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Slightly Better Than Death!

Your will is still unyielding, but your body is not up to the task. You'd say I Can Still Fight. You'd say you can Bring News Back. You'd be lying; You Can Barely Stand, no matter how desperately you need to.

So you use this drug and get yourself back on your feet, never mind the extreme danger. This may be a form of Hollywood Healing. On the other hand, dangerous consequences are more than usually likely if you try this; Post Dramatic Stress Disorder often results when the problem is over and the drug wears off. You'd better hope this isn't a Tonight Someone Dies episode.

Contrast Super Serum; this merely gets you up to normal human capacity, if that. Compare Magic Feather, where the effect is entirely psychosomatic, or Super-Powered Evil Side, where the hero is out of juice, but something inside him is just ready to continue with its own power and will. Also see Power-Up Food, Caffeine Bullet Time.

Examples of Bottled Heroic Resolve include:

Anime and Manga

  • In One Piece, Chopper will occasionally use a Rumble Ball to increase his strength. If he takes three of these within a six hour time limit, though, he will turn into a monstrous form with incredible strength but little to no control. It causes his body to tear itself apart, and afterwords he will find it impossible to move. There's a reason he's only resorted to this twice thus far.
    • Also, Emporio Ivanakov, whose Devil Fruit power allows him to generate hormones and inject them into people, can pull this off with "Vigor Hormones" which cause instant Heroic Resolve, though it should be noted that it's still very dangerous to go beyond one's physical limits while under the influence. She's used this twice on Luffy so far.
  • Chouji from Naruto has his family's extra-strong soldier pills. The green and yellow ones require increasing recovery time, and the red one is only to be used if you're quite sure the fight is worth dying for.
  • Averted in Sword of the Stranger, where the protagonist Nanashi has gone through fights with multiple mooks, getting injured several times and in very cold weather trying to save a boy. Nanashi is exhausted and all cut up his last enemy standing is Luo-Lang in perfect shape and a highly skilled swordsman who sees Nanashi as his only true opponent. He offers Nanashi drugs to dull his pains and to make their upcoming duel a fair one. Nanashi turns the offer down and decides to fight him in his current condition... Despite his state, Nanashi wins...
    • To be clear, it is not a magic medicine, just an anesthetic. And they are a pretty evenly matched pair, though Luo-Lang holds advantages in size, speed, agility... And for the sake of clarity, again, the fight ends in what would have certainly been (and still might have been? It's open to interpretation) a Mutual Kill, if not for Nanashi's Pocket Protector that he received from Kotaro earlier.
  • Klaus of Hyakujitsu no Bara invokes this trope when he goes on the raid. Less effective than expected, probably because it wasn't the first time he used drugs.
  • In the Trigun manga, Wolfwood uses something in between this and Super Serum in his fight against Livo/Razlo and Chapel.
  • Dragon Ball and its incarnations has Senzu Beans, which can restore a person to full power in an instant.
  • At one point in Excel Saga, Excel and Hyatt find a recently murdered girl. Hyatt (who is prone to sudden death) pulls out a bottle of medication she keeps in case of emergency and pours it down the girl's throat. The girl rockets to her feet, screaming "ENERGY!" at the top of her lungs, and proceeds to run across an ocean before recovering normality.

Comic Books

  • In Asterix in Britain, tea is used as a substitute for the magic potion. Asterix does present it to the Britons as the real deal, but their chieftain acknowledges it gave them courage enough to defeat the Romans.
    • Also, the Normans use calva.
  • In The Adventures of Tintin, Captain Haddock could often be re-energized by alcohol while tired or depressed, which Tintin uses at several points to rally him, even carrying around a spare bottle for emergencies.
  • Strongly averted in Iron Man issue 169. After having a couple of drinks, Tony battled Magma but is beaten. So, he retreated and went to get fortified by drinking some more. He ended up passing out.

Fan Works

  • A not-quite-heroic example: Nod fanatics in Tiberium Wars tend to employ a very potent drug that can, among other things, keep their blood oxygenated for at least a full minute after their heart has stopped and they're clinically dead. The drug and its use are based on real-life accounts from US military personnel who fought militia and insurgents using similar drugs (primarily epinephrine).


  • The Dragon in Ong Bak injected himself with some kind of drug in order to keep fighting the hero during the climactic fight scene, for all the good that did him in the end.
  • An almost certainly tongue-in-cheek example is in the '70s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, in which the lead characters stay up for the remainder of the film after popping an entire handful of PCP caplets or something.
  • Invoked in The Rock, though this particular "bottle" contains the antidote for the killer poison he's trying to secure, and it must be injected directly into the heart. And he still has to Epic Hail away the last-ditch airstrike.
  • The Max Payne film's climax begins with Max taking a dosage of Valkyr to keep himself from freezing to death. He then goes on a mook-slaughtering acid trip.
  • In Universal Soldier, Van Damme is only able to defeat Dolph Lungren after he takes a dose of supersoldier serum.


