one has some basis in real life — though uncommon, various spy agencies have issued suicide pills/devices to field agents to use in case of capture. U-2 pilot Gary Powers was carrying cyanide when he was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960 but opted not to use it.

Use of the cyanide pill by villainous characters may be due to the historical use of such devices by many of the high Nazi leadership at the end of WWII who chose suicide over capture and punishment by the Allied forces (see Real Life section below for more details). Allegedly, Adolf Hitler himself, due to paranoia that it would not be effective, took one but opted to also shoot himself.

Compare Self-Destruct Mechanism. See also Better to Die than Be Killed. Compare and contrast Leave Behind a Pistol.

Death Trope. Spoilers ahoy.

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Examples:

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    Advertising 
  • This was used for humor in a commercial for Dockers pants. The commercial showed a shifty looking fellow grabbing some papers and quickly walking his way through the corridors of a building, shadowy men in sunglasses following him all the while, just behind him. One slips into the elevator with him just as the door closes, prompting him to pop something into his mouth and audibly gulp it down. The shadowy figure leans over and says, "Nice pants." Cut to dumbfounded spy's face and the commercial ends.

    Anime & Manga 
  • The title character of 009-1 has one, but she uses it in a unique manner. After being captured, she manipulates a guard into kissing her, and while he does so, she tongues the pill into his mouth. Once the guard is dead, she picks the locks to her restraints and escapes.
  • 7 Seeds:
    • Every guide for the teams was given a cyanide pill before being put into cryo-stasis. They were given in case they awoke in a future where there was no hope of survival or flourishing aspects, a deadly disease broke out and it would cause a quicker and less painful death or in order to remove members of their teams that caused discord and enmity.
    • During the Ryugu Shelter arc, cyanide pills are thought of being slipped into everyone's food and water supply after the parasitoid infection became severe. The director of the shelter was finally given one but begged everyone to please hold up a while longer. The last two remaining people, Saruwatari and Mark, have one to kill themselves after everyone else is Locked in a Freezer to hibernate the Acari X to try and stop any more infections. Saruwatari takes one after finishing his duty, whereas Mark tries to take one but must decide on another way.
  • In Attack on Titan, Hanji suspects Reiner of attempting this, when he's captured and struggles to retrieve something from his pocket. However, it ends up Subverting this expectation: It's a letter entrusted to him by Ymir.
  • In a chapter of Black Jack, Pinoko swallows a cyanide pill that she found in the surgeon's bag, thinking it was ordinary medicine. Black Jack then has to desperately operate on Pinoko to get the pill out before its outer shell melts.
  • A cult assassin in The Case Files of Yakushiji Ryoko used an instant-mummification drug to kill herself after failing to poison the main character.
  • In Death Note, one person takes one after being captured by Mello after a failed raid of the Mafia's headquarters, foiled by Sidoh.
  • Played with in Full Metal Panic!: The Second Raid, where Sōsuke is shown to be surrounded by large forces from the enemy on both sides and no ammo left, with no escape possible. AL suggests that the rational conclusion and solution is for him to activate the self-destruct system. The idea is rejected, as Sōsuke has no intention dying that way (as he "wouldn't be able to get his school credits" that way).
  • In Hunter × Hunter, Kakin Kingdom mercenary Vincent bites down on a suicide pill hidden in a molar as soon as he's cornered, de-powered, and pinned down by Kurapika and Bill, knowing they would interrogate him if he didn't kill himself immediately. First Prince Benjamin and his military aide Balsamilco, watching the footage from a camera hidden on Vincent, are confused as to why Vincent chose death so soon, as they consider him stronger than that.
  • In Immortal Hounds, every human has Resurrective Immortality by default (they can only die from old age) and comes back in full health after death. So naturally, suicide pills are used as a medicine in that world.
  • In a Legend of Galactic Heroes example of Better to Die than Be Killed, Ansbach bites a poison capsule he was carrying in his mouth rather than be taken alive after attempting to assassinate Reinhard, and succeeding in killing Kircheis, during his fake surrender.
  • In Outlaw Star, Hilda seemed to use a variant of this when she (and a Space Pirate) were falling into a star. It was a very miniaturized bomb.
  • The Mariages from StrikerS Sound Stage X will liquefy its body into a combustible liquid and immolate themselves (and hopefully all nearby enemies) when unable to complete a mission.
  • Justified in UQ Holder!. Kirie has a form of immortality that rewinds time upon her death, so the ability to quickly kill herself is useful for Save Scumming.
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga, Marik hypnotises Anzu and forces her to hold a pill (presumably cyanide) between her teeth. If Yugi does not duel Jonouchi, Marik will force her to swallow it. (For comparison, in the anime, a giant box wired with explosives is above her head. Should Marik will it, the box will drop, and the explosives detonated, killing her instantly.)

    Comic Books 
  • In the All-New, All-Different Marvel reboot of The Amazing Spider-Man, the terrorist organization Zodiac has its members use a special poison whenever Spidey caught them. Apparently, he got fed up with them doing this, so the web-slinger used his smarts to create an antidote to stop this.
  • Captain Britain and MI13 has a Vampire spy with a fake fang full of holy water.
  • Doctor Who Magazine: The mad anarchist Ruckford uses a cyanide pill to commit suicide when he is captured by the Paternoster Street Gang after they foil his attempt to blow up Buckingham Palace in "The Crystal Throne".
  • Parodied in Sturmtruppen where there is revealed that the "Oldest Spy in the Army" attained such a title by taking mints instead of Cyanide pills.
  • A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures (the Archie comics) story features Mooks taking suicide pills that set their heads on fire, burning the flesh off. No reason not to do it with style...
  • Played with in The Tick, where a secret agent tells Big Blue that his tooth is filled with deadly poison... only he's forgotten which tooth. "I try to avoid crunchy foods."
  • Usagi Yojimbo: The Neko Ninja swallow their own tongues if captured. The futuristic versions have instant immolation suits.
  • In Watchmen, the hitman that tries to kill Adrian Veidt takes one of these after his attack fails. Except not really, as Veidt had secretly hired him (trusting in his own skills to keep him alive). In order to silence the unfortunate Mook, Veidt forces a cyanide pill into his mouth while pretending he is trying to stop him committing suicide.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: After attempting a Do-It-Yourself Plumbing Project that goes horribly, predictably wrong, a frantic Calvin starts looking for cyanide in the bathroom medicine cabinet in order to avoid having to face the wrath of his parents.
  • FoxTrot referenced this in one strip where Jason and Marcus are (as usual) going to harass Paige. In the throwaway panels, Jason gives Marcus a stick of vanilla chewing gum, saying, "It's the closest thing to poison I could find."

