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Hollywood plots get hooked on drugs

We’ve all heard those disclaimers at the end of pharmaceutical commercials.

We’ve all heard those disclaimers at the end of pharmaceutical commercials.

“May be-harmful-to-humans-if-swallowed-the-most-common-side-effects-are-temporary-eyelid-droop-nausea-decreased-sweating-avoid-contact-with-skin.”

Usually they sound like one long breathless sentence that seems scarier than the disease the drugs are meant to prevent.

A new film, Love and Other Drugs, starring Jake Gylennhaal and Anne Hathaway as a pharmaceutical salesman and the girl he loves respectively, however, forgoes the disclaimer. In fact, in what almost seems like a 90-minute ad for Viagra, it appears that the drug’s—Vitamin V, Jake calls it—only side effect is that it works too well.

It is the rare movie that uses a real brand name drug as a plot device. Even though the odd movie like Prozac Nation dares to name names, often filmmakers use fictitious drugs to advance their stories (and avoid lawsuits from notoriously litigious Big Pharma), but even in fantasy, side effects abound.

Brain Candy, the 1996 Kids in the Hall comedy, created a cure for depression called GLeeMONEX that “makes you feel like it’s 72°F in your head all the time.” Unfortunately the pill’s patients also turn into comatose zombies.

David Cronenberg devised Ephemerol, a tranquilizer used as a morning sickness remedy for his film Scanners. Side effects? Telekinetic and telepathic abilities. Later, in Naked Lunch, Cronenberg featured the more recreational drug Bug Powder, a yellow dust formally used by exterminators, informally by people looking to find a “literary high.”

In Repo! The Genetic Opera, Paris Hilton’s character Amber Sweet was addicted to a powerful blue, glowing opiate extracted from dead bodies called Zydrate. I’ll do wild things to “your soul for one more hit of that glow,” she sings. An alternative cinematic painkiller is Novril, the pills that kept James Caan sedated in Misery.

Filmmakers don’t just fictionalize pharmaceuticals, however. Plenty of recreational drugs get the Hollywood treatment. Remember Space Coke from Cheech and Chong's Next Movie? One snort was enough to send both Cheech and Chong literally into outer space.

A Clockwork Orange was chock-a-block with fake drugs; everything from Drencrom to the synthetic mescaline Synthemesc to Vellocet, which produced ultra-violent tendencies and sudden outbursts of Singing in the Rain.

Perhaps the strangest recreational drug from the movies is Alien Nation’s Jabroka. Aliens find it highly addictive and grow to monstrous proportions when they take it, but to humans it tastes like dish soap and has no effect.

 
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