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"Don't do drugs" is a Stock Aesop that has been sledgehammered into children's television shows at the request of the United States government. It usually results in Anvilicious moralizing and Very Special Episodes.
Although drugs, both legal and illegal, can have devastating effects on the lives of their users, Drugs Are Bad shows and commercials often exaggerate how bad they actually are, very commonly becoming a Clueless Aesop with all the Narm associated with it. Often, even the villains of shows, when presented with an opportunity to sell drugs for profit, will decline on the grounds that Even Evil Has Standards.
Alternatively, drugs make people feel wonderful the first time they take them, but every subsequent time the same drug (or a harder one) makes them feel like worse than Hell. But it's too late, because they're already "hooked" after the first time.
Note that the full name of the trope should be "Recreational Drugs Are Bad". If you or the characters take the title at face value, you've got a case of Mistaken for Junkie.
Please keep real life examples off the page. This page is not concerned with whether or not drugs actually are bad; only with the manner in which said badness is depicted in the media.
See also The Aggressive Drug Dealer, that monster from the '90s who finds middle-class suburbanite kids wherever they are and forces them to take his drugs. Contrast Functional Addict, where the negative effects of drugs are not portrayed as intensely.
- The famous "This Is Your Brain On Drugs" TV Public Service Announcement.
- Parodied in a Bizarro comic which has four images: Your Brain=An egg, Your Brain on drugs= A fried egg, Your Brain with Bacon= A fried egg with Bacon, Your brains mother= A hen.
- Also parodied by the Freak Brothers; "This is your brain" (an egg), "This is drugs" (a frying pan), "This is your brain on drugs, any questions?" (an actual brain dangled by the spinal cord).
- And of course, the unforgettable "This Is Your Brain On Heroin" version.
- Avoided in commercials running on Canadian television: the message isn't that smoking marijuana is going to ruin your life, but that getting high and then driving, like drinking and driving, is a stupid idea.
- They've dabbled in it during The Oughties, but backed down.
- One Ad Council Public Service Announcement has a girl's dog tell her he wishes she would stop smoking marijuana. (Hmmm, if she was high, that might happen...) Left unsaid was that if your dog is talking to you, you have much larger problems than smoking marijuana. The dog talking ad is brilliantly parodied by College Humor here.
- This kind of PSA is parodied in Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle when the titular characters are watching television. One teen pressures another teen into smoking marijuana; shortly afterwards, the kid grabs a rifle, aims it directly at his face, and pulls the trigger, thinking that he's invincible. Cue the Space Whale Aesop.
- The British Talk To FRANK service originated as a comparatively neutral source of information about drugs, but gradually started becoming more and more Anvilicious in their advertising.
- The Broken Aesop shown at the top of this page, where the Washington, D.C. based "People's Drug" had notices on their shopping bags not to use the very type of product which is part of their name. Might be one of the reasons they ended up being sold to the CVS drugstore chain.
- In a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles PSA, the turtles' anti-drugs message is undermined by Michelangelo's anti-munchies advice: "Get a pizza!". It also contains a hilariously Lame Comeback to an insult: "I'm not a chicken; you're a turkey!"
- Calling someone a "chicken" is technically a bad insult already.
Anime & Manga
- Japanese culture frowns upon psychoactive drugs, and especially marijuana. In addition to the extremely strict laws against possessing or using in any way shape or form, there is a severe social stigma against the usage.
- Jo Jos Bizarre Adventure part 5 features Giorno who tries to rise in the mafia, and he and many others in his Ragtag Bunch of Misfits thinks that the part of the mafia focusing on drugs are the evil parts. Assassination? It's ok. "Protection services"? Fine and dandy. Drugs? Horror that must be defeated.
- To be fair we are talking about the country where trying to take a box of Sudafeds through customs will win you a body cavity search, but the Yakuza can openly run charities...
- An addiction to drugs was the cause of Gilbert's death in Kaze to Ki no Uta, along with forgetting to Look Both Ways.
- In Code Geass, there's the drug "Refrain", which helps the user not worry about the bad things. Anyone not using it are against it and willing to go to extremes to get rid of it (such as sinking a freighter carrying trace amounts of it). Of course, that's because it's addictive, and seemingly causes neural degeneration. The one user with a name starts off dropping breakable things all the time, then, after taking a dose, spends the next season and a half in a bed, incapable of moving under her own power, and doesn't speak. It's fairly reminiscent of a stroke victim. And that's not even getting into the fact that its heavily implied to be specifically engineered as a weapon against the Elevens (before all the side effects, it lets the users relieve happier memories, so its very popular with the conquered citizens).
- In Gundam Seed and Gundam Seed Destiny there's the drug used to make Naturals able to fight on par with Coordinators, with the result of getting mentally unstable, psychotic pilots, who need a new injection every few hours. Anyone ever seen using the drug dies a more horrible death than anyone else (except for Stella, who dies in Shinn's arms).
- In Full Metal Panic, one of the more focused on aspects of the evil of Amalgam is the fact that they drug the girls they kidnap along with their AS pilots (in order to induce the Ax Crazy psychological effects necessary). The fact that the organization goes around causing wars and mass destruction doesn't seem to hit Sousuke nearly as hard as the fact that they kidnap and drug girls (causing them to go crazy and become addicted). Then again, death has never been considered very important or horrible in Sousuke's mind...
- One issue of Gantz featured a rival team whose use of drugs (and listening to music) during a mission was used to show how irresponsible they were. It also featured a hilarious overreaction on the part of the protagonists. "That ain't tobacco! It's grass... weed... ganja!"
- Even One Piece shows the evil of drugs. The Fantastic Drug, Energy Steroids that the New Fishman pirates used to get themselves strength boosts comes back to bite them in the butt when it causes them to age into old, frail men.
- There was an entire Wolverine comic arc featuring Psycho Serum cocaine which, after a while, turned into a horrific monster from the dawn of humanity. "That's right, kids, take crack and you may well turn into a horrific blobby goo abomination."
- Spider-Man occasionally deals with this; in fact, it was what ended up doing in the CCA, as they would not let Stan Lee publish an anti-drug issue, even though drugs were portrayed in nothing but a negative light and the United States Government had asked Stan to produce the issue, solely because it portrayed drugs at all, leading Marvel to publish the story without Code approval.
