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No Medication for Me

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One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don't do anything at all
Go ask Alice when she's ten feet tall.

When a character takes medication for a mental illness, they might feel that something that made them unique is taken away. Alternatively, the side effects make them miserable, or they might miss their friends. It is also common both in reality and fiction for individuals with a mental illness to take medication, become functional, then decide they are "cured" because the symptoms are gone, and come to the conclusion that they don't really need the medication anymore.note  Other frequent causes for people deciding to stop taking their medicine includes getting some kind of epiphany or believing to have found the All-Natural Snake Oil. So the character (or sometimes a parent/guardian) decides to drop the Blessed with Suck meds, and live life insane but alive, often accompanied by a shot of the character throwing the bottle of pills in the trash.

In fictionland, going off medication tends to result in becoming a mad killer. Milder versions involve hangover-like withdrawal and possibly a grudging admission that the medication helped. At best, the pills will be revealed to have been only a Magic Feather and it was all in their heads. Cue positivity and roll the credits. Reality, however, does not work this way: going off of psychiatric medications without medical supervisionnote  can cause serious harm or even death. If the medication is a burden or its side effects are worse than what's being treated, alternatives may exist if one talks to their doctor. If the doctor will not listen, other doctors exist. Keep speaking up until someone listens.

Covered in and used as a justification for "Flowers for Algernon" Syndrome.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Beastars, large bears are legally required to take a drug that causes their muscles to atrophy, but Riz started to think that his friendship with Tem would allow him to handle his un-medicated strength. Instead, he kills Tem by accident and starts eating him before he comes to his senses.
  • In Fushigi Yuugi, Amiboshi offers Miaka a potion (that he has been given by his foster parents) that will allow her to forget all about the stresses of being a priestess, her own world, her conflict with Yui, her tumultuous relationship with Tamahome, her entrance exams, and everything else. She would then be able to live a normal life in the Universe of the Four Gods as his girlfriend. Miaka is tempted to take it but ultimately decides against it, because even though being the Priestess has brought her a lot of stress and woe, it has also brought her a lot of good things.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • One-shot villain Karl Kyle, King of Cats and Catwoman's brother, was ultimately revealed to be off his meds, promising to begin taking it again after Selina convinces him to end his crime spree. Later issues reveal he kept this promise, even becoming an ally to Batman.
    • Mad Artist/Mad Doctor villain Professor Pyg.
      "You look at me like I'm out of shape. Like I drank too much and forgot my medication. I'm an artist! Who can expect me to work on antipsychotics?"
  • In the prequel comic for The Guild, Codex is told by her therapist that her best bet for improvement is to go on a certain kind of medication. Codex takes one look at the astonishingly Long List of side-effects for the meds, imagines herself suffering from all of them at once, and refuses.
  • Todd Rice aka Obsidian of Justice Society of America and Infinity, Inc. averts this and knows he needs to take medication for his schizophrenia, and when he starts acting strangely his teammates wonder aloud if he's gotten off of it (turns out it was due to something completely unrelated).
  • In Lab Rat, the prequel comic to Portal 2, Doug Rattmann avoids taking medication for his schizophrenia. In a subversion, however, he recognizes he needs it, but because he's running low, he saves it for when he really needs it to escape. It later turns out to be Double Subverted, though, as the Companion Cube he had been hallucinating was giving him advice and warnings. When he takes his meds, the Cube disappeared, and Rattman nearly dies because he didn't have the Cube to warn him about a trap.
  • Doc Will Magnus, creator of the Metal Men, takes regular medication to treat his Manic/Depressive bipolar disorder with delusional episodes, but his 'stabilised' self is also less inventive. In 52, a group of Supervillain Mad Scientist types kidnap him, confiscate his medication, and set him to work, intending to get him to recreate the Doomsday Device Plutonium Man that he made the last time he went nuts. However, this does not lead to the results that the mad scientist types had hoped for, and Magnus winds up tearing apart their criminal organization from the inside.
    "You shouldn't have taken away my meds! I told you... I do crazy things without my meds!"
  • Count Vertigo of the Suicide Squad didn't take medication for his bipolar disorder not because he didn't want to, but because it doesn't help. When speaking to a psychiatrist, he explains that he'd tried practically every medication to help with his disorder, but ultimately none of them stuck. Ironically, he's completely cured as a side-effect of Poison Ivy's drugs and refuses to believe it when told the first time.

    Fan Works 
  • Justified in Advice and Trust. The only reason Rei was taking "a giant cocktail of sedatives, dissociatives, mood suppressors, and hormonal contraceptives" was because it made it easier for Gendo to control her, and Asuka pretty much begs her to stop taking it when she finds out (Asuka had previously been put on it by her step-mother for similar reasons). Rei ends up going through several months of various withdrawal symptoms but slowly starts experiencing emotions as she detoxes. She also had the good sense to research the proper speed to wean herself off and obtained a counter agent to reduce the nastier side effects. After finding out, Misato mentioned that these things should really be done with medical supervision, but Rei pointed out that it wasn't an option since it would be impossible for her to find a doctor that wasn't under NERV control.
  • Like many mental illness tropes deconstructed in Brainbent, when Sollux, who has rapid cycling bipolar disorder, tries going off his meds once, the results are not pretty.
  • How the Light Gets In: Laurel suffers from depression and an anxiety disorder. She went off medication when she was pregnant (which you are supposed to do); and since she abused her prescriptions with her addiction, went off it again once she got sober. She's smart enough to know that the medication helps more than anything else does, and has considered going back on it (and talked it over with her doctor, family, sponsor, etc.), but she thinks her sobriety is too weak to risk it.
