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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.
  • In Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, the three "Biological CPUs" — Clotho, Orga and Shani — use Gamma Glipheptin, a special drug that allows 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 horrible side effects when they 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 on the heavy side. Taking all three at once can be a death sentence.
  • One Piece:
    • The Energy Steriods used by Hodi.
    • Also, Chopper's Rumble Ball, which gives him access to additional Zoan fruit transformations.

    Comic Books 
  • Early on, Ant-Man and The Wasp 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.
  • Batman: Venom, the powerful drug that grants its user incredible super-human strength and vitality. Bane is the one most commonly associated with it.
  • Panacea Pills give Vita-Man (an Alternate Company Equivalent of Hourman) powers in Big Bang Comics.
  • 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.
  • The 'performance enhancers' that gave Demon superspeed and enhances strength and reflexes in Justice Machine.
  • Justice Society of America: Miraclo, the drug that gives Hourman superpowers for an hour. 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 has a pill that unlocks the fullness of human potential — that is to say, it induces Hyper-Awareness and Photographic 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Bruce Coville's Book of... Aliens: The methane-breathing Veeblezanians from Brian and the Aliens had to take oxygen-breathing pills to survive in Earth's environment, but they don't last very long, which becomes a problem when they start to wear off.
  • The Fountain of Youth substance Wonka-Vite in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator comes in pill form.
  • Spice pills are seen briefly in Dune Messiah, used by a Guild Navigator, as they rely on the spice for their limited prescience.
  • The "Soy Sauce" pills that John and Dave take at a party in John Dies at the End are this trope crossed with Super Serum. Notably, the pills don't give everyone who takes it superpowers, most of them just die screaming deaths before their heads explode. The pill case itself becomes a Clingy MacGuffin for Dave as well.
  • Pippi Longstocking: In the last chapter of Pippi in the South Seas, Pippi gives Tommy and Annika "chililug pills" which she claims will keep them from becoming adults if they swallow them in the dark and then recite "Pretty little chililug,/I don't want to get bug." When Annika asks why it's "bug" and not "big", Pippi tells 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 first written in The '60s, after all!
  • 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 
  • 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.
  • Blake's 7 has hibernation pills for long space voyages. Decontamination drugs and dream suppressants are mentioned.
  • El Chapulín Colorado's "Pastillas de Chiquitlina" (Smallinium/Shrink-o-line pills) reduce their user to Fun Size.
  • A short-lived 1960s sitcom titled Mister Terrific centers on a mild-mannered gas station attendant who fights crime by taking a "power pill" that gives him Super-Strength and Flight capabilities for an hour.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Champions adventure The Great Super Villain Contest, one of the NPCs, the Dash, has Energy Pills that increase his Endurance by 100 points. He needs them because his superpowers have 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 
  • 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.
  • Injustice: Gods Among Us features pills made from Kryptonian nanotechnology that amplifies the user'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.
  • 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.
  • '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.
  • The Trauma Center series has this in two flavors: Applied 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 in its first appearance); and a phlebotinum serum known 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 prolonged periods. These aren't even going into the various experimental serums injected into various things in specific missions.

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

    Western Animation