- Snowflame, a supervillain powered by Cocaine, proving not only that Drugs are Bad but sometimes they give you superpowers!
- The infamous Snowbirds Don't Fly two-parter Very Special Episode of Green Arrow/ Green Lantern had Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy addicted to heroin. Green Arrow throws him out and is generally a total judgmental dick, but somehow it's still the Evil Drug Dealer that's the villain of the story.
- Green Arrow was, and has been since, treated as being in the wrong for throwing Speedy out instead of helping.
- The "Rise of Arsenal" comic where Roy Harper, former sidekick, titan, and Justice Leauge member returns to drugs after a string of tragic events including death of his daughter.
- Demon from Justice Machine was addicted to a drug called Edge which he believed would enhance his super-acrobatic skills.
- The Teen Titans got a couple of Anvilicious one-shots produced as part of the "Just say No" campaigns, complete the requisite aggressive drug dealer.
- Zig-zagged for all it's worth in the Shadow of the Bat Very Special Story Arc "Leaves of Grass". Yes, it comes with the perquisite speech from Tim Drake about how smoking marijuana is bad and features one of Tim's friends trying the stuff for the first time, but the main villain, Jason Woodrue, is far from The Aggressive Drug Dealer archetype. Notably, he actually wants to bring about world peace by getting everyone stoned, and it's noted several times that his particular strain of marijuana, sold at dirt-cheap prices, is already squeezing out the "in it for the money" drug dealers. Oh, and the story does go into detail about how the history of the hemp plant and its many non-dope-related uses, including making rope and cloth - George Washington is noted to be one of its earliest American growers.
- Marvel 2099: Spider-Man 2099 has this as part of his origin story; Miguel O'Hara undergoes a dangerous science experiment to shake a drug addiction given to him by his boss. Yes, kids, endangering yourself by rewriting your DNA is preferable to getting hooked on
- It wasn't that taking drugs was bad, it was that the drug is instantly and permanently addictive at a molecular level, and only available from the corporation. Shaking the addiction was the only way he could leave the hideously unethical company.
- The Even Evil Has Standards version is a key theme of The Godfather. At least enough so to keep them from selling them to white people.
- Similarly, in Goodfellas, Henry Hill is warned by his bosses in The Mafia not to get involved in drugs... not so much because they disapprove of it, but because it'll bring the full weight of the federal government crashing down on top of them, which the bosses do not want. True enough, when Henry gets involved in drugs (both dealing and addicted), the feds bust in on the party and the good times are definitely over.
- Die Hard made sure that annoying loser Harry Ellis used cocaine. This was probably done in equal parts to show how pathetically depressed he was, though.
- It's a yuppie quip. And very common in the 80's to do cocaine occasionally in places like offices.
- The Totally Radical and So Bad It's Good movie High School Confidential! offered these words of wisdom: "If you flake around with the weed, you'll end up using the harder stuff." The "evidence" for this argument usually involves taking a sample of crackheads and noting that over 95% of them had used weed in the past; you could say the same about bread or water. Correlation does not imply causation.
- Did they bother to ask which was taken first?
- Parodied in Walk Hard: Dewey will frequently walk in on his drummer Sam engaging in some illicit narcotic accompanied by a crowd of beautiful young women. Sam will urgently tell Dewey that "you don't want no part in this!", but will then with the same urgent tone list all the great things about that particular drug. Dewey inevitably ends up hooked on it. For example, when Dewey notices friends smoking reefer:
Sam: No, Dewey, you don't want this. Get outta here!
- Reefer Madness, which says that people who use marijuana may become "hopelessly and incurably insane," is the most famous of several "social menace" movies made in the mid-1930s to sensationally portray marijuana as a menace to society.
- A good example of this occurs during a scene where a bunch of people are sitting around smoking and laughing. This quickly degrades to a man mercilessly beating another person to the floor while everyone else laughs. The implication being that smoking marijuana will make you compelled to violently assault your friends.
- On the plus side, you can play piano really fast.
- Requiem for a Dream.
- Angels Revenge
- Many of the "educational" films Sid Davis made throughout the '50s, '60s and early '70s
- American Beauty features a subversion of this principle (arguably-- YMMV depending on your opinion of the characters): Drugs are GOOD. The 3 people who don't smoke pot are a battered wife, a cheating wife and a closeted homosexual wife beater. All the characters that are even marginally sympathetic smoke marijuana.
- Limitless: Played with. The movie shows the consequences of abusing the drug in very icky detail that sometimes enters Requiem for a Dream territory. But Eddie's much more capable and hyperintelligent when on said drugs, it's trying to quit them that turns things worse, and it finally turns out he can remain super-smart without taking the drug at all. Could possibly be a Broken Aesop.
- The Faculty: Inverted. You've got to take the drugs to prove you're not one of them, man. And besides, the cocaine powder really is crushed caffeine pills.
- The film of Less Than Zero was essentially one giant 'Just Say No' PSA. Kinda ironic, considering that Bret Easton Ellis has said he wrote the original novel during an eight-week crystal meth binge.
- Referenced and Played for Laughs in Super 8, where one of the kids has to take over the wheel as their driver got stoned. And during a really tense scene, he can't wake up (leading another kid to say "Drugs are so bad!").
- All the bad guys in RoboCop were dealing and snorting cocaine. In Robocop 2, the enemy was a new street drug called "Nuke."
- In Alien Nation, the Newcomers' former alien overlords kept them under control by feeding them a blue substance. Sam/George Francisco keeps this a secret from his human buddy-cop partner because he fears what humanity would do to the Newcomers if we ever found out they were a bunch of drug addicts. Near the end of the movie, a rogue Newcomer consumes an entire giant tube full of the concentrated drug, and turns into a mutated rampaging monster.
- The Breaks: "Crack is bad! Get that shit away from me!"
- On the Discworld, Sergeant Detritus of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch would like to remind you all of this. Especially all his fellow trolls out there, as troll drugs have a tendency to make the heads of their users literally explode. Remember, kids, just say "AarrghaarrghpleeassennononoUGH"!