  • Suggested by Rainbow Dash when she hears about Twilight's titular Illness in the fanfic of the same name. Twilight counters with a good part of the Don't Try This at Home disclaimer above. One of the meds is a magic suppressor since it partly affects her illness.
  • In the Spice Girls fic Just Taken, after finding herself in Bedlam House, Melanie notices that an orderly was going to give her medication. Thinking they were pain pills thanks to being badly injured in a fight, Melanie rejects the offer, not realizing it was actually tranquilizer. She later was administered medication against her request as the orderlies feared any further injuries. Melanie had made it clear, NO MEDICATION. Of course, her request was declined, even her dad, Alan, pleas with her to follow Doctor's Orders.
  • In Laying Waste To Halloween, Annabeth tries Going Cold Turkey to try stop her addiction to her anxiety medications. This makes her sick, however, so she needs to slowly wean them off.
  • Super Villain Prevention 101: Harley Quinn's father is often off of his psychiatric medication; however, it has to do with money rather than choice. As a result, he turns to alcohol, which only worsens his mental health and causes him to become abusive towards his wife.
  • Averted in Uplifted's final installment, Arrival. John Hoch is on contemporary drugs to keep himself from total collapse. Problem is the only option available is Pertivin, an early form of methamphetamine. His Industrialist son, John, is also on prescription stabilizers in the 1990s, but with him mixing it with booze and cocaine, it seems more like genuine addiction compared to needing it.
  • In We'd Fly Away Together, Tara is mentally ill but won't take medicine. She rarely even takes medicine for her infections, never mind her mental health.

    Film — Animated 
  • Ultimate Avengers: In the first film, Bruce Banner is meant to be taking medicines to stop him hulking out. At the climax, Betty Ross discovers Bruce has stopped taking the meds some time ago, but Bruce is convinced this time he can control it. He can't.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • A rare inversion in As Good as It Gets: obsessive-compulsive Melvin starts taking medication for his disorder because love interest Carol makes him want to be a better man.
    "I've got this, what — ailment? My doctor, a shrink that I used to go to all the time, he says that in fifty or sixty percent of the cases, a pill really helps. I hate pills, very dangerous thing, pills. Hate. I'm using the word 'hate' here, about pills. Hate. My compliment is, that night when you came over and told me that you would never... well, you were there, you know what you said. Well, my compliment to you is, the next morning, I started taking the pills."
  • In A Beautiful Mind (itself ostensibly based on John Nash's life), his anti-psychotic medication impairs his mathematical ability. Because of this, he ends up dropping it so he can continue his career. This is also subverted since he mentions to his colleagues during the Nobel ceremony that he is taking the latest medications (probably due to the fact that modern medications have fewer side-effects). As well as that, when he's off the medication, he occasionally has to consult with people he's familiar with (e.g., his students) to make sure the things he's seeing are real. The Real Life Nash never got back to medication, and as a result, he tended not to be allowed to give speeches at his award ceremonies for fear he'd go into anti-Semitic ranting. Ron Howard added the line to the movie specifically to avoid the negative implication toward antipsychotic medications, but this has been decried by (some) mental health advocacy groups.
  • In Confessions of a Psycho Cat, Max has prescribed anti-psychotic medication for Virginia. However, her evasive answer to him indicate that she no longer taking it, which goes a long way to explaining her psychotic break.
  • Gabriel from The Drummer and the Keeper gets medicated for bipolar disorder after his bandmates tell him they'll kick him out of the band if he doesn't stop his erratic behavior. However, after he's been medicated for months, they tell him they're kicking him out anyway because his drumming doesn't have the same energy it did before. Gabriel flushes all his pills down the sink and spends the night drumming. During the ensuing manic episode, Gabriel makes out with the groupie Christopher is in love with in front of him, insults him and tells him (truthfully) that his mum doesn't want him, breaks into Christopher's institution and sets his beloved LEGO set on fire, and finally attempts to self-immolate in front of what he mistakenly thinks is the mansion of pop star Nevo, due to his delusional belief that she's been attending his concerts. Gabriel spends the next few months in a mental hospital, with nobody willing to visit him except his psychiatrist.
  • Garden State is something of a subversion since it's made clear he never really needed the medication in the first place. His father acted as his psychiatrist (which the film lampshades as very bad practice) and reacted quite emotionally to him pushing his depressed mother in a childish outburst just as the dishwasher door accidentally opened, which caused her to fall over and become paraplegic. The fact that the father was unwilling to accept it as a freak accident caused him to conclude his son had intense emotional problems, hence the unnecessary medication.
  • At the beginning of Joker (2019), it's stated that Arthur is taking seven different medications for his mental illness, which only seem to make him depressed, but once Gotham's social work funding is cut, he is forced off his meds. He tells his former coworker Randall that he feels better than ever now that he's not taking any more pills... right before Arthur brutally murders him with a pair of scissors.
  • Sarah from Meadowland has been prescribed lithium for grief over the disappearance of her son, but early in the movie she flushes all her pills down the sink.
  • Deconstructed in the comedy My Boyfriends Meds. A man forgets his psychiatric medicine while on vacation and ends up having a really weird manic episode.
  • In Observe and Report, the main character is a bit of a delusional blowhard while on his medication, but once he comes off it, he becomes even more unhinged.
  • Subverted in the movie Prozac Nation. The protagonist refuses to take her medication since she sees it as poison (she is bipolar). As a result, she loses her boyfriend, writes gibberish (writing is her passion), drops out of college and only gets better when she takes her medication, although she wonders if the medicated person is really her.