  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 novel Space Wolf, when Ragnar and Strybjorn are escaping the caves, Ragnar gives Strybjorn a shot to keep him going despite his injuries, and then a second dose when he starts to hallucinate. In another fight, Strybjorn is able to act, some, but after, Ragnar has to carry him to get him out.
    • In Lee Lightner's Sons of Fenris, when Jeremiah has given his word to Ragnar, he revives his fellow Dark Angels with such shots. One of them is seriously enough wounded for him to ask about the injuries; he answers I Can Still Fight.
  • Robert Heinlein:
    • Short story "Coventry". The hero and a companion take a powerful stimulant called a "pepper pill" ("improbable offspring of common coal tar") in order to complete a long hike and deliver a vital message. The drug can cause heart attacks and burns the body's tissues to provide energy after normal reserves are gone, requiring days to recover from its use.
    • Have Space Suit - Will Travel. While trudging across the surface of the Moon in a life and death situation, Kip takes dexedrine tablets when he gets exhausted.
  • In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel His Last Command, when Mkoll is unconscious after falling through a Chaos warp gate and managing to get himself and another scout back despite the enemies, the impossible landscape, and the cold behind it, Gaunt has to speak with him. He has Dorden revive him long enough to speak with a shot; Dorden refuses to give him another dose, after.
  • In Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth books there are several stimulants that can be used to push beyond normal limits on endurance.
    • There's also a short story called The Emoman, featuring a drug dealer who sells emotions — literally. Confidence, resolve, happiness, angst, you name it, he'll sell it to you in convenient pill form.
  • Isaac Asimov's Foundation and Empire the Mule uses his mental powers on Ebling Mis, pushing him beyond normal endurance in his search for the whereabouts of the Second Foundation. It's not a physical stimulant, but it has the same effect, including physical deterioration to the point of causing Mis's death.
  • Andre Norton's Lord of Thunder, sequel to The Beastmaster.
  • A number of Stainless Steel Rat stories include Bottled Heroic Resolve. In The Stainless Steel Rat Saves The World, Slippery Jim's nerve fails him outside the Big Bad's base. No sane man would walk in there, not to certain death. So he pops a pill that kills sanity stone dead: grinning sociopathy in a capsule, live wire applied directly to the Id.
  • In Graham McNeill's Warhammer 40,000 Ultramarines novel Nightbringer, the rescued Inquisitor limps into conference, clearly showing the heavy stim use that got him there.
  • The doctors in the Medstar Duology, a bit of the Star Wars Expanded Universe which serves as medical drama, do all kinds of things to keep themselves going when they get endless waves of patients. A device is mentioned that stimulates certain kinds of brainwaves, allowing the equivalent of eight hours of sleep in ten minutes, but it's not actually as good as real sleep, and they start making mistakes anyway. When there aren't any patients, they tend to get drunk.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 Blood Angels novel Deus Sanguinius, after Rafen won the duel with Arkio, Mephiston offers him a shot that will give him the strength of lords, because of the severity of his wounds.
  • In Red Fury, also by James Swallow, Rafen knows of such drugs, though the Blood Angels prefer not to use them—but his foes are injecting themselves and getting results far beyond them.
  • In James Swallow's Warhammer 40,000 novel Faith & Fire, Verity revives Miriya with an injection.
  • In Lois McMaster Bujold's Shards of Honor, Aral takes a "little blue pill" from his first aid kit to keep him on his feet while recapturing his ship from the mutineers who had tried to kill him, and seized control of it.
  • The entire point of the nationalistic poem "Döbeln at Jutas", by J L Runeberg. Severely wounded officer Döbeln begs his doctor for a medicine that will let him out of bed for just one day, so he can lead his troops in the battle at Jutas.
  • In The Dresden Files, Harry takes a recharge potion, but feeling like you have an inexhaustible power supply and actually having one are two different things. While he doesn't fall on his face, he runs out of juice and has no powers at a time you really don't want to have that happen.
  • Played straight in the Sector General novel Star Surgeon. The Sector General staff dose themselves repeatedly with stimulant injections to stay on duty through the waves of casualties brought in as a result of the Etlan war police action.
  • The Black Jewels book Queen of the Darkness makes mention of a powerful stimulant that will keep someone on their feet with no food and no rest, as long as it's taken a couple times a day. Once it wears off, the user cannot be flogged awake by anything.
  • In Agatha H and The Clockwork Princess, Lucrezia, back in a body that needs sleep, resorts to drugs to keep going. Lots and lots of drugs.
  • In Michael Flynn's In the Lion's Mouth, a Good Samaritan gives Dominic Tight "booster" after the ambush injured him.
  • One of the earliest of David Drakes Hammer's Slammers stories revealed that the Slammers' body armor has a pair of emergency injectors built into it: one is a painkiller, and the other is this. They look like a couple of small badges or medal ribbons on the armor's breastplate, but grab the "badge" and pull downward....

