I want a whole city to be on drugs secretly, so they don´t know they are drugged by their government.

The city is about 2 billion people and roughly structured like a Makropole from the Warhammer 40k universe. This means:

  • Many levels
  • 4 classes (Lower, higher, worker, and government class)
  • Lower and higher class do not have direct contact. Only worker and government classes have access to all locations in the city.
  • Government class also have control of the police and army.
  • Government class itself is not affected by the drug. It can also be drugged but without any effect.

EDIT after the first Answers:

  • The Government does not have the control of the Food the citizen eat because of Traders and off world Space port supply, because the world does not have an agricultural infrastructure and is heavily dependent on the off world supply.
  • Tradesmen and other people that stay shorter than one month in that city are also not affected.
  • The city has a connected water supply, but I don´t want that to be the source of the drug.

The Drug specification:

  • The government does intoxicate all the citizens with the drug in regular intervals. If a citizen is long enough in this makropole he will become addicted without noticing it. When he than leaves the city for a period longer than 7 days, he simply dies. (As a consequence, the dosing interval needs to be shorter than 7 days.)
  • The government can take the antidote and also control the food of their henchmen (Police, army etc…).

So everyone needs to be drugged by the government class without knowing it, how is that to be managed?

  • 14
    $\begingroup$ Oh this is a certain for the "Hot Network Questions" box... $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:00
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ Two billion people? As in, about a third of Earth's human population (which is about 7 billion), or two India or China, all in a single city? The logistics of handling every one of two billion people every week would be enormous. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 13:44
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    $\begingroup$ Surely I'm not the only person imagining a CIA agent somewhere reading the answers, rubbing his chin and grinning? $\endgroup$
    – Raestloz
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ Consider reversing the situation, similar to Jurassic Park. You control the hospitals where people are born and receive vaccinations. Damage their DNA in a way that prevents a certain necessary protein or amino acid from being created, and then provide vitamins that contain that item, along with whatever else you want them drugged with. People start getting sick, tell them to take their vitamins. Claim that the food supply is nutritionally inadequate. If they go off the vitamin, or leave the city without a supply of it, they become sick and die. Comment as it doesn't exactly fit your needs. $\endgroup$
    – Adam Davis
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 1:12
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    $\begingroup$ Get people addicted to living a comfortable, entertaining lifestyle and having all their basic needs taken care of such that they can't care for themselves and don't want to gain the capability. In order to live such a life, the individuals need to constantly be doing the government's work, for which they receive lifestyle coupons to purchase goods and services. Use their schooling and entertainment to teach them they live the epitome of human life, and anything different is dangerous, so they don't seek for alternatives. No need for chemical drugs to control the masses.... $\endgroup$
    – yters
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 4:21

20 Answers 20



Just have regular vaccination programs against a range of different diseases. Include this drug in amongst the vaccinations and no-one will be any wiser. When people start dropping dead from drug withdrawal that will only reinforce the fact that these vaccinations are absolutely vital for everyone.

Weekly would be a bit frequent for this so you might need to either extend the time interval on the drug or allow top-up in the form of pills that people take every morning to boost their immune system against all those virulent diseases circulating out there in the world.

ID Needles

I just had another completely different idea. Have everyone's DNA on scan in the system, whenever people want to open the door they press their finger/thumb/whatever onto a small needle and their DNA is analyzed and their access granted or not as appropriate. These scanners could be everywhere so you need to use them to go shopping, get to work, sign in to work, buy food, etc.

If the needle also injected a small amount of the drug whenever it was used then as people traveled around their lives they would constantly get small doses. This also has the advantage (from the perspective of the rulers) that people who aren't commuting to work (too lazy, ill, old, etc) don't get the drug and very quickly stop being a burden on the city...

