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Phlebotinum Pills

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"Ramjet claims his proton pills give him the strength of twenty atom bombs. Do you also take pills that give you the delusion of being a weapon of mass destruction?"
Buster Kincaid, Plan 7 of 9 from Outer Space

Applied Phlebotinum in pharmaceutical format.

  • Step 1: Swallow Pill-
  • Step 2: Engage with Plot

Possible manifestations of the trope could be: drugs which induce dreaming, a cure that must be taken every so often to stave off zombification, super vitamins, orally taken miracle cures, cyanide capsules, Super Serum that must be taken twice a day with meals, etc.


Due to the stigma (it's hard to not imagine that Our Hero is basically using super 'roids), heroes who start this way tend to wind up having the method of powering up changed.

Related to (but not the same as) Food Pills. Compare Saved by the Phlebotinum.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dragon Ball has Senzu Beans, which restore a person to full health.
  • One Piece:
    • The Energy Steriods used by Hodi.
    • Also, Chopper's Rumble Ball, which gives him access to additional Zoan fruit transformations.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, the three "Biological CPUs" - Clotho, Orga and Shani - used Gamma Glipheptin, a special drug that allowed them to pilot Mobile Suits at the same level as Coordinators, even allowing them to face SEED mode-performing Kira and Athrun. However, they have a horrible side-effect when the effects wear off.
  • Naruto has the Akimichi clan's food pills. They rapidly convert a certain amount of a user's body fat into usable chakra, which is why their family tend be be on the heavy side. Taking all three at once can be a death sentence.

    Comic Books 
  • Miraclo, the drug that gives Hourman superpowers for an hour in The DCU. This was later played for drama as it became clear the pills were addictive, and he began to suffer withdrawal symptoms and other drug-related issues. The current version of Hourman (the original's son) eventually invented a non-addictive version of the formula.
  • Panacea Pills that give Vita-Man (an Alternate Company Equivalent of Hourman) powers in Big Bang Comics.
  • Early on, (Gi)Ant Man and The Wasp in the Marvel Universe took Pym Particle pills to grow or shrink. Now they can generate the particles at will. Animated versions of the two usually have belt or wrist devices that trigger size-changing. It should be noted that Pym Particles indeed power all versions; it's just the method of applying them that changes over the years/media.
  • The 'performance enhancers' that gave Demon superspeed and enhances strength and reflexes in Justice Machine.
  • In the original Silver Age version of the Secret Six, August Durand was kept alive by a daily pill that counteracted the deadly virus he had been infected with. Mockingbird was Durand's only source of these pills and kept Durand in line by threatening to cut off his supply.
  • Venom, the powerful drug that grants its user incredible super-human strength and vitality, from the Batman series. Bane is the one more commonly associated with it.
  • The original original Blue Beetle gained his powers from "Vitamin 2-X", provided by the scientist Dr Franz, who felt Dan Garret was the only person who could be trusted with it.

  • Drop Dead Fred: The green anti-imaginary-friend pills, explicitly stated as without side effects, when described by the doctor, followed by, "They just neutralize that part of the brain that is malfunctioning."
  • Limitless: A pill that unlocks your full potential. That is to say it induces hyper awareness and eidetic memory, making one super intelligent. The downside, like most drugs, is the withdrawal.
  • The Matrix: "[That Red Pill] is part of a trace program." In other words, it allows you to get out of the Matrix.
  • Total Recall (1990). While Doug Quaid is on Mars, a psychiatrist tries to get him to take a pill which will cause him to wake up back at Rekall. Quaid ends up spitting it out. The movie doesn't make it clear whether Quaid is hallucinating or not, so we can't be sure whether it would have worked or if it was just one of Cohaagen's tricks.
  • Special subverts this: Les is in a drug study for a new antidepressant, and thinks that the pills are giving him superpowers, when in reality, he's having "an adverse psychological reaction" to the drug — it's all in his head.