Live Action TV

  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • "The Immunity Syndrome": While opposing a monster that drains life force, the crew starts to collapse and is given stimulants to keep them on their feet. At one point Kirk asks McCoy for another shot and Bones warns him that if he keeps on taking it it will blow him apart.
    • Subverted in "Amok Time". Kirk becomes exhausted while dueling the deranged Spock, and McCoy calls a time-out to inject him with something that will give him a fighting chance. A Techno Babble explanation is provided—it'll help Kirk use the oxygen in his blood more efficiently, since the atmosphere on Vulcan is thin by Earth standards. Of course, McCoy has actually slipped him a mickey, giving him a sedative that will simulate sudden death and make it appear that Spock has won the battle.
  • Star Trek: Voyager:
    • Captain Janeway orders the Doctor to dose her up under similar circumstances in the two-parter "Year of Hell." He agrees, but not before threatening to remove her from command if she doesn't schedule herself a rest interval.
  • Malcolm Reynolds injects adrenalin directly into his heart to keep himself going long enough to repair the ship in "Out Of Gas".
    • In real life it would have just caused a fatal heart arrhythmia. Intra-cardiac injections of epinephrine (adrenalin) are rarely, if ever used in modern medicine, and never with someone who has a pulse.
  • In an episode of Smallville called Rage, Green Arrow took a drug to give him a Healing Factor. Unfortunately, it had the side effect of giving him RAGE.
  • In Stargate SG-1 episode "Morpheus," the team (plus some Red Shirts) are infected with a parasite that makes them want to sleep. Once they are asleep, it then eats their brains to death. Naturally, nobody wants to have that happen, so they have to stay awake for a few days while trying to find a cure. At one point they resort to caffeine pills and other chemical stimulants, but have to stop when the drugs cause one Red Shirt to have a heart attack and die.
  • In the Battlestar Galactica Reimagined episode "33" the Cylons are attacking every 33 minutes, giving Galactica's understaffed fighter pilots no time to rest. They're given an unnamed drug that's probably Amphetamine to keep flying.
  • Like the medical example in Real Life, Dr. Franklin of Babylon 5 develops a stims habit to cope with the demands of his job.
    • This seems to be a common pitfall among doctors in the B5 universe. In "The Quality of Mercy," it's mentioned that Dr. Rosen lost her medical license over stims use, and in "Hunter, Prey," Dr. Jacobs uses stims to keep himself awake while he runs from the law. Granted, the second example isn't a sign of an addiction to the drugs, but doctors seem to reach for them whenever they're in a tight spot.
  • Not so much heroic, but there is an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit where a 10-year-old girl at an exclusive private school has to keep using stimulants to stay awake and study so she can keep up with everyone else. She ends up going a little psycho as a result of the meds and killing her roommate.

Tabletop Games

  • Warhammer 40,000 has combat drugs use fairly widespread, mainly in the Imperial forces, Chaos crowd (along with... all and any other sorts of drugs) and the Dark Eldar. All WH 40k RP games have some details on this.
    • Only War has Combat Drugs equipment doctrine (mostly in penal units), though stimm (which for a little while prevents debilitating effects from stunning or wounds short of broken appendages, with weakening aftereffect) is more widespread and can be a part of standard practice, even in armored regiments (obviously, if your tank is in flames, being able to ignore burns for long enough to fight fire or run away may help).