  • 12
    $\begingroup$ This is absolutely the way to do it. The government can even release the occasional virus into the population to keep the fear up. Perhaps releasing it into slum areas that they want an excuse to be able to bulldoze to build big, fancy houses for the friends and relatives of the political elite? $\endgroup$
    – tobyink
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ Duh this already happens. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 0:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Tim where's the link of knowing what's on-topic here? I saw worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic but it doesn't help me in anyway $\endgroup$
    – Amit Joki
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ We're still defining that, the most current discussion is on this meta Q&A: meta.worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/214/… $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 9:46
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with doing this is the same problem most conspiracy theories face: to regularly administer vaccines for 2 billion people, you need millions of medics. They must either be part of the conspiracy, or they will figure it out themselves sooner or later. From millions of medics it's hard to imagine there will be no detractors who betray the secret. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    Commented Oct 5, 2014 at 17:08

Start by looking at how real world governments drug entire populations. As you guessed, water is an effective route to distribute chemicals en masse, typically flouride but another good one is common foodstuffs. Food can be drugged in various ways, from Biofortification to Synthetic biology to simple industrial processes.

Another way of mass drug distribution would be to pollute the air, similar to what we we used to do with lead in petrol

  • $\begingroup$ Drugging the air would not distinguish between the classes; everyone breathes the same air, after all. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ Edited question says that government class are not affected by drug, so it can be used indiscriminately. I think deliberate air pollution is the best bet in this case. Put some additives into common combustibles, use crop sprayers, even bio-engineer the local flora and fauna to release airborne drugs $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:19

It's been mentioned, but air diffusal might be possible, especially if people that must not become addicted can get antidote. If the city has compartimented sections (useful for fire prevention/disease control, ...), it's a simple matter to use an airborne drug, diffused in public places, public transportation and in the ventilation network if the city has those. If not, there's still the possibility to play with concentration levels (must be high for the drug to have a real effect) or on the parallel diffusion of the antidote on the higher levels.

It might also be publicly advertised as the diffusion of a disinfectant product (generally or against a specific disease which just so happens to break out regularly in the lesser levels...).

While I'm at it, I'd like to mention the Serenity movie in which the Reavers origin is revealed :

The crew of Serenity find evidence, in the form of an Alliance scientist's holographic message, that Reavers were originally humans from the planet Miranda. The Alliance government used Miranda as a testing ground for the chemical agent G-23 Paxilon Hydrochlorate, or simply "Pax" (Latin for "peace"). It was added to the planet's air processors in order to calm the population and weed out aggression.


I think a good consolidated answer would include the following as options:

  • Food Source. You mention this one doesn't really fit the bill for you so I won't go into much detail. But a government subsidy program would fit the bill if you can explain food prices being high (for example in a city that has to import most of it's food).

  • Water Source. This seems like the obvious choice to me but it has certainly been done once or twice. If you don't want people to think twice about the validity of a system that can drug an entire population this is probably the way to go.

  • Airborne Dispersion. Now, this can work for delivery sure, but it is a really inefficient method of doing so. Most of the chemicals would never make it to a person. You would also have to explain why the government was constantly dusting the city with a chemical and no one was thinking twice about it.

  • A compulsory medical program. Be it fake immunizations (that need to be redone each week) or a required medicine, maybe the planet has some pathogen that could either be a contrivance of the government or maybe there is a legitimate pathogen and the government just piggy-backs onto it. I think this is my favorite choice, as much as a system can seem voluntary the better and more stable the government can remain.

  • DNA Identification System. DNA scanners to go to work, or buy necessities. This is another situation where a real or imagined external threat, maybe shape shifters, or an alien race that is trying to infiltrate the world in disguise could be the excuse for doing this.

Final Notes

No matter which system you choose you will also have to include an enforcement force. Secret Police or something similar that enforce the rules on those that don't want to comply. You have to have workers producing the chemicals, agents dispersing it in whatever manner you choose, chemists in the general population, and off-worlders that stir up ideas. A large propaganda and suppression regime would have to be in place for this to fly. Without all that my suspension of disbelief would be stretched to breaking if EVERYONE just accepted that this was ok, even if it was "secret".