- This is one of the main points of A Scanner Darkly. The newest drug on the market gives a great high, but can cause hallucinations and dissociative personality disorder. The novel is told from the point of view of an undercover narc. Throughout the book he uses the drug to maintain his cover, watches several of his friends suffer mental breakdowns, begins to lose his sense of identity, ends up shipped off to an evil rehab clinic which actually manufactures the drug, and is then revealed to have been sent there by his own superiors. Everything about his breakdown was engineered, and he was basically a sacrificial lamb for the government. Because Drugs Are Bad. To be fair, the book is also very poignant and one of the best examples of this particular Aesop.
- Also of note is the book's epilogue/author's note. In it, Philip K. Dick explains he based most of the characters on people he knew and his own experiences in the drug culture. He then lists those people who inspired the novel (and who he feels were punished far more severely than the crime deserved). Most of them are then listed as deceased or suffering from permanent vascular damage or psychosis. One of the names on the list is himself.
- Sadly the film didn't even break even at the box office, this being by far the best and most faithful Dick adaptation. Possibly, it was too deep in the Uncanny Valley.
- Also doing it right is Requiem for a Dream, which at first seems to be a story about the brilliance of drugs a la Altered States. This idea ends badly.
- House of the Scorpion looks at the trope, depicting a nation where an entire nation is run by drug lords after deals were made with the U.S. and Mexican governments. The nation keeps illegals out of both countries, and doesn't ship drugs to either of them. In return, the two nations leave them alone to ship drugs to other places in the world. The Keepers, corrupt officials that run a work camp, are arrested not because of abuse of the boys, but because a failed drug test
- Subverted in The Wind Singer. Mumpo becomes somewhat addicted to chewing on some leaves used by one of the tribes the group has passed. When they awaken the beautiful, blond and evil Zars, they're so afraid and hungry that they can't concentrate on their task. Mumpo then shares the leaves with the others, and it eases their feelings, leaving them so high and giggly that they're halfway back before they know it.
- That'll be coca. It's the plant cocaine is made from, but was part of traditional native cultures in the area. From what I've heard, the plant contains very low levels of the active ingredient, and isn't really any worse for people than coffee. Dose matters.
- Go Ask Alice is basically "Drugs Are Bad: The Book"
- In David Eddings' Malloreon, Sadi presents Silk with a business proposal involving the setup and operation of a worldwide drug supply chain. Silk declines on the grounds that "a man has draw the line somewhere", despite Sadi's Long List of morally dubious acts about which Silk has few qualms - Silk's actual reason for refusal was Squick.
- The Spine of the World is a less heroic novel by R. A. Salvatore, featuring the former-ish hero Wulfgar after he has been broken by torment and fallen into disgrace. This involves alcohol. Drizzt Do'Urden doesn't appear in this novel, but there are monologues by him at the start of each part anyway, and the one appearing before Wulfgar's drinking problem is described broadens the topic into a general Drugs Are Bad. Even the drow don't use them, apparently, because they need to stay alert for when their allies stab them in the back--which in fact contradicts an event from an earlier Drizzt book, where a graduation ceremony involved a drug-fueled orgy. Of course, Drizzt being Drizzt, he gives a fairly well-reasoned and intelligent argument against drugs from the standpoint of his Incorruptible Pure Pureness. He does describe all drugs as having a sedative effect (like alcohol), while the opposite is true for some of them.
- Latawnya the Naughty Horse Learns to Say No to Drugs. The only children's book to feature a dead horse that OD'd from marijuana. A non-anthropomorphic horse. And other non-anthro horses smoking weed and drinking beer. As you'd expect, the possibility that the horses might have a reason to enjoy the drugs is ignored, and they are treated only as poison, as the following precious dialog shows: "I feel sick to my stomach. I feel very ill." "I heard some other horses talking about doing drugs and getting high. [...] I think they got their words mixed up. They should call it getting low."
- Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan had problems with prescription pain medications given to him by his doctors. This is rare as mentioned in Real Life below.
- Rare as it is in most professions, those dealing with Veterans Administration can and in some cases do have bad problems with prescriptions, in some cases medicated for side effects from previous prescriptions, to the point of drug interactions and outright toxicity.
- An early example of this, though more realistic than most, is Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. Holmes's cocaine and morphine habits are initially portrayed as amusing idiosyncrasies, fodder for Watson to moralize and Holmes to blithely dismiss his concerns; but Holmes's drug use soon vanishes, and in one of the later stories Watson refers to "that drug mania which had once threatened to check his remarkable career," and reacts with horror at the sight of Holmes holding a hypodermic needle.
- Nicholas Meyer covered this territory in The Seven Percent Solution", an alternate retelling of "The Final Problem". In Meyer's story, Holmes was deep in the throes of addiction, increasingly paranoid that Moriarty would destroy him(turns out Moriarty was his old maths professor in university and not a criminal mastermind), and Watson pulled somthing of a Batman Gambit by leading a trail of fake clues for Holmes to follow that would lead to Vienna. There Watson managed to arrange for Holmes to meet Sigmund Freud, who was able to treat Holmes for his drug dependency. The choice of Sigmund Freud specifically is probably the oddest part; Sigmund Freud not only used cocaine himself but prescribed it to all his patients.
- In The Pale King, Chris Fogle spends a few pages discussing his drug habits in college, and he's clearly embarrassed in retrospect.
- In Sweet Valley High "On The Edge" (#40) a heartbroken Regina Morrow goes to a party, tries cocaine for the first time, and dies soon after.
- Ship Breaker: Many people are addicted to Red Rippers, a drug that's normally used for animals. Nailer's father Richard is the worst example, being an utterly crazed addict.
Live Action TV
- Most famous TV example: Saved by the Bell + Jessie + prescription caffeine-like pills = The greatest moment in unintentional comedy history.
- Subverted in V. In V: The Final Battle, the street smart member of the resistance is selling drugs to Visitors and their collaborators. When his father confronts him on this, the character justifies it as a means to help undermine their enemy in some small way.
- The U.S. government paid TV networks to make sure that anyone using drugs was portrayed as a loser. ER, Beverly Hills, 90210, Chicago Hope, The Drew Carey Show, 7th Heaven and other shows had their scripts reviewed by the government and changes made so the network could pocket some cash.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation. The episode "Symbiosis" including a why-drugs-are-bad speech by Tasha Yar to Wesley Crusher.
- The episode "The Neutral Zone" has a musician from the 20th century who died from heavy substance abuse, was frozen, and then revived by the Enterprise crew.