    Fan Works 
  • In Barack Obama and the Thunder Zeppelin, the Ronpaul's Sturmfrunten take a slow-acting poison before battle.
  • A non-lethal equivalent is depicted in the Codename: Kids Next Door fic Confidential Decisions. The "Sleepy Time Pill" is used by spies. It puts operatives into a coma that they can only be awakened from by using their favorite foods.
  • Dragon Ball Abridged: After a group of Child Soldiers in space learn that Krillin and Gohan (mistaken for Frieza's Mooks) are Immune to Bullets.
    Soldier: Oh my god. Frieza's men are stronger than we thought. Everyone, take your cyanide tablets!
    Krillin: But we told you, we don't know any Friez— (the children fall over dead)
  • A Growing Affection has a certain villain use a jutsu that turns his blood into acid, to avoid being captured.
  • Heroes Never Die: Izuku puts a suicide pill on his hero costume so that he can trigger his resets quickly when need be. He mentions that he had to make the pills himself since there was no way he could ask the Support Class for something like that.
  • In the Macross Delta fanfic How Roid's Plan Could Have Backfired Horribly, one of the ways the plan could have failed is Mikumo using a suicide capsule when she's captured and brought on the Sigur Valens. This being Mikumo, the capsule does not contain cyanide but a small yet powerful reaction warhead.
  • In Skyhold Academy Yearbook, one installment includes a chapter which is essentially an AU version of the Dragon Age II DLC Mark of the Assassin. One character is revealed to have a cyanide tooth.
  • In The Wrong Reflection the mirror universe version of Kanril Eleya carries a poison capsule in a back molar in case of capture by Terran forces. Dr. Warragul Wirrpanda, the USS Bajor's chief medical officer, convinces her to let him remove it (using a jumja stick as a bribe) and identifies the contents as promazine, a poison issued by the Obsidian Order to their operatives in the prime universe. He also puts the lie to the Obsidian Order's canonical claim that it kills painlessly, saying that "it feels like your whole head is on fire until you cark it."
    Dal Kanril: (narrating) Despite my brave face to Damar, I know what the Terrans do to female prisoners.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • As in Real Life, the U2 spy plane pilots in Bridge of Spies are instructed to commit suicide (with a poisoned pin hidden inside a fake silver dollar) should they risk capture.
  • By Dawn's Early Light (1990). After World War III breaks out the pilot of a B-52 bomber gives a suicide pill to his female co-pilot, but then begs her not to use it so he won't be alone.
  • In Captain America: The First Avenger, Heinz Kruger, the HYDRA soldier who shoots Dr. Erskine, kills himself with cyanide hidden in a fake tooth when he's captured by Steve. According to Colonel Phillips later in the movie, every HYDRA soldier the Howling Commandos of the 107th Infantry manage to capture does the same thing. Except Dr. Arnim Zola, which tips Phillips off that Zola is willing to bargain for his life.
  • In the Crapsack World of Children of Men, the government issues free suicide pills called Quietus.
  • In Contact, Jodie Foster's character is given a suicide pill to use if anything goes wrong, such as being marooned or an incomprehensible Fate Worse than Death. According to the film, every NASA astronaut and test pilot is given one of these, for emergencies where dying quickly would be a mercy. In his book Lost Moon, Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell mentioned that this had been a rumor for some time and that it was not true — it would be much easier simply to open the main hatch and depressurize the spacecraft.
  • In the film version of Diabolik, the protagonist fakes his death by taking a pill that puts him in suspended animation for 12 hours; the police assume he did this trope and take him to the morgue, where his Girl Friday administers the antidote.
  • An especially chilling film variant in the German film Downfall has Goebbels' wife drugging her six children to sleep and then crushing a cyanide pill between their teeth as they're asleep, killing them all: she knows that Adolf Hitler's reign is coming to an end, and believes that a world without the Nazis is not worth it for her children. The fact that the scene displays a historical fact arguably makes it all that much worse.note 
  • In The Eagle Has Landed IRA man working for the Nazis Liam Devlin collects the papers and other accessories needed for his mission in England, asks his controller Colonel Radl "No cyanide capsule?" Radl replies, "I could not think of a situation which would force you to take it".
  • In Fail Safe the crewmembers of American bombers have a variation. Since taking off your mask and taking a pill would be difficult, they have a poison needle in a special pocket of their flight suits.
  • In Fallen, John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) lures Azazel (possessing his partner) out to a distant cabin in order to kill him. As the partner dies, Azazel laughs because he can easily take over John Hobbes once his host body passes. But John is smoking poison-laced cigarettes...
  • Female Agents: Every SOE operative has been given one so they can kill themselves rather than be tortured to give information. Gaëlle refuses as she is a devout Catholic to whom suicide is a mortal sin. Later, after she is tortured into giving the others up, her resolve breaks and she uses it out of remorse.
  • At the start of the Danish film Flame And Citron (2008), Flame is shown putting two pistols and a cyanide pill in his pockets, before going on an assassination mission for La Résistance. At the end of the movie he's cornered in a safe house by German troops, so takes the pill to avoid capture and torture by the Gestapo. Citron, on the other hand, chooses to go out shooting.
  • Get Smart repeats the gag from the page quote, with Agent 99 replacing the Chief. In this version, Max was just being facetious.
  • Neo-Vipers in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra have a nanomite suicide function that can also rapidly break down their bodies. It's uncertain whether they can activate this, but the Doctor certainly can.
  • In The Handmaiden, Fujiwara offers Hideko a vial of concentrated opium as an incentive when she explains how much she fears "the basement". A few drops of the opium will render her unconscious for hours, and the whole bottle will kill her painlessly and quickly. Fujiwara himself has mercury-impregnated cigarettes prepared in the event that things do not go according to plan.
  • At the beginning of the film version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, one of the enemy Mooks kills himself this way after being caught by Allan Quatermain.
  • James Bond:
    • In Dr. No, the enemy driver kills himself with a cyanide cigarette.
    • Thunderball. Bond Girl Paula Kaplan takes cyanide rather than face interrogation by SPECTRE thugs. In a cruel irony, Bond would have arrived in time to save her if she hadn't.
    • Bond is supplied with a cyanide pill hidden in his briefcase o' tricks in the book From Russia with Love. He flushes it down the toilet.
    • In Licence to Kill, a Hong Kong narcotics agent bites down on one when confronted by Sanchez for questioning.
    • In The World Is Not Enough, the Cigar Girl Assassin blows herself up rather than face arrest from MI6, or worse yet, punishment (for failing to kill Bond) from Renard.
    • In Die Another Day, M asks Bond why he didn't take his pill when captured. Bond replies that he got rid of it years ago.
    • Raoul Silva in Skyfall attempted to commit suicide using a hydrogen cyanide implant in one of his molars during his capture, torture, and imprisonment by the Chinese after M's betrayal. The suicide attempt failed, horrifically scarring Silva both mentally and physically. It should be noted that's not how hydrogen cyanide works, but the writers may have assumed otherwise from its alternate name: prussic acid.
    • A technical version in the original script of Spectre, where it's Q who is captured by the bad guys, rather than the Bond Girl. Bond finds his hotel room in disarray and that he's trashed his laptop so they cannot get their hands on the sensitive government files it holds.
  • The eponymous John Doe Vigilante takes one while awaiting the verdict in his trial, knowing that he's either going to prison for the rest of his life or that he has no life to go back to even if he is acquitted—his wife and daughter were murdered, which spurred his killing spree.
  • Subverted in Kick-Ass 2. Hit-Girl has a syringe she tells Dave is only to be used "when you're about to die," hinting that it's this. She pulls it out in the final battle with Mother Russia, who likewise assumes it's poison (though she assumes Hit-Girl is trying to poison her) and injects Hit-Girl with it. Turns out, it's pure adrenaline, to give you a better chance fighting, not to put you out of your misery.
  • Lust, Caution: Wong Chia-chi is given one when she joins a Chinese Nationalist cell in occupied Shanghai. When she is about to face capture by the Japanese, she reaches for it but decides to allow herself to be captured alive.
  • In On the Beach, the Australian government hands out suicide pills so their citizens can avoid the painful, and inevitable, death by radiation poisoning. An Australian naval officer who on the mission has the difficult task of talking his wife into euthanizing their baby daughter, and then herself, if he hasn't returned by the time the end comes.
  • Power Connection: An arrested henchman who is about to be interrogated by the protagonist swallows a hidden capsule in his mouth after being taken alive.
  • The Predators of Predator and its sequels carry a suicide Self-Destruct Mechanism. Considering they choose to hunt xenomorphs, and humans who would reverse-engineer any captured technology, it's probably a good idea.
  • Remo Williams, the film of The Destroyer series; Harold W. Smith of CURE keeps a pill in his pocket at all times. If CURE becomes compromised, he takes the pill to cause a "massive coronary" (heart attack).
  • Faced with the possibility of being Trapped in the Past in Rewind (2013), Lyndsay brings enough for herself & her teammates Danny and Shaun. As a devoted historian, she'd rather they die than irreparably alter the future if their portal closes before they can get back to it.
  • Subverted in Salt. The captivated heroine pretends to have swallowed a cyanide pill, just so she could be transferred to ER where she is able to overpower the surprised staff.
  • A late example in Saw 3D happens near the near-end of the film. A police group walk into a room, unaware it's booby-trapped until the door closes and several cyanide pills fall into a solution, causing the Deadly Gas to kill them within seconds.
  • One of the Mongol Warriors in The Shadow deliberately falls to his death rather than betray Shiwan Kahn.
  • A very early example can be seen in the 1928 silent movie Spies, where one of the villain's henchmen takes poison before being captured by the Secret Service.
  • Used twice in Telefon (1977), the first time by a Manchurian Agent (leading to much puzzlement among the CIA as to how a typical American housewife got hold of an obsolete Soviet suicide pill) and the second time by the KGB protagonist to kill a Renegade Russian (first he throttles him, them to make sure he places a pill between the man's teeth and slams his hand against the jaw to crush it).
  • The Australian short film Ubermensch (based on a story by Kim Newman) has the title character being given a lead-lined pill of kryptonite. A man with Super Strength can bite through lead, it's pointed out. The premise is that Superman grew up in Nazi Germany, but eventually surrendered himself rather than support the Nazi cause. Given that he's immortal, a Nazi Hunter gives him the chance to kill himself so he won't be a potential rallying point for future fascist groups.
  • In Unknown (2011), when Professor Cole goes to see Jürgen, Jürgen empties a sachet of cyanide into his tea and drinks it when he realizes that Cole is not all he seems, and to keep Martin safe.
  • In Watchmen, Adrian Veidt reaches into the mouth of his would-be assassin to get at his cyanide pill. More accurately, he feeds it to the hitman to clean up that loose end. The whole thing was staged to throw suspicion off Veidt.
  • In Wonder Woman (2017), after Diana and Steve defeat some German mooks in an alley, Diana wraps the still-conscious one in the Magic Lasso and tries to question him. The man's arms are free enough for him to pop a cyanide pill into his mouth rather than say anything.
  • In The Young Poisoner's Handbook, Graham carries an "Exit Dose": a vial of thallium to commit suicide if he is caught. However, he drops it when he trips over a fence while trying to escape the police, and is tackled by a bobby before he grab it again.