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The compulsory medical program seems plausible, but what about a minor twist on it for "compulsory drug tests"? Perhaps a quick breath analysis device triggered by an ID card that tracks regular compliance. The analyzer could secretly (or openly, if plausibly explained) spurt a mist into the mouth or disposable mouthpieces might hold the drug. A degree of 'addiction' might even make it voluntary. The ID card would also determine who gets an effective dose. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 1:47

Quite simple: promote the drug as vitamins

You know how salts can have iodine? That's because scientists say that some amount of iodine is good for you and sometimes iodine from vegetables are not enough, so the government has to manually put them into stuff people usually eat: salt, because salt is widely used.

Bundle the drug with an actual vitamin, perhaps as a beverage or some sort, promote it as healthy and send them off to the masses. For a better effect use a generally available vitamin and promote it as "local product, benefits local business" or some such. Keep the production low (to prevent it from going too global and cause independent curious cats to poke at it) and try to force people to use it. Perhaps by campaigning its usefulness and pass a local law or two "for the health of us and our children".

People can get paranoid because of vaccine, but just about nobody will deny a healthy dose of Vitamin C (as the various brands of orange juice will tell you).

  • $\begingroup$ "Seafood is usually a good source because the ocean contains considerable iodine." iccidd.org/p142000267.html $\endgroup$
    – MetaGuru
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 16:26
  • $\begingroup$ I'm skeptical. I can't imagine you can find any real city where every single person takes vitamins. Of course in this case the fact that people die if they stop taking it is an extra motivating factor, but then it's not the fact that it's being passed off as vitamins that is making them take it... $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 23:17
  • $\begingroup$ @ioSamurai I did not know that. IIRC iodized salt was created because the populace did not have easy access to source of iodine, I guess assumption took over my memory $\endgroup$
    – Raestloz
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 4:22
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidZ the key is promoting the drug as regular vitamin that everyone would inadvertently take one way or another. For example, orange juices promote the fact that they contain Vitamin C (even though you may not need it), but people generally buy orange juice for the flavor, not for the vitamin. Also, in this way there is a legitimate reason for people to get addicted: maybe the orange juice simply tastes that good, and that's another free mouth-to-mouth advertising. $\endgroup$
    – Raestloz
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 4:27

Presumably the citizens of your city carry an id card; so coat the id with the drug of your choice that is absorbed through the skin. This seems to have some advantages:

  • Visitors to the city are not affected (as they do not have an id card)
  • Police raids enforce compliant behaviour (since citizens get an extra dose whenever they have to present their ID)
  • drugs can be tailored to individuals or groups (since of course you have sociodemographic data when you create the id cards)

This should work if class affiliation is stored on the id card or if social mobility is low and new ids are handed out to social climbers.

Government id cards would either not contaminated with the drug or you would supply an antidote to civil servants.

Of course if you want to be nasty you would poison the air and coat the money supply with the antidote. The richer somebody is the less he is affected.... Not quite your scenario but somewhat more effective.

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    $\begingroup$ I can't answer because I'm rep-blocked (even though I have 100 rep on this site). But compulsory ID in the form of tattoos that contain slow release capsules of the drug would be suitably dystopian. $\endgroup$
    – Arluin
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 14:45

We visited the city of Regensburg in Germany. It has several famous breweries, and lots of history.

In the old days all inhabitants of Regensburg got a daily ration of beer, because the water supply was very dirty and they knew drinking the water would make them sick. Women and small children drank a weaker form, which I think would translate as small-beer. People were very happy to get beer every day.

(According to the guide the rulers of Regensburg were happy with this, because a population in a constant state of slight inebriation would not revolt or run away.)

So you could have free beer for everyone (with the added poison), and the rulers could drink wine, or bottled water.


If you don't want it to be in the water, the next obvious place would be the food. If different classes eat different food (not unlikely, and the drugs could even increase the separation by manipulating the people's tastes so they particularly like that type of food and dislike the others; the drug would then have to be weak enough to not have immediate effect if you just try from another food once), it should be easy to apply class-specific drugs. Even more so if people buy their foods in separate stores (higher class stores only sell to higher-class people, etc.).

What would be needed for this is that people cannot grow their own foods. But given that it's just a city and not a whole country, that should not be hard to achieve; maybe travel restrictions to rural areas would be needed.

