The real world is rife with controlled substances that can result in a wide variety of effects, both positive and negative, but they pale in comparison to the psychedelic experiences offered up by some of the more exotic drugs in the annals of science-fiction. Unlike actual pharmaceuticals, imaginary drugs can do anything their creator wants them to do, and some writers have really run wild with the concept over the decades.
By taking a trip through some of the most notable sci-fi stories of the last half-century, one can sample substances as diverse as NZT-48, Soma, the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, and even Death Sticks. Best of all, science-fiction provides by far the safest way for one to experiment with drugs - through the eyes of an entirely fictional character!
Nostalgia - ‘Watchmen’Photo: HBO
The events of Watchmen, whether in the original graphic novel or HBO’s landmark television sequel, take place in a contemporary setting, but one with a very different world history. As such, the characters in the story have access to various products and technologies that don’t exist in the real world, and that includes Nostalgia - a high-tech designer drug intended for those suffering from Alzheimer’s, but with several interesting implications beyond that.
Nostalgia customers select memories from within their own mind and the folks at Trieu Pharmaceuticals convert those memories into a pill, which can then be ingested in order to vividly relive moments that the patient can no longer remember on their own.
Taking someone else’s Nostalgia is incredibly dangerous, but it’s been shown to be feasible if a blood relation is involved - with the result being a black-and-white, first-person point-of-view ride through an ancestor’s life story. Talk about history come to life!Trippy?
- Photo: Universal Studios
Whatever media format the Dune franchise takes, there are certain central components that stay consistent throughout - and the Spice Melange is the most important. The substance is key to the economy of the known universe. Spice can be used for a variety of purposes, but its primary use is as a narcotic.
The Spice is said to never taste the same twice, which makes for an interesting experience in and of itself. Like many controlled substances, Spice can expand the mind, sometimes even to the point of extrasensory perception or glimpsing the future. Unlike most such substances, the Spice Melange is actually good for one’s health and can greatly increase a person's lifespan if used regularly; however, it comes at the cost of severe addiction and eyes stained permanently blue.
Of course, that’s a trade-off that many denizens of Dune are perfectly happy to make.Trippy?
- Photo: HBO
Season 3 of Westworld has taken its audience out of the eponymous theme park and into the “real world” surrounding it, and it’s a very different one from our own. The intervening years between the modern day and 2053, in which Season 3 is set, has seen some major changes to society, but some things remain the same. For instance, the existence of a class of rich, bored individuals and a bevy of designer drugs to keep them entertained.
One such substance is “Genre,” which viewers get to experience through the eyes of Caleb, a protagonist who is dosed with it against his will. Genre causes the user to perceive the world around them through the lens of several sequential film genres - noir, action, romance, drama, and horror - with appropriate lighting and soundtracks to set the mood.
The character Giggles warns Caleb to watch out for the last stage, and when Caleb finally comes down, takes stock of the chaos around him, and asks “Which genre is this?” Giggles casually replies, “It’s reality, man.” What a trip.Trippy?
- Photo: Relativity
The effects of the super-pill NZT-48, central to the plot of Limitless, are so extensive that they sound like the list of side effects one normally associates with pharmaceutical ads on TV. Except, in this case, most of the effects are positive.
NZT-48 is said to unlock 100% of one’s mental capacity, something that is based on the myth that humans only use about 10% of their brains, and the results are extraordinary. Users of NZT gain a “hypermind” level of intelligence, perfect recall, omnilingualism, and the ability to learn anything instantaneously. It also gives them a host of superhuman abilities, including increased charisma, dexterity, reflexes, sensory intake, and competence at literally every possible endeavor.
Some of the negative side effects include memory loss, paranoia, rapid aging, and extreme psychosis - though these are able to be mitigated by the use of an additional substance.Trippy?