  • In Prom Night (2008), Donna stops taking her anti-anxiety medication a week before prom night because she doesn't want to feel numb during prom. This proves to be an unwise decision.
  • Lampshaded/played with in Repo! The Genetic Opera. We never find out what Nathan's medicine was intended for, and it's definitely got some nasty side-effects given what it does to Shilo. Going off it may not have made any major difference, but we don't know that it really helped either, since Nathan is noticeably free-falling off the edge (if not actually leaping off of it) by the time the opera rolls around and he wasn't exactly the poster child for mental stability beforehand, and Shilo wasn't sick in the first place since Nathan was just trying to keep her in the house.
  • In Stand Clear of the Closing Doors, the Garcias treat Ricky's autism with a mysterious cocktail of medication that he refers to as the "evil drink" and resists taking. His mother thinks he becomes much worse without them, but he doesn't act noticeably different after he runs away and goes unmedicated.
  • Sweetie: The unstable Sweetie is first introduced when she breaks into her sister Kay's home. Kay accuses Sweetie, who was previously in a mental institution, of going off of her medication.
  • In Thor: The Dark World, Dr. Erik Selvig is seen with a big bag of meds after having "had a god in [his] brain" from The Avengers (2012), due to thinking himself crazy (admittedly, he's not the only one). Upon seeing a flock of birds fly in an S-pattern, disappear at the start of the S-pattern, then reappear flying out of the sidewalk under his, Darcy, and Ian's feet, he quickly decides "There's nothing more reassuring than to know that the world is even crazier than you are" and dumps the meds in the nearest trash can.
  • A really dark example in The Voices. Jerry takes medication at the behest of one of his dead victims one night to help with his mental illness. When they kick in, they reveal that his home is not a comfy, tidy spot where he has room to cut up his victims and hide them. It's a filthy hole and the mess he made trying to cut up his victims is right out in the open. He flushes the meds down the sink, and everything is back to "normal" the next day.
  • Played straight in What the #$*! Do We Know!?, when the main character tosses away her anxiety medication the moment she starts feeling good about herself.
  • Mentally ill insomniac Georgie from Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? refuses to take anything his psychiatrist prescribes, even sleeping pills.
    Georgie: I come to you in flames and you treat me for sunburn. All I need is my songs. You and your goddamn pills.

  • In Bewilderment, Theo thinks kids are over-diagnosed and over-medicated. He's adamantly opposed to the idea of medicating his son Robin, despite his violent outbursts. When social services threaten to get involved, Theo signs Robin up for experimental neurofeedback therapy, which he's more comfortable with than medication.
  • Discworld:
    • Making Money: Mad Artist Owlswick Jenkins is healed via turnip transplant (which leaves him quite content, but creates a seriously troubled turnip), but, alas, he loses his artistic talent. He switches back and tries some non-radical coping methods instead.
    • Thief of Time: Jeremy Clockson has a spoonful of medication every day, as his Igor reassures a man checking on him, without mentioning that he pours it down the sink once he found it suppressed his creativity. Of course, that creativity was being used by a manipulative benefactor to destroy the world. And then there's the fact that the last time he stopped taking his medicine, he beat his assistant to death with a hammer.
  • In the Experiment In Terror series, Dex frequently forgoes taking his antipsychotics; he prefers the mental clarity (despite the slight paranoia and hyperactivity) that comes with being sober.
  • Serge Storms, the protagonist of the Serge Storms novels, is supposed to be on quite a lot of antipsychotic drugs. He often skips doses because they keep him from thinking clearly. When he skips doses for too long (Something that he is usually in the middle of doing in every single book), he goes on killing sprees.
  • In Girls with Sharp Sticks, Mena initially goes off her meds by accident, when the alcohol she drank at the open house reacts with the pills that the school gives her every night to take before bed (which, as it turns out, contain nanomachines that are controlling her mind), causing her to throw them up. She quickly starts to realize just how wrong Innovations Academy really is, and stops taking her pills on a permanent basis the next day.
  • Drea from Harmonic Feedback hates her ADHD medication, which makes her feel like a zombie, even though her mother thinks she's better behaved on it.
  • I Never Promised You a Rose Garden takes place in a hospital where the focus is on psychotherapy, not medication, but patients still got chloral hydrate for sleep. This was based on Chestnut Lodge, where Greenberg was actually a patient and not their only success story. She recently revealed that they also gave patients Seconal and other sleeping medication as well.
  • In the Known Space story "Madness Has Its Place", it's revealed that ARM (the technology-suppressing Secret Police branch of the U.N.) deliberately employs sociopaths and paranoid schizophrenics, though they're issued mandatory medication. The main character is one (he's implied to be a former serial killer), but in order to help prepare a defense against the approaching Kzinti aliens, he goes off his medication. His descent into paranoia and sociopathy make him frighteningly competent at war preparations for a humanity that hasn't known war in centuries. The ARM also creates treatments to artificially induce paranoid schizophrenia and other disorders in its agents, in case enough naturally occurring crazies of the right sort are unavailable.
  • "Light Verse": Avis Lardner owns a number of robot servants, which she refuses to repair/replace, claiming "any minor eccentricities must be borne with". One of her robots, Max, is so damaged that he can barely perform daily expected tasks. When one of the engineers of US Robotics repairs the damage, Lardner reveals that he had been the genius who made her light-sculptures, and now he won't be able to create them anymore.