- Both played straight and played with in the early 90s live-action/rubber suit sitcom Dinosaurs. They do a very straightforward Drugs Are Bad episode about the characters finding and abusing a plant implied to be marijuana until one of them just accidentally burns the whole thing while high. At the end, they avert the usual PSA segment about how bad drugs are, when the adolescent son begs the audience to not do drugs so sitcoms can stop getting pushed to make Very Special Episodes.
- Andromeda episode "It makes a lovely light" dealt with one of the main characters' newfound drug addiction, with heavy reliance on flavor-of-the-month PSA language.
- Because the idea of monstrous aliens blackmailing the human race for ten percent of their children apparently wasn't far enough over the Moral Event Horizon, Day Five of the Torchwood mini-series Children of Earth had to reveal that the aliens were using the kids to get high.
"You're... shooting up... on children?"
- Earlier, in first series episode "Day One", Torchwood faces an alien who gets high off of the energy released by vaporizing men while having sex with them. The Torchwood website shows Captain Jack's report on the alien, in which he notes that its behavior was comparable to a human drug addict.
- Babylon 5: Dr. Franklin becomes addicted to stimulants in Season Three. He's been using them to improve his concentration. Too much tends to have the opposite effect, though. Another doctor lost her license due to the same problem, as seen in Season One's "The Quality of Mercy".
- Garibaldi's alcoholism as well. Both are arguably handled well.
- A very special My Name Is Earl had him and his friends accidentally acquire a pile of marijuana - these career criminals who spend most of their time drunk react with horror to the stuff, and the folks using the stuff act unlike anyone stoned, ever. It had to be a parody - HAD to be...
- Perhaps I'm not remembering it entirely accurately, but as I recall they were simply worried about the consequences of getting caught with so much marijuana, and weren't particularly concerned with any moral implication.
- It wasn't even to do with the consequences, it was because of Joy's logic that went along the lines of 'If you get drunk, you throw up and get thin. If you smoke pot, you get the munchies and get fat.'
- Of course it was a parody. They even Lampshade the alcohol thing when Earl's mother discovers the marijuana and says "Weed is adictive and fosters anti-social behavior!". After grabbing a bottle of booze, she says "If you need me, I'll be upstairs!".
- Perhaps I'm not remembering it entirely accurately, but as I recall they were simply worried about the consequences of getting caught with so much marijuana, and weren't particularly concerned with any moral implication.
- Noah's Arc: Played in with in a counterintuitive way in the movie. When Brandy crashes Noah's wedding we get to see her enjoy a variety of drugs, and its all Played for Laughs with no real consequences. On the other hand, Alex's addiction to caffeine pills is taken seriously by Noah, and thats where the Drugs Are Bad aesop is played out.
- Kenji's drug addiction in Deep Love is very much this, showing his fall from grace as a Pretty Boy host, to begging for money and owing money to violent loan sharks.
- On an episode of 8 Simple Rules, Kerry is found with marijuana in her backpack. CJ seems to accept it, but the rest of the cast reacts with great shock, especially her boyfriend and mother. Cate even gives a moving lecture about it.
- It should be noted that Kerry was only holding the pot for someone else at school(one of the popular girls I believe) she wans't actually planning on smoking it herself.
- Averted on Mad Men: When Creative has to work on a Saturday to come up with ideas for a new Bacardi Rum campaign, Kinsey (Sterling Cooper Creative's resident Pretentious Intellectual) makes a point of saying how much he is inspired by "Mary Jane." He tracks down some marijuana (that is, he calls an old college buddy of his to bring it into the office), and he and one of the other Creative guys starts smoking it, having engineered to get Peggy out of the office. She storms back in, and very pointedly says "My name is Peggy Olson and I'd like to smoke some marijuana." Not only does she seem to really enjoy being blazed, she ends up actually finishing the assignment by the end of the episode. It potentially crosses over into Inversion territory when Peggy's secretary Olive, a rather conservative older woman who'd been warning Peggy about how bad it was, receives a (completely stoned) lecture/ReasonYouSuckSpeech from Peggy about how she (Peggy) was going places and how Olive had already decided not to (more or less).
- Peggy also smokes up in Season 4, after visiting what appears to be an outpost of The Factory, when it is raided by the police. She successfully hides, avoiding arrest.
- The writers do, however, appear to have a problem with heroin: when (commercial artist and Don's first flame in Season 1) Midge comes back in Season 4, she's prostituting herself to pay for her habit.
- The British miniseries Traffic, and the American film adaptation, have the message "Drugs are bad, but there aren't any easy answers (possible solutions, but not easy ones)."
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- There was an episode of that had the school swim team doing steroids. They turned into fish demons.
- Also, the infamous anti-alcohol episode "Beer Bad"
Xander: And was there a lesson in all this? Huh? What did we learn about beer?
- Something of a Broken Aesop in this case since the bad effects weren't caused by the beer; they were caused by a magic potion that happened to be administered via the beer. Possibly this sequence is why the TV Tropes anon-edit password used to by "foamy".
- In the sixth season, there is an entire Anvilicious plot arc about Willow becoming addicted to magic. Unlike the other two examples, this is an entire arc that has quite a significant impact.
- The Doctor Who episode "Gridlock" involves a virus that mutated from an incredibly addictive drug named "Bliss", which wiped out a whole city.
- This is particularly egregious, as the Doctor and Martha both decide the Mood drugs are bad before they even know they have any negative side effects. The Doctor bafflingly announces that he's going to shut down an entire street of Mood vendors, and Martha tells off a pregnant woman for wearing an Honesty patch. Obviously they're bad, as they're, y'know, drugs innit?
- On that note, unearthed Word of God from The Sixties describes regenerations "as if [the Doctor] has had the LSD drug and instead of experiencing the kicks, he has the hell and dank horror which can be its effect". No wonder why he might suffer from regenerative trauma after the process.
- Averted on Gossip Girl. Nate and Chuck do drugs on a seemingly regular basis with no ill effects thus far.
- One of Serena's one-nighters OD-ed in a flashback, but they didn't really overdo the Drugs Are Bad point (thankfully).