    Gamebooks 
  • In the Lone Wolf book Dawn of the Dragons, an assassin questioned by Lone Wolf uses a poison pellet hidden in a tooth to kill himself — but also to liberate a Deadly Gas in the cell, trying to take the hero with him. Lone Wolf can shrug off the effects thanks to his Nexus power.

    Literature 
  • The Adversary Cycle "Nightworld". A member of an Ancient Conspiracy which helps bring about The End of the World as We Know It carries a vial of cyanide in case the Ultimate Evil doesn't hold up his end of the bargain. After watching The Swarm chomp on his compatriots without any word from his master he realises he's well and truly screwed and takes out his vial...only for it to be sent flying when something nasty takes a bite out of his arm. The rest of the nasty chewing things are on top of him before he can pick it up again.
  • In Animorphs The Hork-Bajir Chronicles the Arn bioengineer themselves to die if they are taken over by a yeerk. In The Andalite Chronicles, Esplin 9466 aka Sub-Visser Seven mentions that no Yeerk has successfully infested an Andalite since they immediately use their tail-blades on themselves when captured. He is able to pull this off thanks to Elfangor rendering Alloran unconscious. Esplin being the first Yeerk to acquire an Andalite host (one with a lot of military secrets in his head to boot) puts him on the fast track to promotion. In the series proper he's better known as Visser Three.
  • Assignment Gestapo by Sven Hassel. After Lieutenant Ohlsen is sentenced to decapitation by a Nazi tribunal, the Legionnaire is able to smuggle him a poison capsule. The guards are suspicious and tear apart his cell (it will be their heads if a prisoner kills himself before he's due to be executed) but fail to discover it. Unfortunately, Ohlsen fails to take the pill straight away, and a later search discovers it.
  • L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth (the book, not the movie) has this with high-ranking Psychlos. Anyone who knows their classified, encrypted math system gets some brainwashing and an implant in his brain. If he attempts to teach the secret to any other race, a fuse blows and his mind is fried.
  • Between Silk and Cyanide by Leo Marks. Marks is trying to convince SOE to replace the poem code (which can be memorized by an agent, yet easily broken by German cryptographers, assuming the Gestapo doesn't just torture the code out of them) with the more secure WOK code. As the WOK code has to be carried on the agent's person, Marks wants them printed on silk which will escape a pat-down search, but silk is in short supply (due to the demand for parachutes). Asked to summarize his argument in a report, Marks replies that he can do it in a single sentence: "It's a choice between silk and cyanide" (the L-Pill which agents are issued to kill themselves to escape torture).
  • What's left of the U.S. Marines in Day-by-Day Armageddon carry home-made cyanide pills in case they end up parachuting into a gaggle of zombies. One of them notes that a few of his comrades screwed up the cooking process and, rather than dying, only ended up paralyzed as the zombies closed in on them.
  • A similar magical method, called "death-triggers" is used in the Deryni novels.
  • In the Destroyer series of novels, Dr. Smith has a Cyanide pill in a false tooth. He would swallow it if C.U.R.E.'s security is ever breached.
  • Discworld:
    • A little over halfway through the novel Thud!, Sam Vimes is attacked in his home by agents of the "deep down" dwarves he suspects of trying to cover up a murder. One of the dwarfish agents survives and is captured, but not for long, as Vimes discovers the dwarf has succumbed to a slow-acting poison he and the others took before going on their mission.
    • In Monstrous Regiment, a captured enemy spy does his best to eat the military secrets he's been entrusted with, conveniently written on rice paper. A few moments later the spy dies, and the good guys realize the manual was poisoned. His orders to eat the papers were not only intended to protect the manual, but also to execute the hapless spy.
  • In The Dresden Files novel Death Masks, Nicodemus' fanatics are equipped with cyanide pills in case of arrest. They end up chomping down on them when defeated and handcuffed.
  • Dune: Duke Leto is betrayed by Dr. Yueh, but the doctor gives him a poison-gas tooth so he can kill Baron Harkonnen, the Duke's enemy. This makes Leto something of a kamikaze — but an unsuccessful one, as the gas only kills Harkonnen's advisor.
  • Fear is the Key, by Alistair MacLean. The protagonist John Talbot and the villains are trapped on the bottom of the ocean in a submersible. To convince them that he's Not Afraid to Die, Talbot puts a button from his shirt in his mouth and tells them it's a suicide pill that will kill him quickly, whereas they'll die slowly of suffocation. It's actually a bluff to get an Engineered Public Confession.
  • The title character of Firebird was sent to war under orders to kill herself in the line of duty (Members of the royal family more than four places from the throne traditionally suicide so as to prevent succession disputes. With the recent birth of her niece, she was now fifth in line for the throne). After failing to get shot down, and failing to kamikaze into a mountain, she takes poison as she is tractored into an enemy warship so that she cannot be interrogated. Her captors realize that she'd taken poison almost immediately and manage to keep her alive.
  • In another After the End novel, Free Flight by Douglas Termen, the government has issued a standard kit of two syringes — one containing the poison, and the other an antidote in case you change your mind. However to reduce the unpleasant side effects of the poison it also contains a narcotic, and once someone takes it the feeling of euphoria is so pleasant few people are inclined to take the antidote.
  • Subverted in the novel From Russia with Love. The world's quintessential spy, James Bond, is issued a cyanide pill with his kit. He flushes it down the toilet at the first opportunity.
  • In Half a Crown, an Alternate History novel in which Britain made peace with Hitler rather than fight World War II, the leader of the British secret police has formed a group inside the secret police that defies the government by doing things like smuggling Jews out of the country. All members have a false tooth implanted with a cyanide pill so they can take it rather than be forced to betray the others.
  • In the Darker and Edgier The Hardy Boys Casefiles series, the boys had a recurring nemesis in the Assassins, all of whom were equipped with a poison tooth. This led to a situation where Joe was rushing towards an Assassin when he realizes said character is having a problem getting his tooth out. So he punches it out of the guy's mouth.
  • In Honor Harrington "Torch of Freedom", the protagonists realize that something is seriously screwy with the Mesa Corporation when one of their agents resorts to this rather than be captured. Victor Cachat also carries one everywhere he goes; other spies find this somewhat excessive.
  • In the third The Hunger Games novel, Mockingjay, Katniss has one of these and attempts to use it, but is stopped.
  • I Am Legend. Facing torture and execution, the protagonist is given this by a sympathetic member of the infected for a Mercy Kill.
  • If This Goes On—. The protagonist is told that the Inquisitors have gotten wise to the hollow tooth trick, but La Résistance has developed different methods, including one you can use if your hands are tightly bound behind your back — being held in that position, which you can't do without conscious effort, ruptures the poison capsule. The man explaining this mentions that in his case he has a bomb implanted in his belly that will kill not only himself but anyone else in the room.
  • A variant in the Lensmen series: For a time, Boskonian agents were equipped with a false tooth filled with a drug that would wipe their memories, for use in the event of their capture. This was superseded by "mental operations" that made them believe that the orders they followed were their own idea, without any memory of the higher-ups who gave them those orders.
  • Some cultists in David Eddings's The Malloreon series come with an automatic, magical one preinstalled; upon being asked a certain question, the one who gets interrogated goes mad and throws himself off a cliff, laughing maniacally all the way.
  • The Martian: Discussed but ultimately not used. After he's stranded Mark Watney checks the remaining supplies and mentions that there's enough morphine for a lethal dose. He decides that if his food runs out he'll take the morphine to spare himself a long death by starvation.
  • In Mr Standfast, the German spymaster attempts to commit suicide after he is captured with a poison pill hidden in his cigarette case, but is foiled by an alert guard. He would rather die quickly by his own hand than face the consequences that await him in captivity.
  • The people in The Night Land and Awake in the Night Land have one in their arms when they venture to the titular Night Land. It is to be bitten in a hopeless situation, in order to prevent their soul from being Destroyed by the creatures of the Night. Dying this way at least people are able to reincarnate again.
  • In Peter F. Hamilton's Night's Dawn Trilogy, a protagonist is surrounded by hordes of possessed whose modus operandi is to torture people until they lose the will to live and allow themselves to be possessed. To avoid that fate and pull a Taking You with Me, she issues a "kamikaze code" to her Powered Armor, blowing herself and her attackers up.
