Ethos Education

Limitless: What are the pros and cons of taking drugs?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the difference between legal and illegal, medically prescribed and socially acceptable drugs and to explore some of their effects, both positive and negative.
  • Understand different religious attitudes towards the use of all these types of drugs (including caffeine, alcohol and tobacco).

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect on how people weigh possible positive and negative outcomes in making decisions.
  • Analyse the various positive and negative outcomes of a decision made by a character in the film Limitless.
  • Analyse Bible verses to determine the Christian view on drugs.
  • Apply the Bible’s teaching to modern drugs.
  • Evaluate the potential problems posed by different sorts of drugs.
  • Synthesise learning by applying biblical principles to the issue of drug use.


Divide the students into two groups (they don’t have to move from their seats) and tell them that you are going to play ‘Best Case/Worst Case’. Explain that you are going to tell them a hypothetical choice, and you want one half of the room to think of the best possible outcomes, while the other half thinks of worst possible outcomes. Once everyone has had the chance to have their say, you will ask them to vote on what they think is the best decision to make.

Use one or more of the following choices. Make sure that you finish with the last of the choices below, as that is the one that leads directly into the subject of the lesson.

  • Telling your best friend an embarrassing secret.
  • Asking the boy or girl of your dreams for a date.
  • Telling your least favourite teacher what you really think of them.
  • Volunteering as a guinea pig in scientific research aimed at enhancing brain power.

Explain that in today’s lesson you are going to be watching a film clip featuring a man who had to weigh the possible benefits and drawbacks of a particular decision, and then go on to think about Christian perspectives on drugs.


Introduce the clip from the film Limitless (Momentum, 2011, certificate 15). Click here to buy the DVD online.

Explain that Eddie (Bradley Cooper) is a young novelist struggling with writer’s block. His girlfriend, tired of waiting for him to sort his life out, has left him and he has just bumped into Vern (Johnny Whitworth) the brother of his ex-wife, in the street. In this scene, he goes for a drink and a catch-up with Vern. Ask the students to pay particular attention to the offer that Vern makes to Eddie, and to Eddie’s reaction to it.

  • Start time:       0.07.38 (beginning of chapter 2 of the DVD)
  • End time:        0.13.55
  • Clip length:     6 minutes and 17 seconds

The clip starts with Vern saying, ‘So?’ It ends with Eddie’s voiceover saying ‘She didn’t have a chance’ before Valerie (T.V. Carpio) asks, ‘What are your suggestions?’ Stop the film promptly at this cue to avoid having your class hear the sound effects of Eddie and Valerie having sex. The clip includes two mild instances of swearing. If you feel these would be inappropriate for your students, do not show the clip.

Ask the students why they think Eddie has reservations about taking the tablet when Vern started to tell him about it? Why do they think he eventually decided to give the tablet a try? Having seen the effects that NZT had on him, do the students think he was right to take it?

Now introduce a second clip from Limitless. This comes from later in the film. Eddie is now a regular user of NZT, and has started to experience some side effects, including being unable to remember what he has done for periods of time as well as suffering from nausea and headaches. This scene takes place after he has seen a news bulletin on television reporting the murder of a woman who Eddie recently spent the night – her last night – with. Ask the students to pay particular attention to what Eddie discovers about NZT in this clip.

  • Start time:       0.48.58 (beginning of chapter 7 of the DVD)
  • End time:        0.55.16
  • Clip length:     6 minutes and 18 seconds

The clip starts with Eddie’s voiceover saying, ‘Was it possible? Could I have killed someone?’ It ends with Eddie’s ex-wife Melissa (Anna Friel) saying ‘I have to go’ and walking away.

Ask the students to summarise what Eddie learned about NZT. Possible answers would include the side effects, the dependency that users quickly developed and the extreme withdrawal symptoms. Do they think Eddie would have started taking the drug if he had known all this back in the previous clip from Limitless? Have any of the students changed their minds about whether or not Eddie was right to take the first tablet of NZT?

Point out that NZT is, of course, a fictional drug with spectacular effects, both positive and negative. Nevertheless, Eddie’s experience with NZT can be used to help us think about real life drugs, both legal and illegal. In the film we see how addictive NZT became. In some scenes not only do we see Eddie’s concern when he thinks his stash of the drug is running low, but he also finds himself in danger of violence from another user who wants Eddie to supply him with the drug. Ask students to rank the following drugs on a sliding scale of addictiveness: Alcohol, Caffeine, Cocaine, Heroin, Marijuana, Nicotine. Allow some time for discussion about any interesting differences of opinion.

Explain that experts differ on how to assess the addictiveness of drugs. For example, some focus on the severity of withdrawal symptoms, some on the number of users who become dependent, and others on the drug’s tendency to induce ongoing repeat usage. Based on a range of these factors, suggest the following order of addictiveness (most addictive first): Heroin, Cocaine, Alcohol, Nicotine, Caffeine, Marijuana.

Ask the students if they were surprised by this order. Point out the difference between the addictiveness of a substance and the issue of how damaging it may be. Although marijuana is marginally less addictive than coffee, recent scientific research suggests it has a far more significant and dangerous long-term psychological effect on its users.

Give out the Christians and Drugs worksheets and ask students to complete the table, listing any positive and negative effects of the legal and illegal drugs listed. Then ask them to examine the Bible passages and consider the extent to which the different substances might cause problems for a Christian who wanted to live according to the Bible’s teaching.

The Bible passages cited are: Proverbs 20:1; Proverbs 25:28; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Galatians 5:19-23; Ephesians 5:15-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:5-8.

Ask students to feed back their findings to the rest of the group. Focus mainly on the third columns where they are applying and evaluating the content of the Bible passages.


Ask the students to imagine that Eddie from Limitless has turned to his local church leader for help. Students should write a series of emails between Eddie and his pastor. The pastor’s messages should demonstrate the student’s understanding of Christian perspectives on drugs. The pastor should, where appropriate, back up his advice to Eddie with biblical references.


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