- Fringe gleefully averts this as often as possible. Drugs play a significant role in solving several cases, Walter uses psychotropics all the time (on himself and others), and as of episode 3.19, which is called "Lysergic Acid Diethylamide", Astrid Farnsworth is the only main character who hasn't been under the influence of drugs onscreen at some point.
- Jack Bauer didn't get addicted to heroin. Heroin got addicted to Jack Bauer.
- The 1960s Dragnet handled this with all the finesse of a sledgehammer to the face. There was the couple who was so busy getting high that they let their daughter drown in a bathtub. There was "Blue Boy" who dosed on LSD and buried his head in the dirt. Sgt. Friday also told us about the guy who used heroin and pulled his own eyes out so he could "get a better look", and lectures a group of people on how marijuana irreparably destroys your judgment, but alcohol doesn't.
- Welcome Back, Kotter had a Very Special Episode dedicated to Washington getting involved with drugs.
- Breaking Bad: Played straight, and how. Goes into the violence and crime, the desperation, and the screwed up lives of meth addicts. Coke will fuck you up. Heroin will kill you. Even alcohol will make you chuck up your guts if you take a couple of shots when underage. Pot, surprisingly, gets off pretty lightly aside from the (arguably What Do You Mean It's Not Heinous?) reactions of Walt's family.
- Although it certainly does come out as anti-drugs, Breaking Bad is quite even-handed. The show makes arguments for drugs as a personal choice and portrays a variety of characters (among them Jesse) as high functioning meth addicts. The show is much more critical of the criminal industry surrounding drugs than of the substances themselves (except heroin, which ironically does not get off lightly)
- Subverted on That 70s Show. The main characters smoke pot almost every episode and rarely faced negative consequences as a result. Even after being caught, the characters continue to do it like it never happened.
- Subverted on Sex and the City. Carrie, Miranda and Samantha smoke pot sometimes. Once, when asked as to where were they going to score some weed, Samantha's response was, "Well I'd call my dealer, but he's at the Cape."
- Highway to Heaven had several episodes that deals with the subject of drugs.
- In one episode, kids who get high on heroin like to throw rocks through the windows of a school that teaches illiterate adults how to read.
- In another episode, local youths use remote-controlled planes to smuggle drugs for some reason. Supposedly, this is to get the drugs across the border.
- Intervention may be the strongest argument ever made against drugs.
- Or the not-so-awesomeness of having a serious disease; Intervention certainly doesn't really moralize about their choices and covers more on the aspect of people having a serious disease and how their drug use is more of a symptom of that disease than the actual cause.
- In an episode of Home Improvement, Tim and Jill catch Brad with marijuana and try to convince him that using marijuana is bad, but it is portrayed in a more even-handed way than in many other shows. Jill ends up revealing that she smoked pot in college and once while high bought a stash that was laced with something and she ended up in the emergency room and then was charged with possession and Tim had to bail her out of jail. The end message was that while marijuana might not be inherently bad it can cause the user to make bad decisions and the potential risk is not worth it.
- Tim Allen rather famously spent a few years in prison for selling drugs, so he'd know.
- Greg House, MD, is addicted to Vicodin and isn't above criminal means to ensure a steady supply. This is partly a reflection of the fact that he's a Sherlock Holmes Expy (though Holmes' drug taking would have been legal at the time).
- "Just to Get High" by Nickelback talks about watching someone's downward spiral into drug addiction.
- Played (relatively) straight in the video for The Last Journey Home by Dragon Force, where Vadim and ZP turn down the offerings of a drug dealer who accosts them in a seedy back alley.
- Which, given their reputation for absurd onstage drunkenness, sort of emphasizes the common variation of this trope, "illegal drugs are bad, but alcohol is totally okay, since it's legal."
- Played straight with the song "Give Me the Night", which is told from the perspective of a drug addict.
- Done well in Jamey Johnson's brutally honest hit song "The High Cost of Living". Not quite Crowning Music of Awesome quality, but pretty darn close.
- Contrary to popular belief, the Straight Edge movement usually does not fall prey to this trope. Straight edgers believe drug abuse and alcoholism to be unhealthy, yes, but traditional straight edge ethos is against mass-marketed morality (force-fed anti-drug Stock Aesops would fall under this category) just as much as mindless hedonism. The idea of straight edge isn't to practice temperance for moral or political reasons, but for the sake of self-control and independence, usually amounting to a "be your own god" ideology that very much runs contrary to the conservative or religious intentions of most anti-drug aesops.
- More or less the Accidental Aesop of a large percentage of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll rockers. For a couple of examples, just compare pictures of Steven Tyler or Taiji Sawada taken when they first began their lives of Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll... to what they look like now, in their middle age.
- Afroman's Because I Got High sounds like a pretty cheerful and upbeat song about getting high, but as the song goes on, increasingly bad things happen to him, Because he got high.
I messed up my entire life, because I got high,
- Entirely Played for Laughs though.
- In a live performance by Robbie Williams, he stopped the show dead in its tracks to deliver the message that "alcohol is good; drugs are bad".
- Old Crow Medicine Show's "Methamphetamine" (on their third album Tennessee Pusher) plays this straight. However, The song avoids being preachy by showing how meth cooking is often prevalent in economically depressed areas.
'Cause when it's either the mine or the Kentucky National Guard
- OCMS (as they're known) has a song about drugs once each album; the songs on their first two albums (Old Crow Medicine Show and Big Iron World) are about cocaine, and treat the subject somewhat lightly (with the guy in the song on Big Iron World "bemoaning" his habit the way drunks in old country songs do--saying it's a sin and all, but refusing to do anything about it besides asking the others not to join in).
- OCMS also doesn't seem to have a problem with marijuana, if the lyric "Walk into the south outta Roanoke/Caught a trucker outta Philly, had a nice long toke" in "Wagon Wheel" is any indication.
- Parodied in Eminem's "The Kids."
- Played completely straight about pot in Offspring's "What Happened to You?" and partially Played for Laughs in "Mota."
- 101 Rules Of Power Metal #58. Drugs aren't metal.
- A major theme of Savatage's Streets: A Rock Opera. The main character, DT Jesus, is a drug dealer turned rock star turned junkie. The Rock Opera begins with him wandering the streets in a drug-induced haze before a similarly-fallen mentor makes him realize he needs to clean up his act. Disaster strikes during his come-back show and a friend is killed because of him. The rest of the story is DT trying to make sense of his life and the world, with the numbing "comfort" of drugs being a constant temptation.
