Where would we be without drugs? Half the great musical performances of the 20th century wouldn't exist. There would be no Mork and Mindy. Walter Bishop would have nothing to inspire his research.
But that's not all that drugs do for us — they also give us amazing superpowers. Here's a list of fictional drugs and substances that could give you superstrength, superspeed and other kinds of superness. Note: We're not including magical potions here, since otherwise this list would be nigh-endless. Update: We added a bunch more entries!
Top image: Dune: Ride the Sandworm by Leywad.
In this manga and anime, Tetsuo Shima gains ESP abilities and then gets experimented upon and given drugs to control his powers, but they continue to increase in any case. Tetsuo escapes from the government, and scores himself some street pills called "Peanut", which nearly cause Tetsuo to unleash armageddon.
The Elongated Man
Ralph Dibny, also known as the Elongated Man or L'Homme Etendu, drank the distilled essence of the Gingo fruit, which is used in the soft drink Gingold, and it gave him stretchable limbs, similar to Reed Richards or Plastic Man. So of course, he decided to become one of the world's greatest detectives, because stretchability automatically makes you a great sleuth.
Rex Tyler developed a drug that would give him miraculous powers — so of course he called it Miraclo, because what else would you call a miracle drug? The only catch? It only lasts an hour, which he calls his "Hour of Power." The only other catch? This drug was highly addictive and the withdrawal symptoms were a nightmare. The third other catch? When his son tried to take Miraclo, it caused him to get awful super-cancer.
In the Dragonball universe, a magical senzu bean will make you heal up from almost anything. It won't cure diseases, but it can heal a gaping hole through your chest, like when Yamcha battles Dr. Gero and Android 19. They are grown in Korin's Tower, taste like fish, and will dramatically increase one's weight and girth if eaten liberally.
In True Blood, V, or Vampire Blood, is a very rare and expensive drug which has several curious effects. It can cure almost anything, it's an aphrodisiac, and it'll create a kind of spider-sense-tingling-telepathy between the donor and recipients.
In the Mario Bros. universe, several items give Mario, Luigi, Yoshi or other playable characters a diverse array of powers. Eating mushrooms will make your character grow, while flowers give you pyrokinetic powers!
In Doctor Who, there are many substances that have special qualities, including River Song's hallucinogenic lipstick and the Doctor's poison gas-sensing celery stick. But in "The Caves of Androzani," there's a powerful drug called Spectrox that gives you eternal youth... for a price. The drug comes from the bats who inhabit the caves on the smaller planet — but watch out for the unrefined spectrox. Also, in "Fires of Pompeii," people get quasi-psychic powers from inhaling volcano fumes.
Remember the Spice Mines of Kessel, which are mentioned in the original Star Wars? According to some of the tie-in books and comics, they're the source of Spice, which is a family of drugs, the most potent of which is probably Glitterstim. Created from the webs of spice spiders, Glitterstim gives people some telepathic abilities for a little while, and also heightens your mental state. Han Solo tried the stuff and found that he really did gain psychic powers — but over-use can degenerate your nerves and cause blindness, twitching and paranoia.
The Dark Crystal
In Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, the evil reptilian Skeksis conquer the world of Thra, and enslave its inhabitants, the Podlings. The Skeksis use the Dark Crystal to drain the liquid "essence" from the Podlings, storing it in vials. This makes the Podlings more docile, but also the "essence" has rejuvenating properties. Now that "essence" is harder to come by, only the Emperor gets to drink it.
In this book and movie, Eddie Morra takes a pill called NZT that supercharges his brain, to the point where he can remember everything he ever learned and make amazing deductions on the fly. The withdrawal symptoms are a nightmare, though, and it's highly addictive. Oh, and the blackouts can be pretty nasty, as well. [Thanks to Feeble for reminding us of this one!]
Caleb gains the power of short-range teleportation after drinking an average of eight liters of coffee a day for a while. The more coffee he drinks, the more powerful he gets, until he can finally teleport a whole building at one point.
The New Guardians
The notorious supervillain Snowflame appeared gains superpowers from doing cocaine, and including superstrength, pyrokinesis, an immunity to pain and super-speed. He also revered cocaine as a kind of God.
In this anime series, booze gives Quent Yaden the power to see through the wolves' human disguises, letting him see their true forms. On the downside, the alcohol also makes him a worse shot.
Darker than Black
In this anime, people who use magic are contractually obligated to do something in return — and this can involve something weird, like eating cigarettes or breaking your own fingers. For example, April drinks alcohol to keep her powers.