Another point would be about keeping it a secret. Since someone would have to put the drugs into the food, and it would likely not be someone from the government class but more likely from the workers class, you need a way that those people put it in the food without knowing it is drugs; at the same time they certainly shouldn't be able to eat those ingrediences themselves. Another option would be if the whole food is completely prepared somewhere outside the city and only imported as finished product.

  • $\begingroup$ This is awfully similar to the diffusion of certain hyper-sugary drinks... ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Rmano
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 10:32
  • $\begingroup$ If people grow their own foods, it's still likely they don't grow 100% of their food. Salt is a reasonable target for 'contamination' - get cooperation from a couple of manufacturers in whatever way, and you'll have 90% effect. $\endgroup$
    – Peteris
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 21:54

Can the government spray pesticide? Or more likely, the workers would spray Government-supplied Pesticide. Even a weekly distribution would hang around in the air. Additional spraying could be required after a rain.

If this pesticide contains the drug you desire, it should achieve your effect.

I got this idea from the regular pesticide treatments in my own actual city. I've often wondered (in my occasional paranoia) what else might be in that spray.


Regardless of method, whatever avenue of dispersal must be entirely government controlled. Allowing regular citizens access may cause information about the drug to be leaked, and steps must be taken to hide its true effect.

Air dispersal is a very useful method, but releasing clouds of drugs into the air could be risky, and it may be difficult to cover the entire city evenly without permanent installations, which could be security risks. Instead, the drug should be added to fuel; when the fuel is consumed, the drug is released into the atmosphere with the exhaust. This has many benefits:

  1. The drug can be easily dismissed as a useful additive if it is discovered
  2. The drug is incomplete when it is added to the fuel, and bonds to the exhaust to create the end product, which makes it much harder to detect, but easier to ship
  3. The drug is limited to the city; fuel that leaves in vehicles will be burned up quickly, and replaced with undrugged fuel
  4. It scales with population; as the number of people increases or decreases, so will the number of vehicles
  5. If discovered, the government can easily shift the blame to the fuel companies or vehicle companies; the additive is safe, but the fuel or vehicle is not. Even better, they can enforce laws that making drug delivery even easier, such as mandatory vehicle inspections (to install drug-release mechanisms), or even taking over fuel or vehicle production to keep the people "safe."
  6. Fuel is rotated through quickly, so improvements in the drug can be used right away.
  7. With a large number of vehicles dispersing the drug, it can have a very short life in the atmosphere, meaning it won't be blown far outside of the city.
  8. Means of escaping the exhaust can be government-sponsored (special filters, breathing masks, sealed areas with recirculated air), and contaminated with the drug anyway.
  9. Fuel is used in vehicles, which makes for excellent air dispersal, but it is also used in generators, heaters, and a variety of other things; even the most distrusting stockpiler will still use fuel for his generator, which means that no matter what precautions he takes, he will still get the drug.

Vehicles, in this case, range from air ships to powered roller skates; regardless of size, any city will have some sort of transportation, be it for citizens or products.

  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer, a really clever solution to distributing it. Would there really be that many polluting vehicles in a Makropole though? $\endgroup$
    – Tim B
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ Any city of size needs some way to transport citizens; if roads are impractical, moving belts could be used instead, still running on fuel. I could see fuel-powered bicycles up to golf-cart sized vehicles as useful, especially to the wealthier; flying/hovering vehicles would also be useful for getting around. There needs to be some way to move people and products, and a city intent on drugging its citizens using this system would make every effort to promote vehicles. $\endgroup$
    – ArmanX
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 18:02

My suggestion would be to contaminate the food the various classes eat. There are several reasons for this:

  • Many drugs can be taken orally
  • Food would disguise the taste of any drug
  • Given this is a city where food is going to be imported from outside and the world you're describing, travel and trade between these classes is going to be strictly regulated. It would be trivial to select the appropriate drugged food and send it to the correct districts (shops in districts).
  • The working class, who are moving between districts are likely to be supplied food by their overseers when working in the government district. It's unlikely to be the same food as the ruling classes - there would be no question why their eating something different.
  • Doses could be easily controlled.