- The entire point of Metallica's "Master of Puppets" is that drugs turn you into a slave and both rule and ruin your life. The majority of the song is from the P.O.V. of the drug itself as it taunts and mocks you, making it very clear who's in charge.
Taste me you will see
- One section is from the addict's P.O.V. as they cry out to a master that "promised only lies".
- Another heavy metal example is ironically enough from Ozzy Osbourne. The song "Suicide Solution" is about alcohol abuse and how it will slowly and painfully end up killing you. The song was written after AC/DC's original singer Bon Scott who died at 33 from alcohol poisoning.
Suicide is slow with liquor
- Played for Laughs in Stephen Lynch's mock-children's song "Superhero," which involves an audience participation portion:
Stephen: Kids, sometimes criminals want you to be a criminal too, don't they? They offer you things like drugs and alcohol. But we know to just say no, right?
- "Slow Down" by Brand Nubian is a What the Hell, Hero? directed at the speaker's ex-girlfriend, who is addicted to crack cocaine and has been selling her body (and his new sneakers) to pay for her habit, and he mentions how the drugs have taken a toll on her looks as well as her personality.
- Billy Joel's "Captain Jack" is about spoiled, lazy apathetic young college students who turn to drugs out of boredom. The chorus at the beginning includes the line "Captain Jack will get you high tonight". By the end, it is "Captain Jack will make you die tonight".
- The About.com entry on marijuana says that the effects of it are "Distorted perception, problems with memory and learning, loss of coordination, trouble with thinking and problem-solving, increased heart rate and reduced blood pressure". Anyone reading that may wonder why people smoke marijuana in the first place. It's accurate, from a medical standpoint, but also something of a lie of omission.
- C.M. Punk's whole Heel gimmick is pretty much telling everybody Drugs Are Bad over and over and over again, and wagging an accusatory finger towards the audience. Of course, in his mind, anything stronger than caffeine is worthy of scorn.
- Palladium Books' Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness line's Turtles Go Hollywood (1990) supplement has an impassioned plea on the copyright page telling kids not to do drugs that fits its end-of-the-80s time period perfectly.
- Magic: The Gathering's original backstory involved a shade of this trope. The Thran's civilization declined due to an addiction to Powerstones, their energy source. The addiction later became a disease, which the doctor Yawgmoth treated by replacing infected parts with mechanical ones. Eventually, they became the Phyrexians, primary antagonists for the entire first half of the game's run, and then recurring villains later.
- The "Winners Don't Use Drugs" screen that used to appear in the Attract Mode of many arcade games (and in some places still does. There's also messages from the EPA).
- Ironically, William Sessions (the FBI director whose name appears on most of these PSAs) would be fired in the mid-90s for his decisions regarding Ruby Ridge and the Branch Dividians, as well as for spending taxpayer money on personal expenses.
- This screen was parodied in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Video Game, in which it says "Winners don't eat meat".
- NARC, in which the player is tasked with the somewhat morally questionable task of mowing down thousands of people (including mere addicts) purely to try and get drugs off the street.
- Quest For Glory 3 has a Nonstandard Game Over for hitting the pipe too many times, entitled "All Toked Up".
"You spend the next couple of years sleeping in alleyways and eating out of garbage cans. Then you die, a burned-out drug addict."
- In SWAT 2, there's an entire campaign for the Terrorist side. While you're free to murder and take hostages throughout the campaign, one of the early missions opens with your boss chastising some of the terrorist members for growing marijuana for profit, and he orders you to set fire to the crop. Even Evil Has Standards.
- Not really, its heavily implied that the terrorists just don't want to attract attention too early, and the burning of the marijuana is to hide the evidence.
- Used badly in the game based on The Witcher, characters show more contempt at Salamandra's attempts to control the drug trade than their ranks including rapists and murderers. This is worse when it's a morally vague World Half Empty, so any kind of message (intended or not) doesn't fit.
- Averted in Starcraft where feeding your marines stimpacks doubles their effectiveness but damages them by about 1/4 of their health, but is necessary to utilize them effectively. Kind of played straight with the disclaimer though:
Side effects including insomnia, weight loss, tremors, grand mal seizures, mania/hypomania, paranoiac hallucinations, severe internal hemorrhaging and cerebral deterioration have all been declared nominal and well within Confederate acceptable safety margins.
- If you have the expansion, you can heal the damage from stimpacks with medics. And keep giving your marines stims. The result is, figuratively and literally, space marines on crack.
- Skooma, a drinkable drug from the Elder Scrolls series, is shown as highly addictive as well as causing brain damage. In game terms, this translates to two points of intelligence damage per bottle, meaning 25 doses could leave you a vegetable. A 10 coin offering at the local shrine makes you as good as new.
- But when have player characters and NPC's even been on equal footing.
- Haze features 'nectar' as a combat enhancing drug that has the unfortunate side effect of being more likely to kill you than the enemy.
- In Sim City 4, you can view a map of your city's crime hotspots, with a series of colour-coded symbols to denote each crime. Drug offences are ranked alongside arson and bank robbery.
- In the Grange Hill computer game, accepting drugs from the pusher results in a really dark game over.
"There is an empty look in his eye as he snatches the money from your hand. His face is pale and drawn; His body thin and unfed. He steals to keep his habit; And makes addicts of children. He is dead, and soon you will be too."
- This was actually the core aesop of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas, funnily enough. The gangbanger protagonists hate drugs with a passion, mostly because a drug dealer killed their mother, and drugs turned many allies into enemies and rendered the rest apathetic. Fortunately, it never comes off as Anvilicious.
- The first two Fallout games did this without dropping the anvils, or ever infringing on the player's choice in whether to use or peddle them. Gameplay benefits and side effects for recreational drugs were roughly equal to medical and performance-enhancing drugs, and the player is provided ways of mitigating the penalties, or even turning them into another benefit.) Dumping them wholesale on the market for profit had no negative consequence, not even an in-game rebuke or lampshade. The personal and social consequences were depicted with a light touch, without specifically reviling the user; any villanization related to institutional use for the purpose of oppressing a population, or deliberately poisoning the product.
