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Jack up with Phlebotinum

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Bob is someone with certain... lusts in life. It may be something as simple as loving to eat a lot, or something as self-destructive as heroin. The point is, he's jonesing, and he's jonesing bad. And suddenly, he finds a stash of what appears to be the good stuff! Jackpot! Bob then consumes or shoots up the stuff...

...Only to suddenly mutate into a hideous monster, melt into a pile of goo or keel over dead!

Poor Bob: instead of the good stuff, the stuff he consumed was actually some sort of harmful substance or Applied Phlebotinum, and he has now become either a casualty of some bizarre effect or something less than human. Either way, Bob himself has now become an integral part of the plot somehow. Perhaps his demise sets events in motion that drive the plot, or perhaps he becomes some sort of monster and is now the antagonist. Bottom line is he really shouldn't have done the stuff.

This trope involves the poor fellow imbibing the nasty stuff by accident. If it was deliberately caused by someone else, it's Tampering with Food and Drink or Slipping a Mickey. It also differs because those usually involve more mundane substances, while this trope involves taking some VERY bad shit.

Fantastical or exaggerated subtrope of Drugs Are Bad. Compare Mushroom Samba, where the character accidentally imbibes something that blows his brain instead of his body.


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    Comic Books 
  • As shown in Forever Evil (2013), Ultraman gets his powers from grinding Kryptonite into a fine powder and then igniting it with his heat vision so he can snort its fumes.
  • The Legion of Super-Heroes mainstay Bouncing Boy got his powers by mistaking an elasticity drug for a bottle of soda.
  • In Lucifer, demonic succubus Lady Lys gets a hold of Christopher Rudd, one of Hell's damned, as her personal plaything. Rudd, at first relieved he's being spared the suffering he's endured for centuries, comes to resent the situation, since he believes himself damned worse for consorting with demons than for paying penance. Lys, like many of Hell's denizens, is addicted to Pain(capital P), which is the distilled essence of the souls suffering in Hell. Rudd, however, distills ACTUAL Pain, pain as humans feel it, and gives it to Lys. When Lys imbibes it, she feels the actual pain of the souls she's tortured and played with, making her feel remorse and shame for her past actions. The experience turns her from a hedonistic slut into a broken, emotional wreck.
  • Brian Michael Bendis' Marvel Universe stories have a running plotline about regular people taking MGH, a drug that grants super-powers along with a high.
  • Miles Morales: Spider-Man (2018) has Miles' adult 616 counterpart plot a takeover of the underworld by spiking drugs with Ultimate Goblin serum, converting masses into an army under Ultimate Osborn's control.
  • In New X-Men, a new power-enhancing stimulant called "Kick" starts taking the mutant community by storm. It turns out that it's a mind-controlling, aerosol form of the malevolent, sentient bacteria Sublime, the ultimate villain of the story.
  • In The Sandman (1989), a former girlfriend of John Constantine swipes an artifact that he has, thinking that it's drugs. It turns out to be Morpheus's Bag of Sand. This is a very bad thing, as it basically turns her life into a literal living nightmare.
  • Savage Avengers had Mulan Gath plotting to gradually devour Shuma-Gorath and steal its power by spiking drug supplies with something that causes whoever takes them to be possessed by a piece of it.
  • One arc in Secret Avengers involves the ground bones of prehistoric eldritch monsters being mixed in with drug supplies in Russia. These creatures existed before the afterlives did and had Many Spirits Inside of One, meaning the spirits are trapped inside their remains. They are released when the bones are burned, possessing and empowering whoever smokes them.
  • One of the origins of The Sentry (he has a Multiple-Choice Past) is that he was a junkie who stole the Super Serum in hopes it would get him high. It turned out remarkably well for him... except for the side effects.
  • Spider-Man:
    • One story has the Absorbing Man transforming himself into cocaine, then being cut up and sold to unsuspecting addicts who get their own superpowers.
    • The minor villain Freak starts as a drug addict who consumes a mutagen thinking it's a new designer narcotic.
  • The Suicide Squad once thwart a scheme by voodoo-using New Orleans gangsters to distribute free heroin samples to addicts that would turn them into a literal zombie army.
  • Wolverine once fought an Eldritch Abomination called Sporr, which had been blasted to molecules millennia before by the Celestials; it reemerged when someone deliberately overdosed on cocaine that was grown on the mountain where it "died" because said cocaine gave its users limited super-powers.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Beyond Re-Animator, a junkie prisoner manages to get some syringes of Re-Agent, which he promptly shoots up.
  • In Leviathan (1989), the crew of the underwater mining facility find a sunken Russian ship and inside find what they think is vodka, which they gladly drink. It's actually a solution which has The Virus, mutating the crew into a hideous monstrosity.
  • Return of the Living Dead: Rave to the Grave has kids in raves gulping down pills of what they think is a rave drug like Ecstasy, but it is actually Trioxin, the chemical phlebotinum from the movies that turns people into zombies.
  • In Zombies! Zombies! Zombies!, an experimental cure for cancer is accidentally combined with an experimental cure for crack addiction. The resultant drug is stolen by the janitor, and then taken by a hooker he frequents who is looking for a high. She snorts it and is immediately transformed into a Flesh-Eating Zombie.