Tinkerbell leaves behind a trail of shimmerying fairy dust, or pixie dust, that allows people to fly. And Peter Pan seems to have gained the ability permanently, after long-term exposure.
We already mentioned Walter Bishop's recreational drug use above, but there's also the fantastic drug Cortexiphan, which seems to give a variety of superpowers, including pyrokinesis and telepathy — not to mention the ability to travel between universes, in Olivia's case. (Thanks to everyone who reminded us of this one!)
John Dies at the End
In David Wong's novel, a drug called "soy sauce" allows you to see forbidden visions, including clairvoyance. Thanks to LuckyAmeliza for reminding us of this one!
As Simon Elias Haddad reminds us, Underdog gets his superpowers from a pill which he keeps inside a compartment in his ring. In the clip at left, provided by Simon, Underdog loses his powers because his ring is in for repairs.
Thanks to everyone who reminded us of this one — Bane takes the drug Venom to give himself super-strength and a kind of manic rampaging energy. This gives him some of the edge he needs to take down Batman — although Batman himself also got hooked on Venom, for a while.
Various characters gain superspeed powers from drug use, including Johnny Quick — and in one storyline, Vandal Savage sells a drug called Velocity-9 which gives the user superspeed. Sadly, when the drug wears off, you're sort of screwed. Thanks, chalkshark!
As seen in the recent movie, Steve Rogers goes from a 99-pound weakling to a massive superhuman fighting machine after ingesting the mysterious Super Soldier Serum, a variant of which also helps give the Abomination his powers in the Incredible Hulk movie. Also, in some versions of the Nick Fury origin story, a drug keeps Nick Fury from aging. Thanks, omgwtflolbbqbye!
Isaac Mendez probably doesn't get his precog powers from using heroin — but he seems to be able to use them a lot better when he's high, painting huge vistas that show the future. Plus comic books, and assorted other objets d'art.
The Spice Melange may give you glowing blue eyes, but it also makes you able to glimpse the future — and therefore, able to navigate in space. If you consume it in larger doses, though, the Spice transforms you into a weird fish-like blob that must live in Spice gas forever. Also, in the movie version, the Mentats are shown using a drug called Sapho, to heighten their abilities.
In this manga and anime, rare fruits give anyone who eats them special powers. Much like Ralph Dibny, one character named Monkey D. Luffy eats the Gum Gum fruit, giving him stretchy-limb powers. Buggy the Clown, meanwhile, eats the Chop Chop fruit, which allows him to remove parts of his body at will. Meanwhile, another substance called Logia allows you to turn yourself into an element.
Aeon Flux, "Reraizure"
In this episode, a drug called Bliss is harvested from a small turtle-like creature called a Narghile, whose skin openes up to expose its organs, including the wonder pellet. The pill causes a number of side effects, including memory loss. One victim of the drug, Rory, wants to launch all of the Narghiles into orbit because he's lost his past due to the drug.
Alice in Wonderland
Perhaps the most famous drug metaphors (or just drugs) in any fantasy story. Alice finds a bottle and cake which say
DRINK ME and EAT ME, and they cause her to shrink and grow, respectively. Not to mention the Hookah-Smoking Caterpillar.
William Lee starts out by shooting up "bug powder," or exterminator's poison, which causes him to realize that his typewriter is in fact an anus-mouthed beetle, and his boss in a secret organization. Later, Lee takes a drug called "The Black Meat," which is made out of giant centipedes. Finally, he sucks "mugwump jism" out of the mugwump head that his typewriter has become, allowing him to receive more instructions and uncover a drug-fueled conspiracy.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The elixir or serum created by Dr. Jekyll give him a split personality, basically turning him into the Incredible Hulk long before Lee and Kirby created Bruce Banner. Eventually, he's stuck as the brutish Mr. Hyde. And in Alan Moore's League of Extraorinary Gentlemen, Hyde has become enormous and strong enough to rip someone apart with his bare hands.
The Invisible Man
In H.G. Wells' novel, Griffin takes opium and another drug, then processes the results through a "radiator engine." This turns him invisible, but the process is irreversible.
President Laura Roslin uses a hallucinogenic drug called "chamalla" to treat her cancer after regular drugs can't help with her pain any more. Roslin's hallucinations include clues to the location of Earth, plus dreams of Leoben being shot out of an airlock, and a dozen writhing snakes.