- Then Fallout 3 simply converted magic potions to post-apocalyptic drugs and avoided any mention in-story, at least averting high-handed moralism, but by sweeping any discussion under the carpet.
- Originally, Med-X (drug that increases damage resistance) was going to be named Morphine but Australia took issue with it so the developers hastily renamed it. There are rumors the game was to include animations where the user actually takes the drug but these were dummied out for the same reason: visual depictions of someone doing drugs are BAAAD.
- New Vegas plays with it a bit more. The most eviliest group, The Fiends are like this because most are so drugged up (the rest are just plan crazy, and on drugs) however the 2nd most evil, The Legion is very anti-drug. However NCR has no problems embracing drugs if it meant raising NCR soldier morale high enough to die for the republic.
- Also, during 1 side-quest you are to help 2 people get over their addiction so they can help freeside. Along with that, the followers, who asked you to help the two, need a supplier and if you choose the casino in freeside as supplier then speech will follow, with the followers thinking low of the casino, but the owner of the casino admits that they detest drugs because those addicted will generally take trouble to other people.
"We may seem like enablers, but really we don't give out drugs. People attacking caravans just to get the fix."
- Another side quest involves helping a High Class Hooker escape what basically amounts to sexual slavery. One of the obstacles to her escape is that the bosses have deliberately gotten her hooked on drugs and supply her themselves to keep her dependent on them.
- In the Old World Blues DLC, the Think Tanks are all severely addicted to Mentats, a drug that boosts intelligence. It's likely that centuries of Mentats abuse is a partial cause for their complete and utter insanity. Even worse is Dr. Mobius, who abuses not only Mentats but Psycho and Jet on his own spare time. The amazing thing is that as Brains In Jars they're still capable of taking drugs.
- The Lucas Arts adventure game The Dig reduced into a thoroughly Anvilicious drug abuse allegory for the mid-part of the game with the life crystals and Ludger Brink's relationship with them.
- Just Say No international commissioned a video game to be produced in order to show that Drugs Are Bad. What they got was N.A.R.C., a game where police officers mow down drug dealers with machine guns. Presumably the message to take home from this is that Drugs Are Bad because they will lead to the cops walking up to you and blowing your head off with a rocket launcher.
- The flash game Get Home. But Thou Must! take drugs and get the Bad Ending before getting home clean is an option.
- The premise of the NES game Wally Bear and The No Gang is based entirely around this.
- Also, Color Dreams' Raid 2020.
- Everything that happens to the main character in Afraid of Monsters is caused by the drugs that he is addicted to.
- In Payday: The Heist, the robbers go to a drug deal to waste the dealers and take only the drug money while destroying the drugs. One of the heist members Dallas performs hits on drug dealers and kingpins as he personally fights against the drug trade.
- In Nitro+CHIRAL's "Togainu no Chi", nothing good can come from using Line. Though it increases your physical abilites, it results in loss of rational thought, and excruciating withdrawal. Worst case scenario, you either disembowel your childhood friend (Keisuke does so to Akira), or end up a vegetable (in Shiki's case). Even Akira and Keisuke's best end results in hints of PTSD and a huge case of My God, What Have I Done?
- In Stuntman Ignition, at the end of the Overdrive movie trailer, the movie protagonist says "Winners don't do drugs" just after he throws his car on the bad guy's helicopter.
- In City of Heroes quite a few of the criminal organisations are doing various drugs which mutate their bodies and give them super-powers. The Family (a Mafia-esque criminal group) is involved in selling it. On the streets you can hear Mooks haggling over the price and quality of drugs constantly. And a lot of missions are akin to drug busts. In Going Rogue there exists a drink called 'Enriche' which is advertised everywhere and spoken highly of by the general population. You don't need much imagination to guess that it's actually a drug siphoned directly into the population's water supply to keep them happy and obedient.
Fil: You know you want to get real height!
- Cool Cat Studios, a discontinued strip created by T. Campbell and Giselle Lagace (the creators of Penny and Aggie) told a surprisingly less-Anvilicious story in which Bones (a female body-builder) considered taking steroids to bulk up. She ultimately chose not to because she was afraid of hitting her boyfriend in a fit of 'roid rage.
- Subverted hard throughout The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal. The titular characters partake throughout the strip without any negative consequences.
- Charmeleon's story in 151 Hidden Depths.
Clefairy: And besides, look at what those drugs did to your HEALTH!
- Parodied in Red vs. Blue when Simmons tells the other members of Red team that he and Grif were drugged. Donut immediately assumes that they were intentionally abusing drugs and proceeds on a long tirade about how drugs are bad, much to Simmons' annoyance.
- Spoofed in the Saturday Morning Watchmen themesong. "Say no to drugs!" is sung while Rorschach is shown turning away from a dealer.
- Spoofed (or played straight? hard to tell) in this Flash Tub "PSA" from Something Awful.
- Yu-Gi-Oh the Abridged Series has a PSA where Yami Yugi speaks out against drugs. It starts out rather straight (he'd lose respect and his ability to play a Children's Card Game well but then gets weirder as he advocates selling cards as a better way to get kids addicted (without getting arrested).
- South Park:
- Parodied in the episode Ike's Wee-Wee, as quoted above.
"Drugs are bad because if you do drugs you're a hippie and hippies suck."
- The above episode lampshades this as a chicken/egg Broken Aesop: Mr. Mackey's original intent is to prove that drugs make you a poor, depressed, homeless loser, yet, as he soon discovers, people turn to drugs because they are poor, depressed, homeless losers to begin with, and are driven to drugs to cope with said fact. When he tries to explain this to his rehabilitation counselor, she simply brainwashes him into once again believing that Drugs Are Bad, because, well, they just are, m'kay.
- South Park has repeatedly mocked the way people exaggerate and even lie about the horrors of pot to try and keep kids from smoking it. Since marijuana isn't considered such a big deal nowadays, their main point about smoking marijuana is that when you're high you're not doing anything worthwhile - which is also a pretty good point.
- "My Future Self 'n Me" deconstructs this, showing the lengths that parents will go to to Scare'Em Straight, to the point of cutting off an actor's hand. It eventually reconstructs it with Randy giving Stan a perfectly sensible message against drug use. Word of God claims that this episode was inspired by a poster claiming that smoking marijuana supported terrorism.
