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May 4, 2014 | by  | in Features Online Only |
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High Fives

I Can’t Believe It Wasn’t Made On Drugs!

Yellow Submarine
The infamously trippy film was revealed in Behind-The-Scenes to be a pretty sober affair. Apparently the worst the animators ever did was have a little too much to drink after lunch. The first time scriptwriter ever got high with John Lennon was after the movie was made and released.

Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
One of the graphic novels that inspired Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, this Alice in Wonderland style adventure sees Batman fighting weird, psychologically-charged versions of his villains. However, this was written before Morrison’s famous turn to psychedelics, using sleep deprivation hallucinations as his basis instead.

Adventure Time
Described by voice actor Tom Kenny as “this generation’s Yellow Submarine”, many fans have questioned the origins of the show’s trippy aesthetic. Creator Pendleton Ward describes himself as just being a “weird, funny guy”. There’s a great essay well worth reading on how the show came to be a exploration of the creative teams anxieties and general weirdness (

Anything by Tim Burton
Burton’s infamous brand of scraggly gaunt gothic horror has been with him since his introverted childhood spent drawing, painting and making films in his backyard. This hasn’t stopped fans from assuming some kind of chemical inspiration. As the Nostalgia Critic noted in his review of Beetlejuice, “if Tim Burton had never done acid, I’d hate to see what happens if he does.”

Alice in Wonderland
Unfortunately to those who want to believe, Lewis Carroll (real name Charles Dodgson) was not influenced in any way by opiates or hallucinogens. The book was essentially the equivalent of a story you would tell your younger siblings or cousins; Carroll wrote the story for one Alice Liddell, the daughter of a family in his social circle.


Books written while on drugs

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
The famous novel of dual identities, one straight-laced and the other wild and uninhibited, was written over a six-day cocaine binge.

Kubla Khan – Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Coleridge famously scribbled this Romantic poem after a opium fever dream. It remains a fragment, as he was interrupted during his writing, and returned an hour later to find he couldn’t remember his vision.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey
Kesey was inspired by to write his psych ward novel while working the graveyard shift at a hospital. During his writing he experimented with mescaline, a hallucinogen derived from certain species of cacti.

Anything by Stephen King between 1979 and 1987
Cocaine addiction turned Stephen King into a writing machine, producing such classics as The Dark Tower: Gunslinger, Misery and It. King has gone on record to say his addiction was so fierce that he could not even remember what he wrote in that time.

The Doors of Perception – Aldous Huxley
A member of the prestigious scientist Huxley family, Aldous’ experiences with mescaline caused him to look into the human consciousness and its expansion through psychedelic drugs.


Psychedelic Discoveries  (Discoveries made on drugs)

Francis Crick followed in Aldous Huxley’s footsteps by using LSD to further his scientific pursuits, and became a proponent of legalisation. A popular theory is the double-helix structure of DNA came to him in a vision of two snakes coiling around each other, like the Greek caduceus symbol currently employed by modern medicine.

Lysergic acid diethylamide was first extracted by Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann. After accidentally absorbing the chemical through his skin, he later took 250 micrograms before riding his bicycle, resulting in the first intentional acid trip.

Ergot, the fungus from which LSD was first extracted, grows on rotting wheat and can survive being baked, resulting in many early bread-eaters getting baked themselves from the hallucinogenic chemicals therein.  Ergot is thought to given rise to shamanism, and have been used by ancient cultists during their rituals as a method of convening with spirits.

While the original recipe remains a closely-guarded-but-occasionally-leaked secret, it is common knowledge that The Real Thing once contained trace amounts of cocaine. The drink is so named because of the extracts from the coca leaf and the caffeine-rich kola nut in the original recipe.

Making a Better Psychopath
A 1968 Canadian study tried to ‘cure’ the psychopathy in 11 violent offenders by having them partake in nude therapy and take LSD. The intent was to get them to be more empathetic to others and hopefully experience proper emotion. Later research showed that it had only made them better at manipulating people’s emotions, as evidenced by their one-third increase in re-offending.


As actors cannot actually do legally drugs onscreen, television hands have to find alternate ways to accurately portray drug use on camera.  Property masters, those credited with acquiring and approving of anything the actors touch, have since created various means of procuring the (false) goods.

1) Cocaine
This one tends to vary from production to production; amusingly, there is no set recipe on fake cocaine. One property master on Homeland uses cornstarch mixed with baby powder, which prevents the mixture from sticking and gives the onscreen appearance of coke. The cast of Wolf of Wall Street used crushed B vitamins, which like the actual product does sting your nose, but only gives a slight high. The one exception was, of course, Nicolas Cage. In preparation for his role as a hard-drinking drug-addicted cop in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans got doctor-approved cocaine to give the appropriate madness to his method acting.

2) Cigarettes
California, the hub of entertainment, prohibits smoking tobacco products indoors. Most productions that require the characters to smoke constantly, such as Mad Men, use herbal cigarettes instead. An interesting rule from the show’s production crew is that if the actor used to smoke in their lifetime, then their character smokes as well. Vincent Kartheiser has never touched a pack in his life, so his character Pete Campbell doesn’t smoke. Jon Hamm quit smoking at 24, so Don Draper is naturally a seasoned smoker.

3) Weed
In the show Weeds, the beloved dramedy of a woman who turns to dealing pot to support her affluent lifestyle after her husband dies, anyone lighting a toke is actually smoking a herbal tobacco cigarette. Reportedly, this doesn’t give you a high, but it does make you a touch lightheaded. Onscreen, the plant you’re seeing is often oregano.

4)  Alcohol
Simple to substitute, find a liquid that looks like a spirit onscreen but is something your actor won’t get drunk off. Hence vodka is water, and scotch is flat Coca-Cola. In advertising, a bit of trickery used to make beer seem more appealing in a perspiring glass is to add soap to it, to give it that acquired foamy head.

5) Meth/Crack
Possibly a old piece of trivia for Breaking Bad watchers, but I’ll repeat it here. The infamous “Blue Sky” is actually blue rock candy sourced from a candy store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Over the show’s run, various recipes for candy meth exist online for those catering a Breaking Bad night or a Heisenberg Halloween. Crack cocaine is less deliciously sourced, with rocks being made by dropping globs of glue in baking soda.

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