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Medicate the Medium

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In Real Life, when somebody keeps seeing ghosts or other apparitions against their will, it is generally a symptom of psychosis or a neurological disorder, and best dealt with by identifying which it is and treating them for it.

In fictional media involving the supernatural, however, this may run into the snag that the patient may just be seeing real ghosts and spirits. In this case, antipsychotic medication isn't likely to help. Mix in a generous helping of the Masquerade, and the most likely result is that, in absence of an actual medical condition, the patient will be put on increasingly stronger medication. If they are lucky, the drugs will dull their sensitivity. If they are not, they will be institutionalized, to be tormented by the side effects of their medication and the apparitions. Worst case scenario: the therapists are completely aware of the supernatural and either believe The World Is Not Ready or are part of a conspiracy opposed by (or to) psychics, leading to a Diagnosis: Knowing Too Much situation.

A possible fate of Psychic Children under the care of Muggle Foster Parents, and a consequence of the fact that All Therapists Are Muggles.

Compare and contrast They Would Cut You Up, for nasty things that happen when the doctors are all too aware of what ails the subject. Given the choice, the patient may decide on No Medication for Me, unless they're better off suppressing the visions - some mediums even self-medicate, which has a good chance of turning them into Addled Addicts.

Contrast Junkie Prophet, when it's drugs (usually illegal ones in this case) that give the medium their visions.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Anderson: Psi-Division: On what would later become Deadworld, having dreams was derided, because to become an adult one must learn to crush their dreams. Children with psi-abilities were locked up and sedated.
  • "Slayer, Interrupted", the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic installment set between the Buffy movie and the TV show, is all about this.
  • Not exactly this but close, Cade Skywalker from the comic book series Star Wars: Legacy medicates himself with death sticks (a narcotic drug) to prevent himself from seeing spirits of his ancestors.

    Fan Works 
  • Bird: Many patients at Alchemilla are not actually insane, and are medicated to deal with dangerous, indiscriminate, or uncontrolled powers. It's repeatedly lampshaded that one of the reasons some parahumans are difficult to control is because their brain chemistry can differ from baseline humans, thus reducing the effectiveness of medication.
  • In The Memory, Christian is one of the very few who can see the Cute Ghost Girl Maria Robotnik. At first his parents find it simply to be the mind of an overly imaginative little kid, but as time goes on it becomes less and less cute when he continues to talk to his "friend Maria". Eventually Christian is put on medicine that stops him from seeing Maria. She still sticks around nevertheless. After Christian goes off his meds as an adult, suddenly he can see Maria again and he realizes that she wasn't just an imaginary friend or a hallucination.
  • Three's A Crowd (Naruto): One of the reasons why Sakura doesn't want to tell anybody that Naruto's spirit has apparently wound up trapped inside her head after he was murdered is because she doesn't want to run afoul of this trope. She was already concerned that people would deem her crazy if they learned about Inner Sakura; telling them that she's hearing the voice of her dead classmate would almost certainly get her locked up...

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Constantine (2005): The title character and Isabel and Angela Dodson all first displayed their psychic abilities as children. Unfortunately, these abilities helped them to see the half-demons infesting the Earth, resulting in one of them being forced to undergo psychiatric treatment and later committing suicide.
  • In Dark Shadows, the little boy, David, sees his mother's ghost, has a personal psychiatrist living in the house, and could be on meds. These measures help none. Victoria had it worse: she sees her earlier incarnation and was abandoned by her parents on the grounds of being too embarrassing to keep, and thrown into a barbaric mental asylum with featureless, padded rooms, habitual straitjacketing and nasty treatments. And they helped none.
  • Implied in Malevolent (2018), as Jackson is seen popping pills during the film, before he's shown to sometimes see the same ghosts as Angela.
  • This trope actually gets people killed in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, in which Kristen's disbelieving shrink has her sedated to force her to get some rest. Several of her friends die in their attempt to protect Kristen from Freddy.
    • By the time of Freddy vs. Jason, however, people know enough about Freddy and what he can do that experiments on drugs that put people to sleep but keep them from achieving REM state (which is where science says "dreams" occur, and thus where Freddy strikes) are being done. Unfortunately, Freddy destroys said experimental drugs before any of the protagonists can obtain them... and they also discover that the experiment's staff has overdosed multiple people, putting them on permanent comas.
  • The Sixth Sense: Malcolm is a child psychologist who takes it upon himself to treat Cole, who's thought to suffer from hallucinations. As it turns out, ghosts are real and Cole has the ability to see them. Malcolm realizes this and advises Cole to help the ghosts solve their problems.
  • Shall We Play?: No one believes Stacy is [[ISeeDeadPeople actually seeing spirits. It results in her receiving medication for this, while having been held in a psychiatric ward. However, her being possessed by spirits that make her act in erratic, violent ways also led to this (but of course that just gets seen as another symptom).