- Several episodes of Captain Planet and the Planeteers, including a memorable one in which Linka became addicted to drugs slipped into a pastry, and her cousin died due to an overdose.
- Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, an animated special featuring cartoon characters from several different shows. It's the same thing with The Flintstone Kids "Just Say No"
- Depicted in a fairly believable fashion in a Superhero and Science Fiction context in Batman Beyond without being Anvilicious. In the "The Winning Edge," a leading school sports team is using a super steroid based on the supervillain Bane's venom chemical in skin induction applications called "slappers." It makes the kids stronger, but at a price of excessive aggression and profound weakness in withdrawal as their dependency grows. Furthermore, when Batman goes to question the aged Bane about it, he finds him in a senior's home a complete vegetable totally dependent on Venom to stay alive; the natural result of using it for decades.
- Sad Reality Subtext here: Robert "Jeep" Swenson, the actor who played Bane in Batman & Robin, died at 40 as a result of severe steroid abuse.
- The Animated Adaptation of Rambo actually did an episode titled "Just Say No."
- G.I. Joe had an episode where the Joes team up with Freakin COBRA to take down a drug lord after one of the COBRA agent's sister gets hospitalized due to the drug lord's new product, "Spark". Cobra Commander only gets involved when the agent persuades him that, since drugs are big business, the drug lord is sure to have piles of cash on hand to steal. In a rare scene from a show heavy on the Bloodless Carnage, the drug lord gets dropped into a vat of pure Spark and dies from a horrific overdose. It also turns out that the drug lord's bags of "cash" were really bags of shredded newspaper.
- Following the G.I. Joe example above, COPS' Big Bad, "Big Boss", uses his power to keep drugs out of Empire City. He helps the good guys stop a drug lord when his own nephew, The Dragon (the dumb Berserko), gets affected.
- "Alone Again" from Jem fits this trope. Laura, the newest Starlight Girl, is so depressed over her parents's deaths that she's easy prey for a drug daler. Pity about the Anvilicious Aesop, since the first five minutes describing Laura's self-hate and loneliness are an intense Tear Jerker.
- The Simpsons kids' favorite cartoon, Itchy and Scratchy, spend a whole episode doing little more than standing on the screen and tepidly fighting. They end the episode with the non-sequitur "Kids, say no to drugs!" Bart and Lisa decide it was a pretty lifeless outing.
- In Batman the Animated Series, there is a slight subversion. In the episode, "Never Too Late", it's true that only the downsides to drug addiction are shown, but the episode focuses on the dealer himself and treats him with just as much sympathy and realism as every other villain they produce.
- Completely and utterly ripped into by Sit Down, Shut Up. The teachers decide that they need a scapegoat problem to lecture about for Parents' Day, and decide to have an anti-drug conference sponsored by a prescription drug company. One of the teachers is declared the "drug czar" (for confiscating non-company drugs, including prescription drugs) and forced to quit drinking coffee, the negative effects of not taking prescription drugs are emphasized (including the principle going into a coma from various vital organs shutting down), and one of the teachers mishears "Math Lab" (he had previously been taking anti-ear-blockage medication) and instead builds a meth lab. Everyone seemingly gets sick from the meth being accidentally left among the dippng sauces, which is censored for being "kind of gross", and it turns out that nobody had taken drugs at all and they got sick from the food. For The Stinger, after it being said that they never did have a chance to show that drugs are bad, shows the baby who had several times been referenced as a "permanent consequence" of using drugs sitting in the duffel bag full of meth bags... and its tooth falls out.
- In Capitol Critters the episode "Opie's Choice" dealt with a squirrel named Opie who was addicted to pep pills they caused him to stay awake at all times, have big baggy bloodshot eyes, and in order to get them he sells everything he owns, in that same episode Max the main character is captured by the drug dealers and force an entire bottle of the pills down his throat slipping him into a coma and almost dying as a result.
- In Bravestarr's anti-drug episode "The Price", the kid actually does overdose and die. Shocking for a cartoon of that era, it's one of the best episodes of the series.
- In an episode of Galaxy High Doyle takes "brainblasters" from a dealer to make him smarter and pass his classes, he soon becomes addicted to them and as a side effect he has big baggy eyes and zones out at the most inappropriate times, eventually he spends all his money and resorts to stealing from his friends to get more, eventually they get him to admit he has a problem after he goes to a planet that criminals hang out and returns their stuff, and he finds out that if he continued to use the stuff he could end up in prison.
- One episode of A Pup Named Scooby Doo had one of the suspects revealed to have a history with drugs. Every time the D-word was mentioned, the main characters (especially Scooby) expressed near-Pavlovian revulsion. Turns out the suspect in question was still involved in smuggling drugs, despite having given an Anvilicious claim that he'd quit that stuff.
- In the Family Guy episode "The Thin White Line", Brian gets hooked on cocaine. While we don't see his withdrawal, we do see the terrible effects coke has on him - wild mood swings, paranoia, etc. Dogs, don't do drugs.
- Subverted, in that Brian smokes weed and it isn't really shown as a bad thing. As do Peter, Lois, and the Evil Monkey. Even Meg has good connections.
- And Peter/Carter sell Meg a bag. Then clock her and steal it back.
- Inverted in the episode "420", where the characters sing a musical number extolling marijuana.
- At which point a law is passed to legalize it, and everyone is completely stoned all the time with a few exceptions. Apparently in the world of Family Guy, there's no room for "responsible moderation."
- In Family Guy???
- At which point a law is passed to legalize it, and everyone is completely stoned all the time with a few exceptions. Apparently in the world of Family Guy, there's no room for "responsible moderation."
- Gleefully parodied in an episode of Futurama, where Fry and Leela use Zoidberg's "Miracle Cream" to give themselves superpowers, including super-strength and speed (but not the ability to control sea creatures). The powers are temporary, however, causing them to keep returning to the (apparently unique) tube of Miracle Cream. Shenanigans ensue when they run out. At the end of the episode, we are reminded in song that 'Winners don't use drugs!'
"Heroes don't do drugs! Except for Drug Man, I guess."
- According to Drug Avengers, an obscure and very weird educational cartoon recently exhumed by Everything Is Terrible, the reason Earth will not be able to join the Galactic Federation in the future is because you smoked a joint at that outdoor Radiohead concert.
- ↑ See the image to the right.