  • Lily and Dunkin:
    • Dunkin's dad has bipolar disorder. The last time he went unmedicated, he decided to become the Denture King of South Jersey and spent the family's life savings on a billboard. Then he committed suicide. That's why Dunkin and his mom had to move in with Dunkin's grandmother in Florida. When they passed the billboard on the highway, Dunkin's mom flipped it off.
    • Dunkin also has bipolar disorder with psychotic elements. He's been medicated since he was ten, but when he accidentally skips a few doses, he finds that his basketball skills improve. He decides to start intermittently skipping doses. His behavior becomes more and more erratic until he has a psychotic break in the middle of a game and is carted off the court in handcuffs. In the mental hospital, he promises never to go off his meds again.
  • Downplayed in Oliver Sacks' book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, which mentions a jazz drummer who has Tourette's Syndrome. He would take his anti-Tourette meds during the week and be less prone to compulsions, but stop taking them for the weekend so he could do the wild drum improvisations that made him a desirable musician.
  • In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest it is mentioned that the anti-seizure medication causes your teeth to fall out, which is a good reason why some of the patients don't want to take it. One gets the unfortunate side effect mentioned above and decides he'd rather have the seizures; the other is terrified of having a seizure and takes the medication intended for the first epileptic as well as his own to make sure he avoids it. In real life decreased salivation ("cotton mouth") is a side-effect of most psychoactive drugs of various kinds and daily use over a long period of time is likely to wreck your teeth.
  • In The Phoenix Dance, Phoenix is bipolar and becomes incredibly creative in her "up" moods, so she starts taking less of her medicine to keep the good moods. Unfortunately, this just means that her bouts of depression come back, too.
  • Inverted in The Roosevelt novel Carry the Ocean. After Jeremey is diagnosed with depression, he wants to be medicated, but his mom, who desperately wants him to be normal, tells the doctor he doesn't know what he's talking about and refuses to let Jeremey get any help. After his suicide attempt, he finally gets medicated, although it takes a while to find a drug that has side effects he can live with.
  • Shine Shine Shine: After Sunny's wig blows off in front of all the neighbors, she decides to stop obsessing over normalcy and takes her autistic son Bubber off his Adderall and Dexedrine. A few hours into his first medication-free day, while he's watching Blue's Clues, she hears him shrieking and comes running, only to find him laughing hysterically in a way he hasn't done since he was an infant. Then Sunny knows she made the right decision.
  • In Small as an Elephant, Jack's mom doesn't take her bipolar medication because she feels more "alive" that way, even though she has manic episodes that cause her to leave Jack alone in the apartment for days at a time, followed by being a Sleepy Depressive for days or weeks. In the past, she's decided on several occasions to never go off her meds again, but those decisions never last.
  • Chloe from Stim doesn't feel like herself on her bipolar medication and has been meaning to reduce it for a while. When her meds are lost in an earthquake in Kaleidoscope, she decides to go without instead of getting another prescription. The result is a manic episode during which she commits multiple crimes and almost destroys her relationship with Robert. In the end she ends up back on her medication.
  • Beautifully used in To Kill a Mockingbird. When Mrs. Dubose, an elderly neighbor, calls Atticus a "nigger-lover", Jem destroys some of her flowers as a result, and as punishment, Atticus makes the boy read aloud to her every day for a month. After the punishment ends and Mrs. Dubose passes away, Atticus reveals that not only was Mrs. Dubose dying of a terminal illness, but she had become addicted to morphine to relieve the pain. She was so determined to die as herself that she stopped taking the medicine; the horrible withdrawal symptoms were only eased by Jem reading to and distracting her. Atticus says that to deny the morphine and die painfully but clear of mind, is the bravest thing he has ever known.
  • Frankie from Tornado Brain spent years on various medications with a wide variety of unpleasant side effects. Now her mom says she can stay off medication if she can control her temper without it, so she works hard to stay calm.
  • Alvie from When My Heart Joins the Thousand was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia at age ten and forced to take pills that dulled her thoughts and feelings and made her feel like she was living in a bubble that made everything blurry and wobbly. She tried hiding them under her tongue and spitting them out, and later vomiting them up in the bathroom, but Mama caught her and started checking under her tongue and banning her from going into the bathroom for two hours after she took the pills. Eventually, Alvie figured out a solution: she bought some vitamin pills that looked like her medication and swapped the pills while Mama was sleeping. Mama never noticed the difference.
  • In Xandri Corelel, Marco Antilles was locked up and forced to take bipolar medication. He says it rotted his brain, and he quit taking it as soon as he escaped.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ally McBeal angsts that medication that takes away her hallucinations takes away her uniqueness.
  • Black Box is about a psychiatrist who herself is bipolar. One of the constant themes of the show is her frequent refusal to take her meds, resulting in occasional nights of "poor decision-making". She also starts hearing music and runs on the streets. This also strains her relationship with her boyfriend, especially when she admits that she cheated on him once after refusing to take the meds, and then again when she tries having rough sex with him while also off her meds, only for him to be put off. He later admits that he wasn't put off by her behavior, but by the fact that he found himself liking it.
  • One episode of Boston Public has a hyperactive genius piano player who gets put on Ritalin and doesn't want to play anymore. Unusually, it's not the player who wants off the medication, but his parents, who feel that they got rid of an important part of him.
  • The Brittas Empire: Helen Brittas is an Addled Addict reliant on anti-depressants to get through the day and she has several times been made to cut back on them. The first time, through the advice of her doctor in "Safety First", ended with her sending threatening packages of the romantic dinner that she wanted to have with Brittas. The second time, in "Two Little Boys", was only because she was pregnant with the twins and was made more difficult by the fact that Brittas' equally annoying brother Horatio was staying with them. A third attempt can be seen in "The Last Day", when Brittas died in a Heroic Sacrifice and she reacted by throwing her pills in the bin. This was of course short-lived as well because Brittas was eventually brought Back from the Dead for being too annoying even for Heaven.
