Fiction: Someone is being drugged without them realizing it
January 29, 2013 9:07 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for books or movies where someone is unknowingly drugged in such a way that it changes their behavior/personality but there are no obvious side effects like blackouts or hallucinations.

I am not looking for things like slipping a sedative or a hallucinogen in someone's drink. And nothing like poisons to directly kill the person or make them sick.

Instead, the person remains unaware they are being drugged and is still healthy enough to continue normal activities (at least for a while). But meanwhile, the drugging changes their behavior or personality somehow...and they may even sense that something is different.

For instance, a character is made more and more aggressive without understanding why because someone is secretly spiking him with high levels of testosterone. Or someone is becoming more and more forgetful without knowing why because their enemy is drugging her to cause those symptoms.

Thanks for any answers.
posted by 99percentfake to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Jacob's Ladder.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:11 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


That happened several times throughout the Harry Potter movies - truth serums, taking over someone's free will. Perhaps someone else will have a better memory for the details.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:13 AM on January 29, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you're OK with TV as well as movies, then Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 3, episode 12--"Helpless." Buffy is unwittingly being drugged by her mentor as a rite of passage when she turns 18; the drugs sap her powers and then she has to fight a powerful vampire.

Buffy's boyfriend in seasons 4 and 5, Riley Finn, was also secretly fed drugs by Professor Walsh, the leader of a demon-fighting military initiative that Riley belonged to. His drugs enhanced his strength and shut down his pain receptors.
posted by dlugoczaj at 9:19 AM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cabin in the Woods has this.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:19 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Mass Effect series of video games has something almost exactly like this. It's not a drug per se, but the main villains have a technique called "indoctrination," in which the minds of target subjects are affected such that they eventually serve the villains willingly. It's a major plot device in all three games, and a major point of tension is telling whether or not a given character has been indoctrinated. Characters themselves can't tell most of the time, though those with stronger personalities tend to be able to. The series has expanded to include a handful of novels, too.

Relatedly, in Dune Messiah, Chani is secretly fed contraceptives. It doesn't change her personality as such, but she gets increasingly anxious and upset as she proves unable to conceive, despite no lack of trying and her own fertility treatments to boot.
posted by valkyryn at 9:27 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Philip K Dick's fiction includes instances of this. "A Scanner Darkly" is one good example.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:29 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fringe use of Cortexiphan a lot of the children who were dosed never knew that it was causing changes.
posted by Gungho at 9:30 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Last year's movie "Limitless" is about a drug that enhances perception, recall, and focus. However the characters involved are voluntarily taking the drug, and when one amps up the dosage starts losing periods of time. Users are also shown experiencing some degraded health and withdrawal systems. Nobody gets dosed without their knowledge, AFAIK, though.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:30 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reunion On Neverend by John E. Stith.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:36 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Office Space
posted by jbickers at 9:38 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not fictional (or at least possibly not fictional): VICE's video on Columbian Devil's Breath.
posted by WidgetAlley at 9:46 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chan Koonchung's novel The Fat Years has this happening to, well, almost everyone.
posted by scruss at 9:50 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is exactly what happens in Charmed after Charmed spoilers Phoebe marries Cole when he is about to become the Source.

From the Charmed wiki (which is a thing that exists):
The Seer had Cole slip Phoebe some chocolates enchanted with a fertility-enhancing tonic she brewed. These measures not only ensured that the child could be conceived easily, but also that the child's evil nature would grow consistently stronger. After Cole was officially coronated as the Source, he had the Seer give Phoebe a tonic made from her blood, both daily and nightly, so that it not only strengthened the baby's demon side, but also slowly ate away at Phoebe's good nature.

Under his influence, Phoebe began manifesting the powers fit for the Queen of the Underworld, and was able to touch the Grimoire, even though she never became fully evil herself.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:55 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's not spiking anything that the person ingests, but in Season Three of Dynasty, Jeff Colby's office is painted with lead paint by Adam Carrington, causing him to behave erratically.
posted by stellaluna at 9:57 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Philip K. Dick's story "Faith Of Our Fathers"
posted by steinsaltz at 10:09 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also Oldboy uses a similar device to what you describe.
posted by steinsaltz at 10:10 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss has a scene where a character is drugged in such a manner than he loses all his inhibitions, but everything else about him is the same. That said, the character realizes it pretty quickly after a confrontation with the person who set him up to be drugged.
posted by shesbookish at 10:34 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


there are a lot of fictional uses of arsenic in this way, to mimic other natural ailments (right up until fatality). even individual episodes of, say Castle or The Mentalist.
posted by acm at 10:38 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about this one. "The Fifth Missile," a TV movie based on the book "The Gold Crew" by Thomas M. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. (US Navy Submarines have two rotating crews, Blue and Gold.)

Here's a better description than I can write:
David Soul plays the commander of a Trident submarine, engaged in an test designed to measure the crew's psychological reaction to an actual nuclear missile launch. Only Soul and two other officers (Robert Conrad and Sam Waterston) know that the war alert is false; the crew is led to believe that the crisis is genuine. Unfortunately, toxic fumes from the newly painted mess hall trigger a psychotic reaction from most of the crew--and commander Soul. Now convinced that he's on the brink of war, the near-lunatic commander orders the firing of ship's live warhead, instead of the four dummy weapons designed for the test. Officers Conrad and Waterston race against time to avert World War III. (written by Hal Erickson, Rovi)
posted by Sunburnt at 10:40 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Thanatos Syndrome by Walker Percy touches on this theme.
posted by lettuce dance at 11:23 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Office Space

I have seen this movie probably 20 times and I can't remember this situation occuring. Who is drugged? What am I forgetting?
posted by to recite so charmingly at 11:41 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Office Space

I have seen this movie probably 20 times and I can't remember this situation occuring. Who is drugged? What am I forgetting?