  • On the Beach: In the aftermath of an apocalyptic nuclear war, with fallout having killed most of the globe and spreading southward, the Australian government provides cyanide pills to its citizens so that they need not die slowly of radiation poisoning.
  • In the Otto Prohaska series, a Serbian anarchist brags of his mission to assassinate Archduke Ferdinand and even shows off the vial of cyanide he's been given. Later Otto is told that it's actually essence of almond bought from a bakery, as the man is meant to be captured alive and confess as a Pretext for War with Serbia.
  • In Path of the Fury, all members of the Imperial Cadre have suicide devices built into their cybernetic implants that trigger automatically if they are captured. The system is so sensitive that a friendly medic accidentally sets off Alicia's when trying to get basic diagnostic data. Fortunately, the suicide device shut off after the doctor stopped examining the hardware (but not before she nearly killed one of the other surgeons on reflex).
  • A Piece of Resistance, a novel by Clive Egleton set in a Soviet-occupied Britain. Two members of La Résistance are caught by a counter-intelligence agent. The woman bites down on her cigarette and suddenly falls to the ground. It turns out there is no suicide pill; she was simply creating a distraction so her partner could attack the agent. Ironically at the end of the novel the same woman is stopped by police and bites down on a suicide pill she's carrying in her mouth — it turns out that her papers were in order and it was simply a routine check.
  • The protagonist of the Quiller spy novels refuses to carry a suicide pill because he's Suffix 9 (Reliable Under Torture), though he changes his mind in the later novels, after being interrogated a few times.
  • Rod Albright Alien Adventures has a more children's book-friendly version: before Rod leaves on a gambit that could put him at the Sadistic villain's mercy, Ambadassador Madame Pong gives him her Diplomatic Officer ring and shows him how it can be activated to cause instant, painless death. It's never used.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe:
    • In A.C. Crispin's Han Solo novels, it's once mentioned that Rebel agents carry suicide pills. One of them, Han's ex-girlfriend Bria Tharen, has hers put on the collar of her armor, in case she ends up too badly hurt to put it into her mouth. She and her commandos all end up taking them.
    • Noghri commandos in The Thrawn Trilogy have some kind of suicide mechanism.
    "My duty is to obey my orders. All of my orders."
    Leia frowned. Something about the way he'd said that... and abruptly, she knew what it was. For a captured commando facing interrogation, there could be only one order left to follow.
  • In the Tortall Universe, suicide spells are sometimes used to avoid truthspells or torture.
  • Subverted in the Warhammer 40,000: Eisenhorn trilogy, where a captured Mook commits unintentional suicide when Eisenhorn tries to interrogate him, thanks to an implanted bomb in his head that's set to go off if the bearer even thinks of revealing a certain piece of information.
  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 Space Wolf novel Wolfblade, they find an assassin dead of poison — causing Ragnor to comment on what a fanatic the assassin must have been. The possibility of mind control is brought up.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 24 Season 3: CTU distributes suicide pills to people who have been exposed to a deadly virus for which there is no cure, so if they want they can die without suffering the painful effects of the virus.
  • In Agent Carter, SSR chief Dooley travels to Nuremberg to interrogate a Nazi imprisoned there and sentenced to be hanged. Dooley offers him a cyanide pill to die quicker and without the risk of mis-hanging if the Nazi spills about some classified information. A minute later, though, it turns out Dooley was lying; it was just a breath mint.
  • In The Agency, the CIA provides a Russian scientist with a poison injection device disguised as a ballpoint pen. It was established that a squad of Russian security agents was hunting down those communicating information to the west, and shoving them into lit furnaces; punishment for traitors. The pen was meant to be a merciful option if the scientist was caught. Instead, the scientist used the pen as a weapon to take out the last boss agent.
  • 'Allo 'Allo!:
    • Parodied in an episode where suicide pills are slipped to René as he is imprisoned by Herr Flick. When he (and the Colonel and Captain) swallow the pills, they don't work.
    • An episode near the show's finale (when the Nazis are becoming increasingly worried at the possibility of an Allied invasion) had General Von Klinkenhoffen provide Gruber and the Colonel with "suicide teeth", ridiculous-looking dentures that served the same function when bitten down hard. Those didn't work either.
  • The Ghosts in season four of Arrow are very quick to use these if captured, which makes interrogating them nigh-impossible. Anarky gets round this problem by tasering someone he wants to interrogate and ripping out the tooth concerned, which he keeps as a Creepy Souvenir.
  • Babylon 5:
    • The captain of a renegade Minbari warship, which broke from its government when they called for surrender at the Battle of the Line, turns himself in to B5 authorities, then takes a poison pill hidden in a tooth. His crew had planned to use his death, ostensibly at Human hands, to provoke a war. When another, loyal Minbari warship arrives and disables the rogue vessel (without killing, as Minbari do not kill other Minbari), the crew of the renegade activates a self-destruct.
    • Psi Corps operatives do this too, with a nice little rant about "the future".
  • An episode of Black Adder features unspecified suicide pills which only kill after a characteristic set of mood swings forming an Overly Long Gag — deep depression, incredible anger, total forgetfulness, exquisite happiness, then jumping into a corner. Naturally, Blackadder cons his enemies into accidentally taking them rather than using them himself. Except for the fact that he learns immediately afterwards that they were undercover and really on his side.
  • In an episode of Castle, the eponymous character leaps in to stop a captured Chinese spy from swallowing one. It turns out to be chewing gum.
  • In the The Closer episode "Time Bomb", when the police arrive to arrest one of a group of Nietzsche Wannabes planning a massacre, he takes several antidepressants before they cuff him. At the station, they let him get a chocolate bar from a vending machine, not knowing that the chocolate, combined with the antidepressant overdose, will kill him mid-interrogation.
  • Colony: The Red Hand operative Frankie uses one to kill herself so she doesn't reveal information under torture, which Bowman interrupted, faking a seizure that made him undo her restraints.
  • The UnSub in the aptly-titled Criminal Minds episode "Poison" takes a fatal dose of botulism before he's arrested so that he dies before the agents can finish interrogating him.
  • Implied in the Decoy episode "Blind Date." "Think Augie's going to say one word? Or he's going to take his medicine like a man?"
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", a member of the Black Scorpion Tong, after being captured by the police, commits suicide with a scorpion venom pill to avoid revealing anything under interrogation. Weng-Chiang forces another Tong member to commit suicide after he makes a mistake, laughing maniacally as the man dies in agony.
    • In "The Caves of Androzani", mercenary gunrunner Stotz is confronted by one of his men demanding payment. Stotz forces him to the ground at knifepoint and takes out a pill.
      Stotz: The boss gave me one of these. Ten seconds he said. Let's see if it works. (shoves it in the mook's mouth, who tries to swallow it whole but Stotz jams a fist over his throat) COME ON, YOU SLUT! BITE! BITE! BITE! (lets him go) Next time, it'll be for real.
    • In "Time Heist", the Doctor assumes the syringes they find are "atom shredders" meant to painlessly kill anyone caught by the Teller. He calls them an "escape route... of a sort." In fact, they're a more conventional escape route: they teleport the user to a spaceship in orbit. By claiming they were this trope, their true nature escaped the mind-reading Teller.
  • The FBI: In "The Sacrifice", a communist stooge is given a cyanide pill by his superiors before being sent to assassinate Erskine, in the hopes that he will kill himself if he bungles the murder. Turns out to be a Red Herring as while the pill is toyed with, it is never actually used.
  • FBI: Most Wanted: Subverted in the episode "Silkworm". An FBI agent turned traitor pockets a cyanide pill moments before he's captured. Rather than swallow it, he drops it in the cup of the agent driving him. The poison kills the driver, causing the car to crash, and allowing him to escape. Also, turns out he got it from a Russian spy he captured, who apparently never got the chance to use it either.
  • Foyle's War. In "The Funk Hole" the murderer steals a cyanide pill kept by one character in case of a German invasion and uses it to fake another man's suicide. Rather than instant painless sleep, however, the victim takes quite a long time to die and is found by the landlady in time to give her some revealing Last Words.
