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Dr. Feelgood

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"If you're down he'll pick you up, Doctor Robert
Take a drink from his special cup, Doctor Robert
Doctor Robert, you're a new and better man
He helps you to understand
He does everything he can, Doctor Robert
The Beatles, "Doctor Robert"

Sometimes a Back-Alley Doctor, sometimes an otherwise respectable doctor, Dr. Feelgood serves as a catalyst for another character's dangerous or unethical prescription drug habit. They may have promised to "do no harm," but at the end of the day, they either are oblivious to the fact that the patient has a problem, or they just don't care.


Dealer doctors are on a fast track to becoming a distant memory of yesteryear, as since the advent of the Internet and large scale computing, many national health authorities proceeded to fight this practice directly by implementing systems that electronically track a physician's prescribing history and flag anything suspicious. This has worked so well, that this trope has actually veered into the opposite — there have been cases of doctors withholding narcotics from legitimate pain patients for fear of appearing like a Dr. Feelgood.

The Trope Namer is the Mötley Crüe song, though the titular character is not literally a doctor. Not to be confused with the Aretha Franklin song or the British pub rock band.



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    Anime and Manga 
  • In the original AKIRA manga, Kaneda is in a relationship with a girl who works at the school nurse's office and uses her to score drugs for his gang. Understandably, this was cut from the movie.

  • A recent Apartment 3 G has Professor Papagoras providing fake prescriptions for insomnia pills, in exchange for (it is very loosely implied) sex.

  • The doctor in Requiem for a Dream who continues to write Sara Goldfarb a prescription for diet pills, even when she complains of strange side effects and is clearly developing an addiction.
  • In The Cannonball Run, Dr. Nikolas van Helsing is the habit of injecting himself (and anyone else who asks for it) with the unspecified contents of a hypodermic he always carries, which causes him to get a blissful grin and then pass out.
  • Dr. Finegarten in S.O.B. who doles out prescription drugs like candy. He supplies Sally with the sedatives to relax her enough to do her topless scene.
  • Veronika Voss: Dr. Katz is eviler than your standard Dr. Feelgood. Not only does she hook addicts up with their morphine, she apparently creates addicts deliberately, and then she bleeds them of everything they own, finally driving them to suicide by refusing to give them any more drugs after they run out of money.

  • Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs: The County Clerk recounts a conversation with his local pharmacist:
    "'Well,' Doc says, 'there was a feller in here this morning. City feller. Dressed kinda flashy. So he's got him an RX for a mason jar of morphine... Kinda funny looking prescription writ out on toilet paper... And I told him straight out: "Mister, I suspect you to be a dope fiend." '
    "'"I got the ingrowing toenails, Pop. I'm in agony."' he says.
    "'"Well," I says, "I gotta be careful. But so long as you got a legitimate condition and an RX from a certified bona feedy M.D., I'm honored to serve you." '