You've mentioned off world traders, personally I wouldn't see this as a problem. It's unlikely that anyone in the poorer areas is going to be able able to afford an entirely off-world diet. At best they're only likely to get a smaller dose. We have customs depots in our world. Perhaps all food imported needs to go through quarantine/decontamination?

My other suggestion would be to use the healthcare system. However I see several issues here:

  • It's hard enough getting people in our nation to go to see the doctor and take jabs!
  • Every doctor would have to be in on it
  • The very fact that someone's going to be given an injection makes them wonder what's in it
  • How do you drug the doctors?
  • The government may not want to provide free healthcare to it's entire population!

Given the additional information about the difficulties of regulating food my suggestion would be to create a panic so people want to take the drug.

  1. Release some low level bio-weapon which kills a few people (unpleasantly)
  2. Hype up the press about how nasty it is and how they're working on a vaccine
  3. Miraculously develop a "vaccine" and release it free of charge. Unfortunately people will need to take it regularly.
  4. People will queue out of the door to take the medicine (and give it to their children).
  5. Repeat step 1 and 2 as required

This also has the added benefit of the government not needing to take it. This will strengthen the class divides because they're "genetically better" which will appeal to the class system.

  • $\begingroup$ I need to edit that part in. Government cant control the food chain because of traders and offworld spaceports $\endgroup$
    – Fulli
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Fulli personally I wouldn't see that as a problem, we have customs in our world. The chance that a commoner is going to be able to afford an entirely off-world diet is (in my opinion) unlikely. At best they may get a slightly reduced dose. $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Visiting the doctor could be mandatory (to the point of losing your job if you cannot prove you've seen a doctor lately), so that route could certainly work. However how to prevent the doctors from knowing that they are drugged? $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ @Liath the food is mainly form offworld traders. The world the makropole is build on do not have Agra infrastructure at all. $\endgroup$
    – Fulli
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:20

Just to mention some ideas I haven't seen here:

  • Toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.
  • Mosquitoes or some other insects, e.g. flies. The problem here is that very small dose of the drug has to be enough, and a big overdose should not have any side-effects.
  • Popcorn in cinemas, that is, any food during any form of entertainment, that is common to all.
  • The drug doesn't have to be dispersed as a drug, it might be a bacteria that produces the drug as a byproduct, that is, the drug is produced inside the recipient.
  • Drugs can be applied also through skin, there are number of things one has to touch, like door handles, etc.
  • If there are any DNA-based security checks, or anti-epidemic checks (might be necessary for such a large city), you can apply the drug as a part of the sampling procedure.
  • Also, any devices might drug its users, like self-sanitizing keyboards of public terminals (e.g. to buy subway tickets) or self-sanitizing toilets, or via the gel you use to wear the telepathic-controller to use your computer.

Of course, in such a scheme one would use multiple ways, just to be sure.

I hope this helps ;-)

  • $\begingroup$ Genetically engineered bacteria have a lot of benefits over direct delivery, especially if they can be transmitted easily between individuals and survive outside of a host for extended periods. Plus they make all kinds of intriguing plot developments possible (assuming of course that you're designing a story with this information). $\endgroup$
    – talrnu
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 17:34
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Bacteria have one drawback: One does not die if one leaves the city for a week, because the drug is produced regardless of where you are. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 15:40

Do you know the movie "Equilibirum"?

It's a movie about a dystopic post-WorldWarThree world, where mankind have choosen to prevent war by it's root. This root is emotion they think. Therefore, everybody got a daily dose of a drug which kills emotion.

Sure, in that movie the people know about the drug, but it's an example for general medication which can be helpfull in drawing another scenario of that kind.

What is the intention of the Government? Is it necessary, that the people do not know about their medication at all, or do they just must not know about the effect? Maybe the government can bring the people to take the drugs by telling them false facts?