  • A French Village: A captured French resistance fighter uses a hidden cyanide capsule to kill himself with Daniel's (very reluctant) help rather than be tortured into giving up information.
  • When shapeshifter lieutenant Thomas Jerome Newton is captured on Fringe, Alt-livia gives him a capsule that melts him into a puddle before he can be forced to talk.
  • Future Man: The Biotics have small explosives implanted in their skulls which they detonate when the Resistance is close to capturing them alive. However, Wolf has become quite good at disabling them before it happens.
  • Game of Thrones: Cersei procures a bottle of poison before the events of "Blackwater", just in case. She's about to force her son to take it on hearing soldiers breaking into the throne room, only to surreptitiously discard it when her father Lord Tywin enters, declaring that they've won the battle.
  • An episode of Get Smart has Maxwell Smart and KAOS Agent Seigfried compare their suicide contingencies. Smart has a raspberry-flavored cyanide pill. ("Care for a taste? It's all right, it's not addictive.") Seigfried says he has a "suicide ring". It works through his wife. ("She says if I ever take it off, she'll kill me.") In the 2008 movie, Max is reminded of the pill in his belt buckle, but in a subverted Chekhov's Gun, it never gets used.
  • Hawaii Five-O: In the original's pilot "Cocoon", Steve McGarrett is given a cyanide pill as part of props for the plot to convince enemy agents that he's "Control" -the head of government secret agents on the island.
  • In The Inside episode "Point of Origin", a serial arsonist being interrogated sets himself on fire by pouring the interrogator's pitcher of water on himself (before turning himself in to the FBI, he had doused himself with a chemical that ignites when combined with water).
  • In Kamen Rider Build, members of the evil organization Faust will kill themselves by overexposure to the Nebula Gas contained within Full Bottles (the show's Transformation Trinket) in order to avoid capture. In one episode Build actually manages to prevent it by quickly snatching the Bottle away from the bad guy only for his boss to shoot him dead anyway.
  • In a right-to-die episode of Law & Order the defendant's Kavorkian-esque father drinks poison before his court appearance, which gives him enough time to claim responsibility before dying.
  • In the Life episode "Hit Me Baby", an assassin pretends she's about to swallow a suicide pill so that when an officer rushes over to stop her, she spits the pill right down his throat.
  • The heroine in the 1979 mini-series A Man Called Intrepid had one of these hidden inside a hollow tooth. When she's caught by German soldiers in the woods they make sure to knock her out so she doesn't have time to use it.
  • The Mandalorian: The Imperial transport Captain in "The Heiress" uses an electric device seemingly installed in his mouth to commit suicide after being captured by The Mandalorian and Bo-Katan Kryze. In clear reference to this trope, he activates it by biting down hard, presumably on a microswitch installed in a tooth.
  • In one episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Illya fakes taking one of these as part of an elaborate scam aimed at an enemy diplomat.
  • The TV series Martial Law does this in a particularly disturbing way. A few episodes deal with a cult whose Mooks carry a Cyanide Pill that's surgically embedded in their pinky finger. When cornered, they break their finger (with a sickening crick noise), the pill breaks along with the bones and kills them very quickly indeed. It doesn't take long before this is used as a nonstandard Pressure Point, by both the good guys (after establishing how hard it is to take them alive) and other members.
  • In the Miami Vice episode "Heroes of the Revolution," a drug dealer hides a cyanide capsule in his car keys and takes it when he is arrested.
  • Motherland: Fort Salem: The Spree terrorists who attack Abigail kill themselves rather than be captured (in fact, they do it by self-immolation, a particularly painful method of death-possibly this also prevents their corpses later getting questioned, as was seen to be possible).
  • On NCIS, the man who kills Eli David and Jackie Vance is wounded and cornered by Ziva and Gibbs; rather than let himself be arrested, he bites a poisoned cigarette and is dead within seconds.
  • NCIS: New Orleans: In "The Third Man", The Mole delivers a cyanide pill to Judy Brown while she is in NCIS custody to allow her to kill herself before she can be handed over to the Department of Homeland Security.
  • The New Avengers: In "The Eagle's Nest", Gambit captures an enemy operative who kills himself with a concentrated dose of jellyfish venom.
  • Orphan Black: in season 2, episode 10 ("By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried"), Professor Ethan Duncan, being held captive by the DYAD institute and interrogated for information about his experiments commits suicide by drinking tea he had secretly laced with cyanide to ensure that his research would never be found by DYAD or Rachel.
  • Used for Black Comedy in Red Dwarf. In "Stasis Leak", the crew are taking a lift down to floor 16, and watching a video of a stewardess give the typical in-flight safety information. However, since there are no emergency exits, suicide pills are located under the seats of all the passengers. The stewardess in the video then demonstrates the proper method of taking the pill...
  • On the Sanford and Son episode "Sergeant Gork", Fred tells several tall tales about his exploits in WWII, one of which includes his taking a cyanide pill after being captured by the enemy. (After writhing in pain for several moments, he reveals that he accidentally bit his tongue instead, earning him the Purple Heart.)
  • On Saturday Night Live hosted by Richard Pryor, Pryor plays a military officer being sent on a dangerous mission. He's being told what he'll be "taking" on the mission but misunderstands when the man briefing him says "Oh, and take that pill." Pryor swallows it and only then is told it's a suicide pill.
  • In the popular Soviet series Seventeen Moments of Spring, a man is recruited as an informant by Stirlits (Soviet spy in Nazi Germany) and given a suicide pill hidden in a cigarette, an obvious Chekhov's Gun. He is later cornered by Nazi counter-intelligence agents and proceeds to take the pill... and jump out the window for good measure.
  • In Smallville, Shield, Chloe is revealed to have taken one when she is taken by Checkmate, to the devastation of Clark and Oliver. Turned out she faked her death.
  • Space: Above and Beyond: A captured chig uses water as this in the pilot, which unbeknownst to the 58th is fatal for them.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • In one episode, a Tok'ra agent caught by a Bounty Hunter attempts to poison himself, unsuccessfully. The hunter is surprised that a Goa'uld would do something like that (not realizing the difference between the two factions).
    • The weapons used by za'tarcs include an explosive self-destruct.
    • As revealed in "The Tomb" (much to O'Neill's disgust), the Russian teams sent through the Stargate were each given a cyanide pill in case they couldn't return.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series. The Orion spy uses one of these in "Journey to Babel," right after his comrades blow up their ship with their Self-Destruct Mechanism.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation. Romulan defector Admiral Jarok kills himself by ingesting a felodesine chip which he brought with him.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • Vorta diplomats each carry a termination "button" in their jawline to negate any attempt at interrogation. Ordinary poison wouldn't do the trick since Vorta are designed at birth to be immune to most toxins. The implant sends a signal to a Vorta's brainstem, triggering a quick, profoundly painful death (the Founders told the Vorta their deaths would be painless, but this was proven to be bogus). During his attempt to defect to the Federation, Weyoun 6 is dogged around space by Dominion agents, who demand that he kill himself. He finally relents when a Jem'Hadar fleet threatens to open fire on the runabout shuttle he was sharing with Odo. ("Treachery, Faith, and the Great River")
    • In the episode "Extreme Measures", Sloan, an agent of the very secretive Section 31, triggers a "neuro-depolarizing device" when he's captured by Dr. Bashir. This not only kills him but starts destroying his brain and all the secrets within; Bashir has to delay this process long enough to get some crucial information from Sloan's mind.
    • There are three appearances of a cyanide pill in Deep Space Nine; the third is Promazine, a literal pill of Cardassian origin, which not only kills someone but causes their body to crumble into dust within a few hours, leaving no trace. ("Covenant")
  • Star Trek: Picard. The Romulan Zhat Vash assassins have the ability to spit acid. One of them is captured in the third episode and tied to a chair; when he spits acid at his interrogators it also dissolves him because he can't move, fulfilling this trope.
  • On Top Gear, when Clarkson discusses hiding his Mercedes CLK Black in an underground car park to prevent Mercedes from taking it off for its service, Hammond jokes that the car will take a cyanide pill when it realizes it can't escape. "It'll have hidden it inside one of its massive wheel-arches!"
  • In the new V series, all Visitors living among humans carry a pill that not only kills them but also incinerates their bodies within seconds in order to hide that they're The Reptilians.