Video Games

  • StarCraft: features Terran marines and firebat / marauder class infantry using stimpacks to boost combat efficiency from "cannon fodder" to "tactically superior to everything that they can hit". Usually used at the start of engagement and actually deplete health reserves for the combat boost.
  • Metal Gear Solid 4: Snake injects himself with nanomachines several times to keep himself on his feet throughout the second half of the story.
  • In the game Battlefield: Bad Company, Private Marlowe is given a hypodermic needle (full of adrenaline, presumably) that he can use to keep himself alive near the start of the story.
  • EarthBound had a "sudden guts pill" item, which double the user's "guts" stat for the duration of the battle. This is particularly fitting since a high "Guts" stat raises the probability that your party is revived if you lose the battle (besides, it raises the Critical Hit ratio of the user).
  • Hitman uses this at least once. Blood Money has two healing items: A syringe full of adrenaline, and a bottle of painkillers whose flavor text states they're currently being tested for use on horses.
    • Similarly, Max Payne crunches through painkillers like a Soviet icebreaker delivering a nuclear missile through polar icecap. A nuclear missile of revenge.
  • While the potions in The Legend of Zelda are explicitly magical, the food items in the more recent games are not. Link can come back from the brink of death just by drinking half a bottle of milk or soup. Goddamn.
    • You gotta admit, it's really good soup.
    • Bottled fairies are an even straighter example: they will appear when you run out of health and give you a smallish health boost so you can keep fighting for a bit longer.
  • In the Fallout universe all kinds of chems can fall into this trope at some point. Includes the Buffout (Strength, Agility and Endurance), Jet (increased reflexes/speed), Psycho (damage resistance and agility, in Fallout 3 increased damage) and Med-X (damage resistance). They have aftereffects and are addictive, of course.
  • The HEV suit in the Half Life series apparently comes equipped with Self-Dispensing Bottled Heroic Resolve, as it will automatically inject you with morphine if you become injured.
  • In Alter AILA, stimulants (in three different colors) are used in place of healing potions, as befits the After the End science-fiction setting.
  • Edward Roivas has bottles of Liquid Courage in his Inventory. Three guesses as to what they hold...
  • In Avernum, there's the Heroic Brew. It tastes incomprehensibly foul, but turns even wimpy mages into unstoppable juggernaughts for a few rounds, nevermind the actual frontliners, who become godlike.
  • This appears to be standard procedure for Witchers, who will imbibe potions before going off into battle.

Web Comics

  • Girl Genius folks seem to have ongoing issues with stimulants, perhaps befitting their MAD SCIENCE!!1! modus. Other incidents include Agatha's first taste of coffee, Gil's quick recovery due to Jager battledraught, the "post-revivification rush" from experiments in the Castle Heterodyne basement…
    • The bottles of Movit #6 and #11 used by Tarvek and Zola (respectively). When Tarvek collapses, Violetta reveals that this was the only reason he was standing in the first place.
    • When The Other was possessing Agatha. She kept taking various stimulants in order to keep working otherwise Agatha would be able to reassert control if she dozed off.
    • Also, "Violetta Crush!" moment with Montebaarg Beef Boy Elixir.
  • In Blue Yonder, they use this on Jared to keep him going when they have to escape capture.
  • Schlock Mercenary has combat stimms. That are supposed to be used when a soldier needs to stay up despite fatigue or wounds, and evidently are known to "blood-nannies" so they won't be purged right away like other potential toxins. And if left unchecked, some people abuse them. Like Elf. Even after she kicked it, she retained propensity for violent mood swings and some baggage from the experience for a long while.
  • EatATau Face to face (XII) illustrates how this sort-of-works.

Western Animation

  • Popeye was actually very unimpressive, until he ate spinach (he always kept a can with him). The spinach had an effect not unlike Caffeine Bullet Time, enabling him to win the fight, save the girl, etc. Either an Anvilicious way of getting kids to eat their vegetables...or a case of Getting Crap Past the Radar.
    • Give Popeye SOME credit. He could crush a tin can so hard that spinach goes flying into the air.

Real Life

  • Who hasn't pulled an all-nighter (or got through the day after one) by loading themselves up with coffee and energy drinks?
    • So very true in health care, and especially before the 80-hour resident workweek reforms, when 36-hour shifts were a common rite of passage. Trainee physicians and nurses have long been known to joke that they have too much blood in their caffeine streams...
  • The military has used amphetamines to keep troops awake for long periods of time since at least the Second World War.
    • Military pilots call them "go pills" and they also have "stop pills" for when the need to stay alert has passed. The latter being basically sedatives. Both are passed out by doctors if requested. An over-reliance on these drugs is somewhat controversial though, since they may also have negative effects on things like alertness, situational awareness, judgment, etc.
    • Drug-addled pilots have been implicated in friendly fire incidents, most notably that of an American pilot dropping a 500-lb bomb on a Canadian platoon in Afghanistan in 2002.
  • In some settings (more where cannon fodder tactics were used than today's mechanized warfare which would yield very dangerous results), alcoholic drink has been used to encourage soldiers to think less about saving their own skin and more about fighting. Of course, alcohol has been called "liquid courage" and such for ages, but nowadays we can test this with brain scans, too.
    • The Red Army during WWII famously used shots of vodka (called "the Peoples' Commissar's 100 grams") to bolster morale.
  • In a somewhat disturbing blog post, Peter Watts suggested a version: "Isolate the neurochemical factors that come into play when a mother sees her children being threatened; synthesise them; dose every female soldier with an aerosol of the stuff before you send her into the field. If any of the boys complain about women in the military after that, it’ll only be because they keep getting their asses kicked on performance reviews. Either that, or because they’re scared shitless."
  • Painkillers and cortisone shots administered to injured professional athletes to allow them to return to games.