  • One episode of The Cosby Show sees Rudy spending afternoons with an elderly neighbor who doesn't like to take the various medicines her doctor has prescribed her. Rudy tells Cliff about it, and he rallies Vanessa, Theo, and Rudy herself to put on a short, comic play about the effects of not taking proper medications. The neighbor eventually relents and agrees to start following her doctor's orders.
  • In Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, one of Rebecca's first acts upon moving to West Covina is to flush her all medication down the sink. Unfortunately, most of her problems came with her and tossing out her anti-depressants and other meds wasn't a great idea. To begin with, they were apparently what stopped her from having musical fugue episodes.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • Reid's schizophrenic mother went without her meds when she was pregnant with him. She goes off them again during the timeline of the series in an attempt to remember an event from Reid's past.note 
    • The episode "Haunted" is about a man who went off his antipsychotic meds (with the approval of his psychiatrist) in order to access repressed childhood memories. These memories end up being much worse than anyone had imagined, causing him to snap and go on a killing spree.
    • In another episode, the UnSub stopped taking his medication years prior following his mother's murder, resulting in a complete psychotic break. In his delusions, he views himself as a Vigilante Man when in reality he is a homicidal maniac.
  • CSI: In "Recipe for Murder", a bipolar couple decides to stop taking their lithium together. The man goes completely manic, while the woman seemingly commits suicide. The suicide ultimately turns out to be murder, but one brought about by her decision to stop taking medication.
  • This has happened with both Craig and Eli in Degrassi: The Next Generation. Eli's storyline with his meds has been handled fairly realistically; the first thing they put him on made him feel completely emotionless (leading to this trope) while subsequent adjustments have brought him into better balance. He also became manic a few times while he wasn't on them.
  • In the Doctor Who episode "In the Forest of the Night", Maebh's medication stops her hearing the voices of the mind controlling the forest.
  • ER has this be the reason why Abby's mother keeps going off her Lithium, for her bipolar episodes. Her mother rather enjoyed her mood swings and especially loved her manic episodes. With her medication evening her out, she thought of life and herself as boring.
  • The Full Monty (2023): Gaz works at a psychiatric hospital and realizes patient Ant is overmedicated. Gaz takes it upon himself to help him taper off his meds (without any kind of medical expertise). Ant gets discharged to a halfway house and instead of continuing to taper off, he dumps his meds down the sink. He ends up having to return to the hospital after a psychotic break.
  • Discussed in Glee. Emma finally started seeing a psychiatrist for her severe OCD and she initially rejected the notion that she should take medication. Her psychiatrist helped her understand that mental illness is like any other illness and that medication can seriously help. She takes her meds at the end of the episode.
  • In Harper's Island, Henry's brother J.D. needs to regularly take multiple pills. Though he tends to stop taking them now and then because it makes him feel "foggy". When he's off his pills, he tends to do irrational things, like gutting a deer's throat and leaving it on the hood of someone's car and smearing threatening messages on their windshield with its blood.
  • Haven inverts the trope. Jennifer is introduced in season four, a former reporter who was diagnosed with schizophrenia after Hearing Voices, and placed on anti-psychotic medication. Her first scene is amazement that Duke is real, because it means she is Insane No More. It turns out the voices she was hearing were Duke and Audrey's, and she has a connection with the supernatural Barn that took Audrey at the end of last season. Jennifer is actually reluctant to give her medication, even after finding out that she isn't schizophrenic, because the medication quiets the voices. However, when she sees how destructive the Troubles are, she agrees to go off her medication so she can hear the Barn, in the hopes it will bring Audrey back and end them forever. The show avoids some of the ableist depiction that would usually be present in an inversion like this by making it abundantly clear that Jennifer was misdiagnosed, and the medication's only function was to quiet the voices and does not regulate her mood or inhibit her behavior.
  • Tragic example: Heroes Season Two's flashback episode sees Niki trying to treat her Split Personality with medication, only to find herself as lively as a pile of seaweed. She surreptitiously stops taking it, and soon loses control of herself again, losing her husband in the process.
  • House:
    • House seems to need his physical pain and emotional bitterness in order to keep his remarkable (if unorthodox) medical talent. When he tries methadone, he finds himself pain-free, cleans himself up, and seems genuinely happy... until he realizes that he's lost his edge. Being pain-free makes him act uncharacteristically nice and accommodating to the worried parents of his patient, which directly results in creating a health problem when the kid had actually just been dehydrated (he had a reaction to the contrast dye in their first test; everything else stemmed from that). He uses the same argument in the first episodes of Season Six when Dr. Nolan insists on giving him SSRIs. He's afraid of losing himself and his abilities. He ends up taking them anyway, though.
    • In the episode "No More Mr. Nice Guy", a little variation of this trope occurs: House's employees test a sample of his blood without his consent and discover that he has neurosyphilis. They assume that the effect of the disease in his brain is the reason House is such a huge jerk and prescribe him with a medication. Suddenly, he starts acting a little nicer. All the employees then start asking themselves whether they did the right thing or if he is going to lose what makes him so unique. At the end of the episode, it's revealed to be all just a prank by House, of course.
      Kutner: We gave Van Gogh chelation therapy. Turned him into a house painter.note 
      Taub: Maybe not, maybe we just put Hitler on Ritalin.