    Music 

    Puppet Shows 
  • Spoofed in the movie Team America: World Police. When Gary is being briefed for his first mission, Spottswoode prepares him for the fact that, if he is captured, he might want to take his own life. To that end, he supplies him with... a hammer.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • The 3.5 book Exemplars of Evil has the evil spell infallible servant, which ensure that a minion will not fall into enemy hands, by making it dissolves into a foul sludge if he's captured (or killed, making it very hard to resurrect).
    • The Keepers, an Outsider race described in the Fiend Folio, have this as a racial trait. If they are captured or pinned down for more than 10 rounds, they dissolve into a puddle of poison.
  • Pathfinder:
    • In the adventure path Curse of the Crimson Throne, Red Mantis Assassins can choose to disintegrate themselves when killed, making them harder to resurrect or interrogate posthumously (which is the important bit, since only the willing can be resurrected).
    • In the adventure path Skull and the Shackles, the players' ship is attacked by sahuagin (evil Fish People) raiders with pufferfish spines concealed in their mouths. If a raider is captured or incapacitated, he swallows the spine and lets its toxin kill him.
  • In Rocket Age agents of the Red Scorpion, a powerful crime syndicate, frequently carry cyanide pills, as do the agents of various governments.

    Video Games 
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, the Blackwood Ring of Silence is a magical version; a ring that deals massive amounts of fire damage. To the wearer.
  • A minor boss early in Fire Emblem: The Blazing Blade, Beyard, takes poison after he's defeated. Granted, it's made explicit that if he failed and wasn't killed in battle, his superiors would kill him. The Black Fang's just nasty like that.
  • Choosing the "Kill Yourself" option in Grand Theft Auto Online when you have a silencer attachment on the standard pistol will have your character consume a pill and die in a hurry, as opposed to the character simply capping themselves.
  • In Grim Fandango, revolutionary leader Salvador Limones has a suicide pill implanted in a fake tooth that kills not only himself but anyone else too close to him when he uses it.
  • Several members of the Meek have these and will take them if necessary in the third installment of the Heroes Rise trilogy.
  • In the Kingdom of Loathing Crimbo 2009 event, members of the Elvish Resistance dropped suicide pills made of sugar. A small pill containing enough sugar to kill one of Santa's elves. Even the narrator is astonished.
  • The Garo monsters in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask will commit suicide if Link defeats them in combat... by way of setting themselves on fire. "To die without leaving a corpse; that is the way of the Garo." Things get strange when the Garo Master instead blows himself up with a handy bomb... And drops hints seconds later his "suicide" wasn't entirely fatal.
  • In Mass Effect 2, Mordin Solus makes an offhand comment that while updating the Cerberus crew's dental records, he found out they are outfitted with cyanide capsules in a tooth. He finds them crude in comparison to the ocular nerve flashbangs that salarian agents are apparently outfitted with. It turns out in the third game that Cerberus was listening to that particular conversation.
  • Metal Gear:
    • Snake hides a pill on his person in the event that he's captured by the Russians in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. However, it's not a death pill, it's a potassium cyanide capsule that merely dulls his vital signs to appear dead. After the enemies inspect his body and leave, he can activate his Revive pill hidden in his tooth and come back to life, complete with the "Game Over" music playing backwards. Snake needs to activate his Revive pill fairly quickly, otherwise, he dies for real. The Revival pill is also key to solving a Puzzle Boss: During a particularly trippy boss "fight", Snake is inevitably killed... but his inventory is still accessible.
    • All the bosses likewise have a microbomb planted in themselves, which detonate once they die in battle with Snake. There's some oddities to a few of them - The Fear's causes a rain of crossbow bolts to shoot out in every direction like he was some sort of human-shaped grenade, and The Fury's turns into some sort of actual flaming, flying skull that chases Snake out of the arena. The Boss', meanwhile, takes a while to kick in after her death, because the poignancy of that scene would be ruined if she blew up right in front of Snake or something.
    • Every single female mook in Metal Gear Solid 4 gets one of the Cardassian varieties, much to the dismay of every red-blooded male playing. Kojima is such an epic troll he won't even explain why their bodies burn up on death - we're left to assume that, like everything else in the game, it's nanomachines.
  • In Penumbra: Black Plague, it's revealed that members of an underground complex were issued cyanide pills in case they got contaminated with the stuff they were researching. Way, way better fate than letting the contamination run its course.
  • In Perfect Dark, there is a counter-ops mode that uses the same levels as in the one-player mode but gives the other player control over one of the mooks. When the mook dies, the player gets control of the next mook. If the current mook is too far from the action, they can use a suicide pill to switch to the next.
  • In the game Return to Castle Wolfenstein, your character does have a cyanide pill in his inventory, and he can use it, but there's never any real reason why he should. Your fellow secret agent companion takes his during a cutscene at the beginning of the game rather than suffer the horrors of Nazi interrogation.
  • Sword of Vermilion features an item called Banshee Powder. You take it, and it kills you, bringing you back to the last church you visited. However, it's quite advantageous to use it in situations you can't get yourself out of without dying (such as being poisoned and too far away from town), as you don't have to pay the church a fee if you use banshee powder.
  • Type "kill" or "explode" into the client log of Team Fortress 2 and you will bid farewell, cruel world. You can even assign the command to a key for convenience. This actually has a function in-game, in the event that you get stuck. Really funny when a poor sap doesn't know how to do this when he needs to.
  • Tomb Raider II: A Mook at the end of the first level drinks poison from a flask after he flubs his assassination attempt and Lara incapacitates him easily, but not before toasting his master... giving Lara the exact lead she needed anyway.
  • In the "bad" ending of Wing Commander Secret Ops (fail to destroy the command ship before it opens the gate to Nephilim space), the captain of the Cerberus tells pilots there's a pill beneath their seat that will kill them, so they don't have to experience the horror of endless waves of aliens overrunning the universe.
  • In XCOM Enemy Within, attempting to capture EXALT agents with the Arc Thrower will result in them using a poison syringe as opposed to a pill to kill themselves before losing consciousness, earning the player the "Pain In The Neck" achievement. Knowing what Dr. Vahlen is like, you can't exactly blame them for it.
  • Robinson's Requiem includes a cyanide pill in your medikit. If you're dying slowly from the game's many terrible things and can't save yourself, it'll give you a quick and painless end.