  • The Bone Season and its series has several forms of clairvoyance where past voyants being locked up in asylums is mentioned: Polyglots who would randomly start speaking a language unknown to humans, and Whisperers who can hear spirits are brought up as frequent victims, for example.
  • Circleverse: As revealed in The Will of the Empress, Zhegorz spontaneously developed at a very young age the ability to scry the winds, hearing and seeing events that the winds had touched earlier in their travel. Unfortunately, this ability not only tends to drive people crazy on its own, but it's so rare that nobody realized he had it, so he wound up getting put in a lunatic asylum and drugged to within an inch of really going mad. Luckily, he eventually bumped into someone who had taught herself the same ability, and teaches him to use and control it.
  • Katie in the Enchanted, Inc. series can temporarily lose her magical immunity when dosed with anti-depressants.
  • In Amy Tan's The Hundred Secret Senses, this happens to Kwan, Olivia's half-sister. She's confessed to Olivia that I See Dead People with her "yin eyes". At night, she talks to them for hours and tells Olivia long stories of her Past-Life Memories. Olivia is terrified, so tells her parents. They promptly have Kwan incarcerated in a nuthouse and given countless shock treatments. Instead of stopping the ghosts, this lets evil ones in and makes her unable to stop talking about them. She never blames Olivia.
  • In Lives of the Mayfair Witches, Carlotta has this done with Deidre to prevent her from invoking the spirit Lasher. It fails to have the desired effect however, as Lasher is, if anything, able to materialize more often because Deidre has no conscious control over her summoning of him.
  • Jem, the heroine of Numbers, has a psychic ability to look into a person's eyes and know their date of death. She discloses this ability and ends up committed to a mental hospital for treatment. Unusually for this trope, not only is Jem's psychic ability completely eradicated by the drugs she's administered, she's happy to lose it.
  • Discussed in C.S. Lewis's That Hideous Strength, as Jane has Psychic Powers, giving her Dream Spying and some degree of Dreaming of Things to Come. When she's first told that she has these powers by doctor Grace Ironwood, Jane replies that she doesn't believe in that kind of thing, and that she thinks her dreams belie a troubled subconscious. Along those lines of thought, she suggests she should go to a plain old psychiatrist, but Dr. Ironwood warns her that the psychiatrist might give her strong medications with severe side effects, and that those meds wouldn't get rid of her dreams in any case.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: In Shards of Honor, Cordelia got a rare non-supernatural version of this, since she couldn't tell the whole story about her involvement in the Barrayar-Escobar war and the part she could tell was dismissed as obvious Barrayaran brainwashing.
  • In Marion G. Harmon's Wearing the Cape novel Villains Inc., Dr. Cornelius was heavily using drugs to tone down and cope with his powers