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dr. Spaceman (pronounced Spa-CHEH-man) from both Arrested Development and 30 Rock.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Amy was the root of Willow's 'relapse' into her magic habit.
  • House: Dr. Gregory House is his own Dr. Feelgood, what with the Vicodin addiction and all. However, due to the rules against doctors writing prescriptions for themselves, he usually has Wilson or one of his minions get the goods for him. They occasionally find this is true of the patients they're treating that week; one episode had them discover a working Mom was filling a Ritalin prescription for her children without the knowledge of her family so she could take the pills herself for the buzz.
  • Referenced in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, when a new neighbor asks Lois who her doctor is. Lois asks what the problem is, and the neighbor replies "back pain," and goes on to imply that she will say anything to get the pills she wants. Lois replies, "Sorry, my doctor's honest."
  • Glee:
    • Sandy, the former choir teacher, sets up a pot-dealing ring after he's prescribed medicinal marijuana and even refers to his prescriber/supplier as "Dr. Feelgood".
    • Terri doling out pseudoephedrine when she becomes the school Nurse (despite not actually being a nurse).
  • A New Tricks episode focusing on the death of a rock singer, had his former bandmates point the detectives at 'Doc' who supplied them all with drugs back in the day. The guy turned out to be just a dealer rather than an actual doctor.
  • A Victim of the Week on The Glades was one of these and the clinic he operated was a 'pill mill'. It turned out that the clinic was only one of a whole chain of pill mills operated by a corrupt medical company. Also, the dead doctor was doing it so he could raise money for medical supplies to send to earthquake-ravaged Haiti
  • Law & Order had a case once involving one of these. They had a little trouble coming up with a charge that would stick because the drugs he was prescribing and supplying weren't actually illegal.
  • On Mad Men the creative team has to work over the weekend to come up with a new campaign pitch for an important client. Everyone is very tired so Rogers suggests that they call in a doctor he knows that can give them 'vitamin shots' that will give them the energy they need to finish the project. The doctor injects everyone with what appears to be methamphetamines. Things turn weird quickly with people acting loony and some even start hurting themselves. It is implied that the doctor also supplies Roger with LSD.
  • On Shadowhunters, Victor Aldertree, head of the Institute and a former field medic, gives Isabelle the Fantastic Drug yin fen. This is allegedly to help her recover from an injury, but he plays up his helpfulness in seeking a date with her. The drug is also extremely addictive, being made from vampire venom. Unable to get it from any source except for Aldertree, Isabelle ends up seeking out actual vampires to get bitten.
  • Key & Peele: Played for laughs in a sketch when a drug seeking man goes to a clinic where the doctors freely hand out medical marijuana prescriptions. Despite coaching from the doctor to claim that he's suffering from back pain, anxiety, or insomnia, the patient comes up with a series of increasingly unlikely ailments like AIDS, leprosy, scurvy, rickets, and consumption, leading the fed up doctor to slap him in the face:
    Doctor: Does your face hurt, Mr. Washington?
    Patient: Yeah.
    Doctor: [Shoves prescription at him] Then this should help!

  • "Mother's Little Helper," by The Rolling Stones, is about 1960s mothers needing to take prescription "uppers" to keep up with all their daily duties. It includes a warning about overdoses of prescription pills.
    And though she's not really ill/There's a little yellow pill...
    Doctor please, some more of these/Outside the door, she took four more.
  • The Beatles "Doctor Robert" from Revolver. "If you're down he'll pick you up/Take a drink from his special cup.../Well, well, well you're feeling fine/Well, well, well he'll make you"
  • An astoundingly honest and straight-forward one is the subject of 'I Buy The Drugs' by Electric Six.
  • The Moody Blues wrote a musical ode to Dr. Timothy Leary, historically one of the greatest advocates for LSD, entitled "Legend of a Mind".
  • Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" has verses apparently sung by such a doctor who's aiming to revive the KO'd protagonist to make him perform a show; the movie of the album shows it's not that glamorous. The song was partially inspired by Roger Waters' encounter of one when he fell ill on tour:
    Is there anybody in there?
    Just nod if you can hear me.
    Is there anyone home?
    Come on, Come on, Come on, now,
    I hear you're feeling down.
    Well, I can ease your pain
    Get you on your feet again.
  • WASP has "Doctor Rockter" from the Concept Album The Crimson Idol
    He's the king of sting, Mr. Morphine my friend
    Uncle Slam, the medicine man
    And I'm a junkie with a big King Kong-sized monkey
    Crawling up and down my back
  • Cypress Hill's "Dr. Greenthumb" specializes in cultivating home-grown marijuana. His business plan seems to be more about supplying independent growers with the means to hide their operation from the police than about supplying pot directly.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Pusher career of Myriad Song is very much this: a medic that is good at smooth-talking and the medicines that he uses to heal his team's injuries, while powerful and effective, have a pretty good chance of becoming addictive.

  • The doctor who first prescribed Mary Tyrone morphine in Long Day's Journey Into Night, as well as the doctors who continue to do so while she's Off the Wagon.
  • Wendla, the female teenage protagonist in the original stage play of Spring Awakening, is killed by pills prescribed to her as an abortifacient. The doctor never tells her she's pregnant and insists they are for anemia.