    Visual Novels 
  • In a particularly sad example, Terry Fawles in the third Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney game drinks the poison in Dahlia Hawthorne's bottle necklace before going to trial because they promised each other that if they doubted their love for each other, they would drink from it. Of course, Dahlia didn't drink it because she never loved Terry as he loved her. She was just using him as a scapegoat to commit her crimes and since he was easily swayed by his love for her and would do anything she asked of him, including killing himself. He dies during the trial when the main characters are close to solving the case -thus implicating Dahlia- with his testimony. It was this case that affected Mia Fey very greatly and was foreshadowed in the first case of the game.
  • Dio has one in Virtue's Last Reward. In Alice's ending, when Clover takes it out of his pocket and questions him about it, he asks to get a closer look, and grabs it with his teeth. Subverted in both Sigma's and Phi's endings, where Sigma and the others stopped him from taking it by dogpiling on him and injecting him with Soporil.

    Web Comics 
  • Ansem Retort: Zexion used to carry a stash of these for impromptu Mercy Kills. Or if someone was bothering him. Until Namine switched them with Mentos.
  • In Drowtales, this takes the form of the demons, called "seeds" that can be implanted into fae creatures, intentionally or by force. A demon tainted drow that needs a quick method to die and possibly take others with them can intentionally release their seed, killing themselves, well giving the demon free range of their body, transforming them into mindless killing machines. Syphile was told to do this if she failed to kill Quain'tana, but she was unable to follow through and died at the hands of her target.
  • In Girl Genius, Moloch von Zinzer is offered one when he's about to be sent to a particularly nasty prison/forced-labor camp. He takes it but doesn't use it, and now that he's back in the story many readers suspect it's a Chekhov's Gun. Given all the stuff that von Zinzer drinks one has to wonder if the poison actually would kill him... or even if he's already tried to take it. Also, the Castle already have a dispenser with this stuff anyway.
  • Nodwick's union "health plan" consists of a vial in a number of "flavors", including cyanide and hemlock. Of course, he gets resurrected half a dozen times an arc regardless of whether he uses it.
  • Parodied in Sam & Fuzzy. Fuzzy is sent in alone to perform a burglary and finds something resembling a Cyanide Pill in his equipment... Which turns out to be a jelly bean. In the event of his capture, he is to eat it as a reminder that if he keeps his mouth shut, he can have the rest of the bag afterward.
  • Schlock Mercenary:
    • In an early comic, Tagon attempts to interrogate the captain of an alien terrorist ship that Petey captured, who requests some suicide pills and hot cocoa. Turns out that he doesn't need the suicide pills due to his species' allergy to chocolate. In the following comic, Tagon and Petey discovers that his species is also fatally allergic to tea, coffee, and alcohol. The captive actually added "suicide pill" into his request for otherwise ordinary (for humans) refreshments, knowing that Tagon would notice and refuse it but possibly allow the rest of them. That makes the move a Censor Decoy in the form of a Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick.
    • Para Ventura has a remotely triggered poison capsule in one of her teeth, another tooth contains instant-hack nanites and yet another has Tagii's kill-switch. Her handlers also inserted a bomb in her neck, but she didn't know about that one.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • SCP-1749 ("Trans-American Murder Messengers"). SCP-1749-2 are Men in Black who appear only to commit murder. After killing someone they kill themselves by taking a cyanide pill. If it fails they carry a backup pill inside one of their molars.
    • SCP-1569 ("Jumbo Shrimp"). Six days after the humanoid SCP-1569-1 left SCP-1569, it committed suicide with poison hidden in one of its molars. It did so once it realized it would be confined by the Foundation indefinitely.

    Web Videos 
  • In Diamanda Hagan's review of Starrbooty, after her clip minion cut to a clip that doesn't really relate to the movie at all, Diamanda demands the minion swallow her cyanide suicide tooth. When told that she can't remember which tooth it was, Diamanda tells her to get creative. The clip minion then starts punching herself until she finds the right tooth, promptly dying.
  • In the review of Batman & Robin, The Nostalgia Critic is removed from all his methods of suicide, but they forget his Cyanide Pill. It doesn't take long for him to try to consume it... and gets thwarted by the security guard.
    Robin: I want a car! Chicks dig the car!
    Batman: This is why Superman works alone...
    Critic: [pauses, tries to pop the pill]

    Western Animation 
  • In Adventure Time, Princess Bubblegum has cyanide-laced gum stuck to the bottom of a table. She tells someone to chew it if raiders break down the door.
  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Off Balance", Batman corners two of Count Vertigo's henchmen, who gas themselves to death using a hidden catch in their masks rather than allow themselves to be captured. Batman later explains to Commissioner Gordon that they had "erased their own memories" when cornered, but from the way they're drawn convulsing and ending up with vacant dead stares on their faces, it's obvious that only the Never Say "Die" clause kept their demise from being outright stated.
  • Chris Colorado:
    • Thanors have literal kill switches installed behind their ears and are seen using them in some episodes.
    • Similarly when he fights agents from the Council of Shadows, they would rather inhale "coma gas" than surrender.
  • Drawn Together: Parodied when an assassin, who's also a genericized breakfast cereal leprechaun, takes one of his "cyanide marshmallows". There's one in every box!
  • Family Guy:
    • Parodied as Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun do a No, You Hang Up First routine (only instead of hanging up a phone, it's taking a Cyanide Pill.)
    • In "Lois Comes Out of a Shell", Stewie's evil turtle Sheldon is screwing up everyone's lives. One of his plans was to switch out Meg's cyanide pill with an Alka-Seltzer tablet.
    • In "Mr. & Mrs. Stewie", Penelope gives a kid a piece of taffy that superglues his throat shut and kills him when he picks on Stewie.
  • Futurama: A mother instructs her family to take their cyanide pills when they believe that Santa Claus, the "father of all lies and the uncle of all tricks", has broken into their home to kill them.
  • Gravity Falls: In the short "Lefty", when the aliens controlling the left-sided robot are discovered, they all swallow red crystals that cause them to disappear.
    Alien 1: The time has come, brother!
    Alien 2: I can't! I have a family!
    Alien 1: You signed the oath!
  • Invader Zim:
  • Parodied in The Simpsons: Homer is caught by Mr. Burns trying to sneak into his mansion. He almost takes a cyanide pill, but Burns mistakes Homer for a magazine editor and allows him inside, stopping him from doing so. (He then tries to take it again when Burns says they'll be doing "a little walking".)
  • Parodied in one episode of South Park. Cartman came up with a plan to rig the election, and once the other kids find out Butters is involved, he takes a peanut M&M (allergies). He starts foaming at the mouth and appears to die, but merely ends up in the hospital with a swollen face.
  • The Venture Bros.:
    • In "Love-Bheits", it is revealed that Heroic Comedic Sociopath Brock Samson has a false tooth loaded with arsenic, which he offers to Dr. Venture when they are captured by Baron Underbheit. Hank and Dean think this is the coolest thing ever until they agree that a cherry Italian ice tooth would be even better.
    • In "The Saphrax Protocol", after a Guild blackout team successfully infiltrates the Ven-Tech Tower and kidnaps Dr. Venture, only to be sent back in by Watch and Ward, Brock seals them inside the tower and kills them all off. One unlucky soldier gets cornered in a conference room and, after watching Brock shrug off a bullet to the heart (thanks to the steel plate in his chest), takes the easy way out, to Brock's annoyance.
      Brock: Come on! When did they issue poison teeth to you guys? That's cheating!