  • $\begingroup$ I like this idea because it brainwashes the population into taking it, it's a different approach. There are a few too many questions in it for my liking through... Perhaps you could ask them in the comments then firm up your answer? $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ As i said "secretly". The Government dont want that people leave the city. $\endgroup$
    – Fulli
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:43
  • $\begingroup$ If the people do not know about the true effect, they would not leave. What if from start, the "drug" was something 'good' for the people and secretly the government addet some 'bad' chemicals? $\endgroup$
    – jawo
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 9:54

Taking this from another angle, what if the "drug" wasn't chemical, but psychosomatic? The short story Different Kinds of Darkness revolves around images that can kill or injure people by causing what might be described as "brain glitches." The mind simply can't process what it should be processing. I've always found this idea intriguing.

What if, instead of a drug, the government had developed a sophisticated type of art which after long exposure the human mind would become addicted to? After leaving the town, the brain accustomed to having this imagery all around would begin to suffer from withdrawal and severe disorientation, before finally shutting down.

The antidote could be an actual drug which suppressed the part of the brain that would succumb to the withdrawal, or which prevented the brain from developing a "tolerance" in the first place. Perhaps it simply dampens the ability to feel a lack of familiarity, and those taking it would never feel lost when traveling to a new place.

Having travelers export the art wouldn't be a problem unless outsiders began to copy it to the extent they were around it all the time, and also perfectly duplicated it so the mental effects would remain. And having ordinary citizens bring pictures of the city with them if they left also wouldn't do much beyond slightly delay the effects. I can't think of any drawbacks that chemical drugs wouldn't also have.

I'm picturing a beautiful city filled with repeating geometric designs like Islamic art that are just a bit - just a bit - "off."

  • Disperse in Atmosphere like Chemtrails
  • Add it to Salt. Salt goes in all the dishes.
  • $\begingroup$ I like the ingredient option. I'm not sure about salt specifically but some sort of addition which is always added is not a bad idea $\endgroup$
    – Liath
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ You can go for curry, but that would get high just India. Btw the salt idea has roots in our cartoon en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Salt_Prince $\endgroup$
    – Mudrlant
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 13:17

Make the inhabitants produce the drug in their own bodies

Manipulate the DNA of the population so their own bodies produce the drug when exposed to a certain frequency of electromagnetic radiation, perhaps blue light.

Now just illuminate the city.

The only way to escape is underground, using special clothing, wearing specially adapted sunscreen, or going inside and shutting the curtains. The Police are wise to all these strategies. If they see a house with the curtains shut for example they will kick down the door and illuminate the inhabitants with powerful handheld lanterns.


In response to the edited conditions, I am thinking that, assuming you don't want to kill (by addiction withdrawal) people who stay at home for more than a week, or homeless people who may be living in parks or sewers or garages or wherever, this eliminates several options. All humans only need a few things regularly - in order of importance: air, water, food, light, clothing. You say you don't want to use water, and you don't control the food, light seems unlikely to provide a drug, and I assume you don't control clothing if you don't control food (but that's another idea). In that case, I think you want the drug to be everywhere, so in the air, either in dust form or vapor or gas. Since this is a high-tech megalopolis, there are probably air conditioning/heating/"cleaning"/ventilation units all over the place, which can be used, especially if you lie about some wonderful cleaning or scenting agent that the drug can be mixed with.

On the other hand, if you actually like that homeless die off rapidly (I notice you didn't include a homeless class in your four classes), then you could have the drugs distributed at shorter range, or only in orthodox regulated areas, so that people who try to live in sewers or parks or wherever, will be addicted to coming to orthodox places, and need to leave or die of drug withdrawal, unless they somehow manage to stay away enough to not get addicted, or manage to detox by carefully staying on the fringes. This could be accomplished by having airborne drugs that dilute out after a limited range of dispensers which are all in orthodox areas (e.g. by ventilation units or certain paints). If your high-tech city is designed such that all people will need to use a vehicle of some sort every seven days, the drug could be applied in the vehicles.