Serial Experiments Lain
Accela is a nanomachine-stimulant that seems to link the user into the Wired (aka the computer realm.)
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
The eponymous drug has the unique property of allowing users to trip out in the real and virtual (Metaverse) worlds.
"Wait a minute, Juanita. Make up your mind. This Snow Crash thing-is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?" Juanita shrugs. "What's the difference?"
The drug (or virus) makes the infected into minions of the novel's antagonist, L. Bob Rife (a parody of L. Ron Hubbard, no doubt)
In Judge Dredd, humans harvest the glands from an alien race called The Stookies. They give immortality to humans as long as they are consumed — but stopping cold-turkey results in accelerated ageing.
This series contains innumerable drugs, but Mechanics is particularly interesting. It is a nanotech drug that cyborg-ifies one's body. In addition, there exists AI drugs, since Spider Jerusalem remarks several of his household appliances are high.
A drug called "Muscle" doubles your reaction speed. Basically a futuristic superamphetamine. It "shakes you to pieces-speeds everything up to a blur," according to Logan in an early draft of the screenplay.
Harry Mudd notably traffics the "Venus Drug" that supposedly increases one's natural romantic allure dramatically.
Ephemerol is meant to relieve morning sickness. However, side-effects may include rashes, dizziness, telepathy, telekinesis, pyrokenesis, and blowing up heads from a distance.
Red Eye gives one superhuman speed and bullet-time perception. One character, Asimov Solensan uses it to fly incredibly fast ships.
Wade Wilson receives an experimental drug for his cancer. This increases his healing factor considerably, but also accelerates his cancer – therefore his body is constantly deteriorating and healing simultaneously. Another notable side-effect is his notorious insanity.
Moksha Medecine is often overshadowed by Aldous Huxley's other fictional drug, Soma. This drug is conversely used in widespread fashion as a rite of passage, which are used by children and adults alike, for "spiritual and cosmological insight."
Re-Agent is a glowing green chemical that brings the dead back to life — and we see Herbert West using it for recreational purposes, in a deleted scene.
Strange develops Alosun, a distillate serum of sun atoms. This gives him superhuman strength, to power to fly and invulnerability.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Kurt Vonnegut
In Vonnegut's short story, Anti-Gerasone is a liquid that halts the aging process — and a new version, super-anti-gerasone, is supposed to produce actual rejuvenation.
The Red and Blue Pills let you choose between blissful ignorance in the Matrix and a post-apocalyptic barren existence in which you are prophesized to become a martyr.
Morpheus: The pill you took is part of a trace program. It's designed to disrupt your input/output carrier signal so we can pinpoint your location.
Neo: What does that mean?
Cypher: It means fasten your seat belt Dorothy, 'cause Kansas is going bye-bye.
Sean Connery's character plays a High Noon sheriff-like law enforcer who investigates trafficking in a super-amphetamine, Polydichloric euthimal, on a mining outpost. This drug lets you work more than twice as fast, but then probably drives you crazy and kills you.
Mixing Chemical X with sugar and spice and everything nice results in the materialization of three superhuman girls who can fly and battle evil monkeys bent on taking over the earth. Initially Professor Utonium tried creating a single, perfect little girl with all the above-mentioned properties, but by spilling the chemical in his formula, he created three girls with a respective quality: Blubbles, Blossom and Buttercup.
Blade of the Immortal
In this manga, the protagonist, Manji, is given kessen-chu (sacred bloodworms) that make him immortal. The ronin is often dismembered and wounded as a result of his lifestyle, but can withstand any kind of punishment. However, he dislikes his immortality. He must kill 1000 evil men to atone for his sinful past, after which the nun who "cursed" him will cure him of his burden.
An American Werewolf in Paris
In this awful film, Serafine tries to develop a serum to control her lycanthropy. Instead, the drug causes her to instantly become a werewolf.
Mutant Growth Hormone is extracted from mutants and used to give normal people superpowers.
The Three Coloured Pills are drugs used by the Akimichi clan. The Green Spinach Pill, the Yellow Curry Pill, the Red Chilli Pill all give the user a boost in power. The red pill is reputed to increase one's power 100-fold. However, the user risks death by swallowing all three.
A drug called Dust temporarily unlocks uncontrollable psychic powers.
A drug called Promicin gives you a 50% potential of unlocking super-powers, and 50% chance of dying on the spot.
The Lawnmower Man – Project 5
In this film, Jobe acquires telekinetic and pyrokinetic powers from a mixture of drugs and virtual reality.