    Real Life 
  • In 1985, serial killer Leonard Lake swallowed a hidden cyanide pill while in police custody, rather than face trial for his crimes.
  • All members, from the leader to the grunts, of the terrorist/guerilla Tamil Tigers organization wore a cyanide capsule on a string around their neck in case of capture.
  • Many from Nazi Germany.
    • Hermann Göring committed suicide with a potassium cyanide capsule the night before he was to be hanged, embarrassing the U.S. Army prison guards, considering that they were instructed to keep him under a round-the-clock suicide watch.
    • Heinrich Himmler committed suicide in this manner shortly after being captured by the British.
    • Adolf Hitler resorted to a combination of Cyanide Pill and shooting himself (along with his wife), in case the pills failed to work — even though he had witnessed a poison pill successfully kill his dog, Blondi. His wife Eva Braun was content to rely on the pill only.
    • Joseph and Magda Goebbels slipped their children cyanide pills in their dinner, and actually force-fed one to their eldest daughter because she knew what was going on. This was all because they didn't want their children to live in a world without Nazism.
    • Robert Ritter von Greim, the Luftwaffe's last commander, also took cyanide while in U.S. custody after learning he was about to be handed over to the Soviet Union in an exchange of prisoners.
    • Invoked by the Nazis on Erwin Rommel. After they found out he was a co-conspirator in the July 20 plot to kill Hitler, they gave him a choice: Either he could face trial (which would be bad news for him and his family), or he could quietly commit suicide with a cyanide pill, in which case it would be officially stated that he died as a hero, he would be given a military funeral, and his family would receive pensions from the German government. This was the preferred option for the Nazi government as well, to avoid the embarrassment of telling the public a revered war hero had betrayed them. Needless to say, he took the pill.
    • Several people involved in or even distantly connected with the July 20 plot who were not arrested and/or executed killed themselves, some by cyanide capsules, such as Field Marshal von Kluge (who was merely aware of the plot, not an active participant).
    • Pierre Laval, leader of the Vichy France collaborationist government, took a pill, but either it had gone bad or it was faulty to begin with, and all it did was make him vomit. He lived to be executed.
  • Kim Hyun-hui and her elderly mentor were given cyanide capsules hidden in cigarettes to use if they were captured after their attempt to blow up Korean Air Flight 858 as part of a North Korean terrorist mission. They were caught; her mentor died, but Kim's cigarette was snatched before she could fully ingest the poison, and it only sickened her for some days.
  • The assassins' guild known as the Black Hand, despite sparking World War I, were on the whole outlandishly incompetent. After they'd, through pure coincidence, managed to kill Archduke Ferdinand, it turned out the cyanide pills they'd reserved for their capture failed to work. This becomes understandable when you realize the context. Firstly, it is a common mistake to believe that the group that directly attacked Ferdinand's motorcade was the Black Hand. It wasn't; it was actually a small Anarchist/Nationalist (yes, go figure) group called Young Bosnia, which was one of the smaller, local groups known that the Black Hand (actually "Unity or Death" in its native Serbian) co-opted to act as a proxy. The Black Hand itself was horrifically effective (their spate of assassinations in Bosnia, Austria, and Bulgaria shows as much), but the higher-ups grossly doubted the competence of YB (not entirely unjustly), and so they gave them secondhand gear. That, and consider the fact that the Black Hand's stocks of cyanide had been riddled with impurities, and you get what happened.
  • One of the most iconic Danish resistance fighters during World War II, Bent Faurschou-Hviid, better known under his codename "Flammen" (The Flame), committed suicide with a cyanide capsule in October 1944 to avoid capture by the Gestapo. When a number of Danish resistance fighters were captured by the Gestapo, the resistance appealed to Britain to help them, as the resistance was unable to get cyanide pills to them. In one of the most daring missions of the war, the British sent in bombers to bomb the Danish Gestapo headquarters, freeing them from the basement prison. Although the mission was successful, in a tragic error, during the mission the bombers also accidentally bombed a nearby children's school. After the war, some of the bomber pilots visited the families and found the families were comforting them. The families understood how necessary the mission was and that the children's deaths were an accident.
  • Not necessarily cyanide but certainly by poison; Cleopatra is said to have died this way. Almost all ancient sources have her killing herself by inducing either one or two asps to bite her.
  • To avoid being a POW, Spetsnaz would have some way to kill themselves, either a pill or a spare grenade.
  • Former investment banker and convicted arsonist Michael Marin did this in an Arizona courtroom in June 2012 immediately after being convicted of burning down his house for insurance fraud.
  • According to astronaut Jim Lovell in his memoir of the Apollo 13 mission (full quote on the quotes page for this trope), there was a well-known joke/urban legend around NASA about suicide pills being given to the crews so they could assure a quick death if they got into a situation in space they couldn't get out of. Apparently, though, it wasn't true. As many have pointed out, an astronaut who wanted to kill himself quickly and relatively painlessly could always simply open the door and decompress the spacecraft, and death would follow shortly.
  • U-2 pilot Gary Powers had a suicide needle, concealed inside a fake silver dollar; upon his capture, the KGB tested it on a dog; it died instantly. At his trial in Moscow, the prosecution alleged it was an assassination weapon. When it was revealed to the American public that Powers didn't commit suicide and allowed himself to be captured, there was a great deal of moaning in the media at how Americans are a bunch of wimps compared to the supposedly fanatically committed Soviets.
  • Secret agents carrying cyanide in hollowed-out teeth is pretty much urban legend; in fact, this would place agents at risk of killing themselves accidentally every time they ate or drank something.
  • Of course, claiming that a suspect who dies under interrogation was "a spy who took a hidden suicide pill" is a favourite excuse of political police; it sounds better than explaining that their victim was a harmless political dissident killed by brutal fascist cops.
  • When Napoleon Bonaparte was retreating from Moscow, an attack from the Russian forces nearly resulted in his capture. He was shaken enough by the event to carry a suicide pill on his person at all times from then on. When he was finally captured and exiled from France (the first time) he actually swallowed the pill, only to find its potency had weakened with age.
  • The Japanese politician and ex-Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoe killed himself like this in 1945, after his refusal to collaborate in "Operation Blacklist" (to exonerate Emperor Hirohito/Showa and the Imperial Family of criminal responsibility) made him come under suspicion of war crimes.
  • Not a pill, but Bosnian war criminal Slobodan Praljak drank a vial of cyanide in the Hague when he was being tried for his crimes.

 
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The little green blobs of the Left-facing man are exposed, causing them to swallow red crystals and vanish.

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