    Video Games 
  • Ada Straus, found in the town of Novac in Fallout: New Vegas is both a fairly incompetent doctor (though she can still provide treatments to you), and a seller of illegal, addictive chems like Jet and Buffout. She's the only character in the game who does both.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Venture Bros.: Dr. Venture visits a "Tijuana doctor" for a resupply of his pills. Initially the doctor balks at prescribing such a large amount of drugs, and was insulted that Dr. Venture assumed he'd just grant a prescription because he was a Mexican doctor. Dr. Benjamin helped smooth the ruffles.
  • Dr. Potterswheel in Moral Orel gives Bloberta painkillers in response to her mutilating her lower region with a jackhammer, as he's turned on by this. He's also revealed to be a widower who also gave his wife painkillers as opposed to actually treating her, which may have resulted in her death.

    Real Life 
  • Dr. George Nichopoulos (also known as Dr. Nick), who prescribed Elvis Presley drugs from 1967 until his death in 1977. "Dr. Nick" gave Elvis his ultimately fatal supply.
  • Michael Jackson seems to have accessed pain killers through several of these, and a particularly unethical one, Conrad Murray, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and grievous negligence in his death by prescribing a surgical anesthetic as a sleep aid.
  • One of the strangest is the London dentist who, after giving John Lennon and George Harrison their checkup, invited them for late-night coffee. The coffee was spiked with LSD. They both liked it enough that they thanked him.
  • The Beatles song "Dr. Robert" was about the real-life New York City doctor Max Jacobson (despite the National Health reference) whose nickname was the Trope Namer. He got involved with JFK, giving him several controversial treatments. Some of these involved illegal drugs such as methamphetamines. Many of Kennedy's medical problems and treatments were not declassified for some time afterward.
  • The doctors in Nazi Germany who weren't a Mad Doctor were usually one of these instead (often both). Germany's early successes in the war were in part due to the soldiers being prescribed gargantuan quantities of meth to remove their need for sleep and ability to feel pain. Hitler's own personal physician was quite the candyman, which probably explains quite a bit- he was giving Hitler daily injections of cocaine and opioids, and then Hitler would formulate his military plans while he was high.
  • This was the modus operandi of infamous Serial Killer Dr. Harold Shipman, deliberately getting his patients addicted to prescription painkillers until he finally killed them by overdose. Much was made of the fact that his mother had apparently depended heavily on morphine for pain relief during the final months before she succumbed to cancer, various armchair psychologists speculating about the effect this might have had on her son at an impressionable age, but the fact that so many of his victims ended up leaving him large amounts of money suggests a more mundane explanation. The truth will remain a mystery for the ages as Shipman hanged himself in his prison cell without ever giving anyone a straight answer about his motives.
  • Many wars, from the American Civil War to WWII, resulted in loads and loads of opiate addicts because opiates were used as painkillers to treat wounded soldiers. Post-war, doctors usually kept prescribing those ex-soldiers opiates.
  • In Russia, the traditional local version of this trope involves the doctor supplying his buddies or clients with medical alcohol. In Russia, it's not legal to sell pure, everclear-like alcohol in shops, and drugstores only sell it with a prescription. The doctor either provides such a prescription or flat out steals ethanol from the hospital and sells it on the black market.
  • French Serial Killer Marcel Petiot was a doctor who attracted the attention of French medical authorities by prescribing drugs to notorious junkies. It was before he committed all the murders for which he is remembered today.
  • The opioid/heroin addiction crisis in the United States was partly caused by these in the 90s and 2000s, operating "pill mills" where they prescribed and distributed addictive painkillers like an assembly line without examining patients properly and billed government and private health insurance for it. Efforts to clamp down on this have mostly succeeded but have also made it harder for people who legitimately need painkillers to get them.
  • Back during the early days of Prohibition it was legal for a person to drink alcohol if it was recommended by a doctor, and even then within a certain limit — it was not unusual for entire families to develop "sicknesses" that could only be "cured" by drinking some alcohol that some very helpful doctors would prescribe.


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