  • Law & Order:
    • The original series was the first to explore this trope with the episode "Pro Se". A schizophrenic man who has been off his meds for years kills about 8 people in a clothing store. When forced to take his medication, it's revealed that he is quite the brilliant attorney and represents himself, almost beating McCoy in court. When his sister comes forth with damning testimony, he pleads out and goes back off his medication. His reasons for not taking it are the reasons many people on anti-psychotics refuse to:
      James Smith: I'm using every ounce of strength I have just to talk to you. I feel like I'm pawing through a wool blanket. I feel stiff, and like I'm half a mile behind everyone else. I get so damned tired. It takes so much effort, holding on to reality.
    • A few criminals have tried to invoke this to avoid a conviction. One episode had a man suffering from Parkinson's not take his medication for the trial. His constant shaking was both distracting and meant to show to the jury that it would be impossible for him to hold a gun steady. Another stopped taking his meds to induce himself into a controlled coma. Both attorneys argued that the court can't force their clients to self medicate. The argument was successful in the former, but not so much in the latter.
  • Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Detective Goren, who has experience with mental illness in the family, spells out the faulty thought process that often leads to this trope (when it's not a conscious choice):
    Goren: Only sick people take pills. If I don't take my pills, I won't be sick anymore.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit:
    • Several episodes featured schizophrenics of this type, who were usually forced to take drugs to testify after witnessing crimes. It explored both sides of this trope at different times. In one instance, the medication allowed the guy to get his life back together, and he eventually reunited with his estranged wife and son. Another episode had a different schizophrenic, who was so used to living with hallucinations that, when the drugs made them go away, he missed them so much he got depressed and killed himself.
    • Casey's law school fiancée was schizophrenic and didn't take his medication. Casey tried to help him, but eventually his condition made him too violent for her to be safe around him. Eventually his condition left him homeless, until he died years later when he was hit by a taxi. Casey is still haunted by it.
    • The episode "Blinded" has a schizophrenic off his medication (or it stopped working) who is a Serial Rapist. When he's back on it, he's a normal person and wouldn't hurt anyone... but also has to live with the guilt of his crimes, and tries to kill himself.
    • Then there's the episode where John Munch's uncle (starring Jerry Lewis in a performance based on himself) goes off his meds to punish himself for murdering a suspected rapist during a manic episode as a sort of mental Seppuku.
    • Also thoroughly deconstructed in one episode when a girl goes off her meds because a rock star tells her to, leading to her making a False Rape Accusation against two boys she had consensual sex with and causing a crash that kills a little girl and injures several others.
    • Another episode reveals that Stabler's mother is bipolar, and almost killed him during a Manic phase when he was younger. This — coupled with her refusal to take medication because she wants the highs and lows — has led him to cut off practically all contact with her, only reestablishing it when his daughter presents similar symptoms.
    • One episode has a schizophrenic father who goes of his meds and kidnaps his son after his ex-wife prevents him from seeing him because he promised to take his meds. He's ranting about how the mental hospital killed a woman and stopped giving him his meds because he saw it. As it turns out, that's actually what happened. The mental hospital tried to save money by turning off the AC, and the patient in the room next to his died from heatstroke. They stopped giving him his meds so no one would believe him and then kicked him out. However, they kept saying they were giving him his meds to charge the insurance company. This leads to manslaughter and fraud charges on everyone involved, and the father reuniting with his family properly once he got back on his meds.
  • This happens in The L Word when Alice has a nervous breakdown after Dana breaks up with her. In her case, though, she was downing pills like they were Pez and finally became sick of how dependent on them she had become.
  • Any and all Monk episodes where they try to cure Monk's OCD. He becomes really annoying and can't solve mysteries very well. (The one time everything works beautifully, he gives up the treatment because he can no longer remember the face of his deceased wife.)
  • In NCIS, a Navy Lieutenant who aspired to be a Naval aviator but washed out is revealed to have started self-medicating to treat his depression, then stopped abruptly to pass the drug portion of the civilian pilot's license exam. The sudden stop in medication is stated to have caused hallucinations and delusions which lead to him loading his plane with explosives with the intention of crashing it into an aircraft carrier. Gibbs talks him out of it, but he detonates the explosives mid-air instead of landing.
  • Averted in New Tricks. If Brian "Memory" Lane stops taking his meds then, as he puts it himself (when he was speaking to a medicated schizophrenic), "I turn into Mr. Loopy, like you." A couple of episodes demonstrated this; when he didn't take his meds, he was intensely manic and unstable, and thus no good at his job.
  • "Haywire" from Prison Break loses his photographic memory (and perhaps his mathematical genius) when he takes drugs to treat his collection of mental disorders.
  • Six Feet Under: Billy Chenowith, suffering from bipolar disorder, goes off his meds twice in six seasons. Both times he becomes funny, charming and artistically creative. He also becomes a serious danger to himself and others and alienates those closest to him.
  • The Umbrella Academy (2019): Vanya stops taking her meds after she unexpectedly runs out and Leonard steals her backup. She finds her life much more vibrant and fulfilling now that she isn't bogged down by them, and indeed starts to display much more emotional range. Unfortunately, she starts displaying too much, and the reason behind her meds soon becomes clear: she's a Person of Mass Destruction and her meds kept her under control. Going cold turkey eventually has consequences of literally apocalyptic proportions.
  • The entire premise of United States of Tara — she went off her meds to discover the cause of her DID. The use of medication with multiples in Real Life is controversial at best,note  which hasn't stopped numerous TV shows and films from doing the "medication keeps the selves under control, then the fronter stops taking it and the Mad Killer comes out and slaughter ensues" trope. There is no actual case where this has happened, although Becker had a somewhat witty satire of it.note  Most competent professionals prefer to help the different selves communicate and cooperate. Some doctors still doubt multiple personality disorder is real at all.