  • Spice pills are seen briefly in Dune Messiah, used by a Guild Navigator, as they rely on the spice for their limited prescience.
  • In the last chapter of Astrid Lindgren's Pippi In The South Seas Pippi gave Tommy and Annika "chililug pills" which she claimed would keep them from becoming adults if they swallowed them in the dark and then recited "Pretty little chililug,/I don't want to get bug." When Annika asked why it was "bug" and not "big," Pippi told them an anecdote about a boy who said the latter and ended up growing tremendously tall and thin.
  • The Stainless Steel Rat takes pills for all kinds of things. The novels were after all first written in The '60s!
  • The Fountain of Youth substance Wonka-Vite in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator comes in pill form.
  • In Wild Cards, Captain Trips, also known as Dr. Mark Meadows, is a renowned biochemist and a burned-out hippie, with the ability to use various drugs (usually derivations of psychoactive drugs such as LSD) to transform into several other forms, each with their own powers and individual personalities.

    Live Action TV 
  • El Chapulín Colorado's "Pastillas de Chiquitlina" (Smallinium/Shrink-o-line pills). Reduce its user to Fun Size.
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003) features magical pills, called chamalla, which are used by holy oracles and priests to induce visions — and which are, somehow, also a kind of cancer treatment. When cancer-ridden President Roslin starts to take them, they proceed to trigger wild prophetic hallucinations which help to chart the course of the plot for several seasons.
  • A short-lived 60s sitcom called Mister Terrific centered on a mild-mannered gas station attendant who fought crime by taking a "power pill" that gave him super-strength and flight capabilities for an hour.
  • Blake's 7. Hibernation pills for long space voyages, decontamination drugs and dream suppressants are mentioned.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Champions adventure The Great Super Villain Contest. One of the NPCs, the Dash, had Energy Pills that increased his Endurance by 100 points. He needed them because his super powers had high Endurance costs.
  • Classic Traveller had a number of wonder drugs in convenient pill form, including anagathics (stopped the aging process), fast drug (reduced speed and metabolism to 1/60th of normal), slow drug (act twice as fast as normal), truth drug (compelled truthfulness for 2 minutes), combat drug (improved Strength and Endurance) and several drugs that enhanced psionic ability.

    Video Games 
  • The Trauma Center series has this in two flavors: phlebotinum "antibiotic" gel which is used as an antiseptic, surgical glue, or for instantly healing small laceration and other very minor wounds (the latter property of which is lampshaded to hell and back on it's first appearance); and a phlebotinum serum know as "stabilizer" that increases the patient's vitals instantly upon being injected. The issue of why they don't just put critical patients on a drip of the stuff is Hand Waved by stating it "artificially" raises vitals and is actually dangerous to use over prolonger periods.
    • Additionally, these aren't even going into the various experimental serums injected into various things in specific missions.
  • Quintessence: The Blighted Venom: Quintessence itself. While it does come in liquid form, the "consumable" (It's venom still) kind the protagonists use is in pills.
    • The pure kind, however, is apparently a liquid of some sort. But the protagonists don't have access to it.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us features pills made from Kryptonian nanotechnology that amplifies someone's strength and durability to something comparable to Superman. It acts as the justification for why all the heroes and villains of otherwise varying strengths (i.e. Joker vs. Hawkgirl) can fight on equal footing.
  • In Fran Bow, we have an experimental drug called Duotine. Taking it causes the main character, Fran, to see a very twisted version of the world around her. However, it is also very helpful to her. She would not have been able to escape the hospital without it, and the drug is used throughout the game in order to further progress.
  • 'Reds', or 'Red Pills' are tasty things that demons eat in place of humans in Shin Megami Tensei IV. Humans who eat them can turn into demons. They're made from the brains of people imprisoned by the local Yakuza.

    Web Original 
  • DSBT InsaniT: Tide has Koden, Amber, and Frog take underwater-breathing pills designed by WG in 'Untamed and Uncut'.

    Western Animation 
  • Underdog's Power Energy/Energy Vitamin Pills.
  • Roger Ramjet's Proton Pills, which give him the power of twenty atom bombs for twenty seconds.
  • The Yum Yums has Lucky Lemon Lion able to make wishes come true once he eats lemon drops, with a larger amount of drops needed for big wishes.
  • In Futurama, Dr. Zoidberg prescribes a muscle ointment to Fry and Leela, whose side effects may include temporary superpowers. The episode makes sure to remind you that "Winners don't use drugs!".