  • One of several plotlines in Next (2006) is started by a geneticist taking a can of aerosolized gene therapy retrovirus with him while picking up his junkie brother. The moment he turns his back, the brother snorts it, eventually suffering Rapid Aging.
  • The Nightmares & Dreamscapes short story "The Ten O'Clock People" involves a relatively mild example: a certain level of nicotine and withdrawal symptoms found in smokers trying to quit — and only in smokers trying to quit — gives them the power to perceive that humans are being replaced by a race of disguised bat-like monsters.
  • In the Night Shift short story "Gray Matter", an alcoholic slob drinks a can of skunky beer and starts to turn into a flesh-eating fungus-like creature.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Millennium (1996) episode "Human Essence", Emma Hollis's junkie sister claims that a new strain of heroin is turning users into monsters. Frank and Emma gradually come to realize that she's right.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, Ford is injected with the enzyme Wraith use to strengthen humans so they can survive the feeding process but doesn't get eaten afterwards. As a result, he gains super speed, strength, and stamina. The enzyme proves highly addictive, severely impairs judgment, and the withdrawal process is not pleasant. Ford ends up going rogue and gathering together a band of guys who use the enzyme to aid them in their fight against the Wraith.
  • The Young Ones: The episode "Flood" has Vyvyan create a potion that turns anyone who drinks it into an axe-wielding, homicidal maniac, which he puts into a can of Coke so that no one drinks it on accident. Later on in the episode, the boys' landlord shows up and drinks the potion, which turns him into an axe-wielding, homicidal maniac, and he chases the boys for the last part of the episode.

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect has a Fantastic Drug made from cocaine exposed to Element Zero. The end result has not only the mind-altering effects of cocaine but gives the user low-level biotic (telekinetic) abilities. Needless to say, someone who is coked up, able to TK small objects around the room, and hasn't the training to do it properly is a headache for the security forces.
  • Much of the action in Shadow Warrior 2 revolves around Shade, a drug distilled from Crude which comes from the Shadow Realm. Humans who use it for too long or who use too much of it end up turning into demons.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Code Lyoko episode "Temptation", Jeremie translates a part of Franz Hopper's diary and uses the info to invent this weird headband. It's supposed to raise his intelligence every time he uses a Return to the Past (go with it). He first notices the side effects, like irritability and fainting spells. Then he realizes that all the calculations he made while using the headband were wrong, meaning it had no positive effects whatsoever (except to make him a temporary Memetic Badass).
  • In the South Park episode "A Ladder to Heaven", Cartman ingests Kenny's ashes, thinking it's chocolate milk mix. For the rest of the season, he has Kenny's soul trapped in his body.
  • In The Tick, Dinosaur Neil, a paleontologist in a dinosaur costume, accidentally eats dinosaur genetic material thinking it was pasta salad, which turns him into a real dinosaur.

    Real Life 
  • Cats perceive antifreeze as sweet and tasty; it quickly kills them via liver damage in very low doses.
    • Ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in some brands of antifreeze, also tastes sweet to humans and a number of other species and is no less poisonous than it is for cats. There have been cases of children, pets, livestock, and wild animals drinking antifreeze unwittingly, as well as it being used to deliberately poison people. To cut down on the accidental deaths and homicides, many manufacturers add a bittering agent to ethylene-glycol-based antifreeze, which eight US states require by law.
  • In the early 20th century, radium was sold as a wonder drug because of its healthy glow. A business tycoon named Eben Byers who started obsessively chugging a radium serum eventually perished, leading to the squicky Wall Street Journal headline, "The Radium Water Worked Fine until His Jaw Came Off."
  • Often happens with methanol. This substance looks like ethanol, smells like ethanol, tastes like ethanol and even produces a buzz like ethanol. But if you're lucky, it'll burn your eyes from inside for good, and if you're unlucky, it'll kill you.
    • Russians have devised a folk way to tell methanol from ethanol. You make a small spiral out of copper wire, heat it with a cigarette lighter and drench in the suspicious alcohol. If you smell "morgue" (formaldehyde gas, a very characteristic "stinging" smell), it's the deadly stuff.
  • The story goes that a soldier at an isolated Russian army base had the good fortune to discover two barrels of white powder, and before long the entire base was snorting lines of the stuff, sprinkling on their food, smoking it, etc. Before long, the effects of thallium poisoning showed up.