  • Vera: In "The Moth Catcher", the Victim of the Week is bipolar. Vera and her team discover that she has been off her meds for some time when Marcus discovers no trace of the medication in her system during the autopsy.
  • Duncan spends most of an episode of Veronica Mars avoiding taking his antidepressants. After jumping off a set of bleachers and injuring his head and then having an atypically vivid daydream, he ends up deciding that he's better off taking them after all. However, unlike many other examples, he actually consults a doctor regarding going off the medication.
  • This trope is zigzagged in the series Yellowjackets episode "Old Wounds":
    • Lisa, a member of the "intentional community" led by Lottie, proudly announces to her mother that she has weaned herself off the medication for her depression. Sybill, her mother, is not happy with her daughter's decision or with her choosing to live in an "intentional community" and wants her daughter to go back.
    • Lottie herself took medication as a teenager. When she ran out of it in the wilderness, she started having visions. She still takes it as an adult, wanting her dosage increased when the visions come back.

    Music & Music Videos 
  • "I'm Gonna Show You Crazy" by Bebe Rexha is about rejecting a therapist's medication. The protagonist doesn't believe she needs the medication and that there's anything wrong with herself.
  • The music video to Dream's song "Mask" is about his struggles with ADHD and him coming to accept that part of himself. One scene notably shows him throwing away "normal pills", which represent ADHD medication. Dream later clarified that he's not a medical professional, that the video was specifically about his personal experience with going off his medication, and that he didn't mean to encourage anyone else to stop taking their meds.
  • The Switchfoot song "Mess of Me" states "There ain't no drug to make me well".
  • The anti-bullying song "The Rhyme" by Scratch21 states, in the first verse, "I need a friend, playing pretend's not working, these pills are useless and the shadows keep lurking".
  • The Jefferson Airplane song "White Rabbit" from Surrealistic Pillow is less of a critique of medicine and more of a condemnation of a society that uses meds to enforce Stay in the Kitchen and other conformities.
  • The Panda Bear song "Take Pills" is about getting off of antidepressants.
  • "Take the Pill" by Emilie Autumn is about this, where a mental patient is commanded to take some sort of psychiatric medication with unpleasant side effects, such as "killing your sex drive", "making you cry", and "burning your insides.
  • The Wall directly mentions this in the form of Pink's BSoD Song "The Wall Part 3": "I don't need no walls around me./I don't need no drugs to calm me!/I have seen the writing on the wall./Don't think I need anything at all!" By this point, Pink has finally realized that he must face these issues that led him to build the wall around his emotions in the first place. Subverted in that this happens right before the last quarter of the album, where Pink completely goes off the rails and dives straight into fascism.

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Simon grows so listless with his current life that he slacks off on taking his neuroleptic medication. This lapse causes him to start having nightmares, and contributes to the Dark Dragon taking control over his body. While he doesn't remember what the Dark Dragon gets up to, once Simon is back in control he freaks out over the lost time and promptly gets back on his meds.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Craig Ferguson had a bit mocking Tom Cruise's stance that people with depression shouldn't take medication for it because "all it does is mask the symptoms".
    Craig: Yes, that's right. That's what you do with depression, you mask the symptoms. The symptoms of depression is depression! It's not a symptom of something else! It's not like you go, "Ooh, I feel really sad," and then your ass falls off! The symptoms of depression is depression! If you take away the symptoms of depression, you're cured! But Tom was like, "These drugs are just a crutch!" Yes, they're a crutch. You don't walk up to a guy with one leg and go, "Hey pal, that crutch is just a crutch, throw it away! Hop, ya bastard! That crutch is just masking the symptoms of your one-legged-ness!"
  • Patton Oswalt has a bit where he says he went off of his depression medication because he didn't want to be burdened by it in case of a zombie attack. He describes his resulting depression like a pet dog being overjoyed to go outside and play.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Invoked in one scenario for the Transhuman Space character Shandy Xaxa Dack, in which an Edgehunter (someone who seeks out new trends before they happen) becomes a fan of the somewhat unstable teen's poetry and wants to set her on a less self-destructive path ... but without actually using any of the easy and safe cures for mental imbalance they have in the 2100s because that might interfere with the poetry.

  • In Blood Brothers, this gets slightly twisted: Mickey wants to stay on his medication for chronic depression, but his wife and mother both pressure him to quit. His wife specifically tells him that she's depressed a lot, but doesn't need any pills to get over it!
  • Rebecca and Sara in Code 21 feel this way, with good reason.
  • Diana from Next to Normal insists on this multiple times, most notably in "Didn't I See This Movie?", after her doctor recommends electroshock therapy.

    Video Games 
  • When we first meet Gary in Bully, he says he's taking meds for ADD and other problems. At the end of the game's first chapter, he says that he's gone off them and feels great. Because he's the main villain, this just ends up making him more unhinged.
  • Depicted in Fallout: New Vegas with Lily Bowen. Like most Nightkin, Lily has schizophrenia (she hallucinates that "Leo" is telling her to do bad things) and when reduced to 1/4 HP she will lapse into a psychotic Unstoppable Rage and be until every enemy in the area is dead, preventing you from bringing up the companion wheel and giving her orders or healing her (and as she is below 1/4 HP this may be a problem). She keeps some semblance of sanity due to her medication, but she only takes half the recommended dosage because taking the full dosage makes her memories hazy and she starts to forget her grandchildren. You can convince her to start taking the full dose (which stops her psychotic breaks but lowers some of her stats), keep taking half-doses, or go off her meds entirely (which triggers her psychotic breaks at 1/2 HP but buffs some of her stats). If she has gone off her meds, the ending narration reveals that her mind eventually deteriorates completely and she becomes little more than a howling, bloodthirsty animal.