Peter's personality is changed by the hypnotist, but he doesn't realize it.
posted by jbickers at 11:44 AM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fox Mulder is unwittingly poisoned via his water supply, causing him to become aggressive in the episode Anasazi.
posted by mhum at 12:09 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the X-Files episode Anasazi, Mulder is drugged. He starts acting more aggressive as the episode goes on, but at first you don't suspect it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 12:11 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two episodes of Stargate SG-1, deal with the same character being drugged without his knowledge...by the same people. Yes, they're generally light episodes. Another episode deals with the character of Daniel Jackson, having his personality altered negatively without him really understanding the ramifications. I.e., he was becoming evil and couldn't comprehend that it was happening.

Those episodes are in order of answer appearance:

1) Point of No Return - Short summary - Alien deserters on Earth dose a comrade with drugs to make him forget that he's an alien (when he initially changed his mind and wanted to leave). While in this instance, the character knows he's taking drugs, he's been told he's taking something different and for a different reason.

2) Wormhole X-Treme! In this return to the same character, he's been drugged with fake vitamins to again forget he was an alien and his experience with the Stargate and personnel. (Incidentally, the memories float to the surface in a way that drops him into creative consultant for a tv show pilot that's essentially a doppelganger for Stargate SG-1).

3) Need. Dr. Daniel Jackson, along with SG-1 arrive on a planet where the entirety of the team is captured and placed in mines as slave labor. Jackson in an attempt to win over a ruling leader agrees to use an alien healing chamber, despite not needing physical healing. He then continues to do it, and while believing that the process is simply making him smarter and healthier, doesn't realize that the device is 1) creating an addiction to its effects and 2) making him an amoral individual who doesn't care for the suffering of his friends and teammates in the mines.

There's also a rather 'Let's try and forget this episode ever happen' episode where members of the SGC are unknowingly infected with a disease that turns them into, ah, primitive cave people...but the first signs were increasing signs of aggression and violence. They began acting differently, but didn't know they had been infected or exposed. Not the best episode...

Another episode concerned an subconscious addiction to an alien device that sent out waves of energy which affected individuals by making them angry/aggressive and then suicidal, entirely with the individuals knowing they were being affected in that manner.
posted by Atreides at 2:09 PM on January 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


An interesting way to view the history and semi-fictionalized stories of the Roman emperors (I Claudius is one well-known example) is to note that lead acetate was used as a sweetener in wine.

The symptoms of lead poisoning tend to correspond with some of the known behaviors and ailments of several emperors, including Claudius, Caligula, and Nero.
posted by 1367 at 6:49 PM on January 29, 2013 [2 favorites]


Presumably not quite what you were looking for, but Doctor Who did an episode a couple of years ago where the Ood, these creepy yet mostly-benign squid-faced slave alien guys, were slowly drugging the head of the company that was enslaving them. He thought it was a hair-regrowth drink, and he was downing it rather obsessively, even though he was quite bald and it wasn't helping his hair at all.... And then in the end his face split open and it turned out the drug he'd been taking turned him into an Ood. That scene freaked me right out, and if I'd seen it when I was a kid I do believe I never would've left the house again.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 5:02 AM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another small-dose arsenic example is Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews.
posted by CathyG at 12:42 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thanks for these answers!

• A Scanner Darkly - Philip K Dick
• Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 3, episode 12 - Helpless
• Buffy the Vampire Slayer, seasons 4 and 5, Riley Finn character
• Cabin in the Woods
• Castle – uses of arsenic
• Charmed - Phoebe marries Cole when he is about to become the Source.
• Doctor Who – Ood hair growing drink episode
• Dune Messiah - Chani is fed contraceptives (causing anxiety about being unable to conceive)
• Dynasty (Season 3) - Jeff Colby's office is painted with lead paint, causing him to behave erratically
• Faith Of Our Fathers - Philip K. Dick
• Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews
• Fringe use of Cortexiphan - ?
• Harry Potter movies (several times) - truth serums, taking over someone's free will
• I Claudius - lead acetate was used as a sweetener in wine (Claudius, Caligula, and Nero)
• Jacob's Ladder
• Limitless - voluntary dosing
• Office Space - Peter's personality is changed by the hypnotist
• Oldboy
• Reunion On Neverend by John E. Stith.
• Stargate SG-1 - episode where an alien device sends out waves of energy
• Stargate SG-1 – episode where infection turns them into cave people
• Stargate SG-1 - Need
• Stargate SG-1 – Point of No Return
• Stargate SG-1 - Wormhole X-Treme!
• The Fat Years - Chan Koonchung
• The Fifth Missile - a TV movie based on "The Gold Crew" by Thomas M. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson
• The Mass Effect (video games) - "indoctrination"
• The Mentalist – uses of arsenic
• The Thanatos Syndrome by Walker Percy
• VICE's video on Columbian Devil's Breath - ?
• Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
• X-Files – episode Anasazi - Fox Mulder is drugged and becomes aggressive
posted by 99percentfake at 2:25 PM on January 30, 2013


In The Crimson Labyrinth, by Yusuke Kishi, [spoiler!] some of the characters are unwittingly consuming a drug that makes them so hungry that they turn to cannibalism.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:36 PM on January 30, 2013 [1 favorite]


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