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Bedlam, Jeb spends time in a mental hospital due to seeing ghosts, and his family think he's crazy. In the second season, Ellie refuses to take meds or get help with what her fiancé thinks is a mental issue.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer spent some time in an asylum after she saw her first vampires and made the mistake of telling her parents about it.
  • In Ghost Whisperer, Melinda's half-brother was put through rough treatment in medical facilities because of his powers. Melinda escaped this fate because she lived with her grandmother who also had the sight. This key difference in the reactions to their powers defines who they become in life.
  • In the first season of Iron Fist (2017), Danny Rand is thrown in a Bedlam House by the heirs to his parents' company — who are enjoying his money too much to admit his identity. Once he wakes up strapped to a bed, the first thing he realizes is that the drugs interfere with his Ki Manipulation abilities. After a few days he's able to convince one of the therapists he actually is a disenfranchised heir, but because false belief in superpowers is a known phenomenon and he can't demonstrate them is still considered delusional... and kept on the drugs. Danny eventually focuses hard enough to purge the drugs from his system and punches his way to freedom — through a two-foot steel door.
  • On Millennium (1996) Frank takes part in a drug trial that he thinks may suppress visions like his own. Not for himself, but for his daughter Jordan. It doesn't work out, but the trouble he gets into does bring some things to light.
  • Supernatural:
    • Anna Milton is a young woman who is hospitalized and medicated because she hears angels talking about the apocalypse. Sam and Dean realize quickly her visions are correct and discover that both the angels and the demons want to get their hands on a young woman who can tune into angel radio.
    • Jimmy Novak, Castiel's vessel, told his wife he was speaking to an angel, and she tries to give him anti-psychotic medication. A religious man, he refuses and continues to talk to Castiel, who convinces Jimmy to give up his body as a vessel.
  • In Twin Peaks, taking the medium off his medication was part of the process of solving the murder of Laura Palmer.
  • Invoked by Klaus in The Umbrella Academy. Sir Reginald locked Klaus for hours in a crypt as a child in an effort to train his power to commune with the dead, traumatizing him. To cope, Klaus began getting high to suppress his powers, and apparently hadn't been sober since he was a teenager. Once he was forcibly separated from his supply due to being kidnapped by Hazel and Cha Cha, he was finally able to see ghosts again and develop his powers further.
  • Wynonna of Wynonna Earp was institutionalized, medicated and subjected to electroconvulsive therapy when she was young because she insisted that demons attacking her home led to the death of her father and older sister. It didn't help her case that, in the attack, she was the one who accidentally shot her father. By the time she returns to her hometown as an adult in the series pilot, even she believes she was probably just crazy all along.
  • Yellowjackets: Lottie had a premonition of danger as a child that saved her life along with both her parents'. Her dad didn't believe it however, sending Lottie to a psychiatrist, and she's on medication until her meds were cut off with the crash.

    Video Games 
  • Played With in Guilty Gear XX. Zappa seeks out the help of the miracle doctor Faust, believing himself to be suffering from a mysterious illness. However, his condition is actually the result of being possessed by seven different ghosts and that he just doesn't remember his possessions. Faust informs him that he cannot be cured as his condition is not physical in nature.
  • Touhou Project's supplementary material has the case of Maribel Hearn, a character from side stories set 20 Minutes into the Future who has the ability to see the boundaries between worlds, and eventually cross them. When she visits a hospital to treat an injury sustained while exploring an abandoned space station with her friend, Merry is diagnosed with delirium caused by some previously-unknown illness, and sent off to an isolated sanitarium for a time to try to cure her "symptoms."
    Renko Usami: Well, what kind of illness was it anyway?
    Maribel Hearn: I had recurring fevers, and I would start sleep-walking and seeing visions of other worlds whenever they happened.
    Renko Usami: Huh? I thought that was normal for you...

    Web Comics 
  • The heroines of Cheshire Crossing have spent most of their childhood hopping from asylum to asylum and initially believe the institute is just another one.
  • Zandalee from Demon Hunter Kain spent four years in a mental institution, until the spirits either left her alone for a while or the medication dulled her ability to sense them.
  • A variant in Homestuck: it's suggested that Roxy Lalonde's perpetual drunken near-stupor is keeping her from manifesting her powers as the Rogue of Void to their fullest. The Alpha session's "blackouts" grow more frequent as she sobers up.
  • The Perry Bible Fellowship has "Return of the Ghost".

  • A Russian joke: Beware of haloperidol, it doesn't cure anything! It blocks chakras and blinds the third eye!
    • Unfortunately, the Russian joke isn't that funny once you know that haloperidol is often given to people with dementia who experience hallucinations. In some cases it helps, in others, not so much. In at least one type of dementia, the hallucinations have a different cause and the haloperidol makes the hallucinations worse instead of better. There has been at least one real life case in which a doctor failed to recognize this.
  • A little known fact about modern psychiatry is that much of it began in the Spooky Sťance room as medical doctors and scholars tried to ascertain if spirits and spirit communication could be real, and how to distinguish between mediumship and mental illness. These doctors were some of the first to research how hypnosis could be used to benefit clients, and the first to describe and name dissociation and multiple personalities in their modern context as psychological conditions.
  • In a more mundane variation of this, the history of insanity as a whole trends towards medicalizing what was once thought to be some kind of "sacred madness". For more details see Michel Foucault's highly influential (if controversial) Madness and Civilization, a complete study on how "the madman" was once part of society and slowly went from often being seen as a herald of incomprehensible, divine wisdom to someone that should be medicated, though his claims about this have critics as well.