  • In Higurashi: When They Cry, it's shown that Rena takes pills presumably for an unspecified mental illness. However, she doesn't believe they're useful. In one arc, Rena stops using them due to her Hinamizawa Syndrome acting up.
  • Mass Effect: A side-mission has Shepard and co. investigating a ship with the crew missing. Turns out one of the crew was rendered brain-dead, which his biotic girlfriend took badly. Really badly. One audio recording can be found with her saying the crew's giving her medication, but she doesn't want it. Soon enough, she went completely nuts and murdered everyone else on the crew to "protect" her boyfriend.
  • In Until Dawn, if Sam escapes the psycho, she can find evidence that Josh has stopped taking their meds. It turns out he's the one behind the horrors of the first chapters, and his insanity definitely shows once he's tied up in the shed.


    Web Videos 
  • Game Grumps: Danny's story about beating his depression during a trip to France, finalizing it by throwing his medication in a lake as a sign he no longer needed it. Later, he clarifies that not everyone should do this, and that he got extremely lucky with being able to get away with it without repercussion.
  • SsethTzeentach: Sseth mentions in some of his videos that he was addicted to Ritalin, and eventually quits it, but not before relapsing at least once.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of American Dad! reveals that Barry, Steve's slightly mentally disabled best friend, is actually a crazed diabolical mastermind, who takes on a menacing British accent (voiced by Craig Ferguson) when off his meds.
  • Bojack Horseman: In Season 6, Diane says she used to take anti-depressants but stopped partly because she gained weight, but mostly because she thought it made her lose interest in her hobbies. She starts taking them again midway through the season and seems much happier, until she struggles with writing her memoir. Diane attributes this to her meds stopping her from reaching a "dark place" to recount her trauma and stops cold turkey. Not only does this not fix her writer's block (she couldn't write the memoir even before she took medicine), but it makes it worse by causing her to lose time and she eventually breaks down from the physical and mental effects of withdrawal. She's coaxed back onto her medication and accepts that she's only forcing herself to write a memoir because she thinks it'll give a deeper meaning to her trauma, and instead finds more success and happiness writing stories she enjoys, like kids' fiction.
  • Deconstructed in the Justice League Unlimited episode "Flash and Substance". The Trickster isn't actually a bad sort, but only taking his medication when he's "feeling down" means he's also open to the delusions that make him go out and commit crimes. At the time Flash confronts him, both over the medication and to find out information, he isn't even aware he's in costume until it's pointed out to him. Said scene was an in-joke of sorts to the dramatic difference between the short-lived live-action The Flash (1990) series, which portrayed Trickster as an insane Joker-rip off and the comic version of Trickster, who is more or less a villainous conman, who by the late 1990s had fallen into Anti-Hero territory as far as aiding the Flash against his former villainous allies. The fact that cartoon Trickster was voiced by Mark Hamill, who played the live-action version of Trickster (as well as voicing the Joker in the DC Animated Universe) added to the wink-wink to the audience.
  • Largely averted in King of the Hill. The series only views refusal to take medication as reasonable if the person in question doesn't actually have whatever it's intended to treat:
    • In "Peggy's Turtle Song", Bobby is misdiagnosed with ADD, due to a spectacular sugar rush causing him to temporarily become hyperactive. Abandoning the medication is seen as good.
    • In "Just Another Manic Kahn-Day", Kahn goes off his manic-depression meds. Despite his mania being akin to a Disability Superpower, it's soon apparent that he really needed those pills.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Brother's Little Helper", Bart takes "Focusyn" to combat ADHD, and it makes him wicked paranoid. Major League Baseball is out to get us! Turns out... Major League Baseball is out to get Springfield. Not quite a Broken Aesop, not quite a Rule-Abiding Rebel, just another Simpsons plot with no actual point. The doctors that give him the medicine do say he shouldn't suddenly cease dosage — instead recommending a variety of other meds to "ease him off" first. However, this isn't portrayed as the standard procedure with any medication, but rather as another sign that this particular drug is so dangerous that no one should be using it in the first place and that all the doctors' ideas involve more drugs.
    • In "The Good, the Sad and the Drugly", Lisa, having a depressive outburst after reading a web article to help write an article on how she thinks the future will end up (the article implying that the world would fall apart and any attempts to save it would be All for Nothing), is given antidepressants that just make her dopey. Marge is appalled by the side effects (Lisa is so loopy on them that she's barely coherent even in the classroom, and her loopiness reaches a climax when she nearly kisses a running electric fan) so she dumps all of the pills in the garbage. (This being The Simpsons, it's never brought up again.)

    Real Life 
  • In one notable incident, a young girl's medication actually disrupted her synesthesia. In her case, the shock of the loss cancelled out any good the medication might have done. Her doctor had to wean her off the medication as quickly as possible — afterwards, her synesthesia returned. Subverted in that the doctor later found a medication that would address the symptoms without impacting the patient's synesthesia.
  • In the case of Elli Perkins, she chose not to seek proper psychiatric treatment for her son Jeremy's schizophrenia in accordance with Scientology's teachings, opting instead to give him vitamins. This decision would result in Jeremy murdering his mother.