Since ventilation units are the most obvious way to add something to the air, you might want to do something less predictable. Ubiquitous fire extinguishers, lighting units, fire/gas alarms, wifi network hubs, electrical outlets - any ubiquitous appliances or technology could have gas secretion units added. You could also (or instead) have some nanotechnological agents which produce the drug invisibly. Or use off-gassing from paints or other common building/paving materials. A recent Earth invention is also paving slabs which are solar panels with computers in them with LED that can display changing road markings - if such things were everywhere, or if any computer systems were everywhere (as is already happening on Earth with computers in phones and appliances and cars etc) then some fraction of those could include micro-devices which produce the drug - one detail could be that the supplies for the drug production could be added to the chemical batteries used for many computers, so replacing the batteries means replenishing the drug supply.

Another mechanism which doesn't involve the air could of course be required personal devices, either implants or computerized battery-recharged ID cards, or required cell phones. Or nano-robots which invisibly find and inject people. Or fingerprint ID door locks and light switches etc everywhere which administer a contact drug (but habitual drug users would start to experience withdrawal).


Distribution by Air

Suppose there are no air-filter masks and own stashes of oxygen allowed in your arcology, the continuous circulation of oxygen through a living organism (the cessation of which meaning it has expired) would make the perfect medium for distributing the drug.

Psychoactive Drug creating an Illusion

It would be perceivable to let the consumers of the drug be influenced by its effect to cause them hallucinations and illusions they consider as real. That could be used to make them use other ways of taking in the drug and wanting to do so by their own motivation, or even obscuring they are taking a drug at all.

If driven to the maximum, parts of the population could be induced a halluzination that makes them participate in spreading the drug by simple means , spraying it in the air with dispensers for example, while being unaware they do so.

Cultural Reference This concept (which adds Hallucinations to the universal drugging) has been described in vivid detail in Stanislaw Lem's Novel The Futurological Congress, which by the way has been made in to a movie just last year. While not too close to the original book, its endscenes give a good idea of how a overpopulated hive full with drugged humans looks like.





One possible answer in IMHO would be to combine some of the alternatives already presented here:

Heater system distribution + working area scans

Make your gigantic city be located on a frozen planet or any other place that is cold for the whole year.

Government supplies hot air/steam to all houses to keep inhabitants alive against the cold. Drug is pumped in the ventilation system's central distributor.

Those who work for the government get the antidote everyday on the DNA SCAN at the door to the building where their workplace is.

I really liked the idea of distributing by air or some other central system, you would only need a small crew to insert the drug at the distributor.

Whoever suggested the DNA scans, +1 to you. Gattaca all the way.

Rejuvenation Drug

The government offers a drug that keeps people young and healthy for an unknown life extension period. It really works but you get addicted as a side effect. Sure Mr Jones died after living some 275 years, but what could you expect? He lived well for that much long.

Perhaps the withdrawal only kills the person who took the drug after some period of 6-12 months without the drug. The person would start getting old again, and I really think it would be tempted to take the drug again.

Whenever the government wants someone to "fade" (that is how they call it now,) they administer a drug that cancels the effect of new doses, so the person dies even while taking the drug... poor man, his time had come at last.


Just soak money into your drug, ban credit cards and charge ridiculous fees for checks.

  • $\begingroup$ Why does this answer have so many downvotes? Assuming cash exists in this city, it's ideal - everyone uses it, and many paper bills already contain traces of drugs and other "interesting" substances. The city's government presumably has the power to dictate acceptable forms of payment. $\endgroup$
    – talrnu
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 17:43
  • $\begingroup$ @talrnu apart from the problems of not reaching people who don't use cash due to having people to do that for them (or wearing gloves), this is really a light hearted comment, not an answer. It would be welcome as a comment, but it is not appropriate to post it as an answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 4, 2014 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ This answer is (1) clever (2) topical (3) humorous. +1. Ok, maybe it could have been a comment. $\endgroup$
    – abcdefg
    Commented Oct 22, 2014 at 17:20
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This answer appears to be a claim without justification. You can improve it by explaining why this idea would work. See Why was my post downvoted? for more explanation. $\endgroup$
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 21:18

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