limitless

Being a pharmacist, movies that explore drug- or health-related themes are of particular interest to me. This is what I told people when I watched “Side Effects” whenever it was released earlier this year, and same with “Silver Linings Playbook”. And then people would ask me if I’d seen “Limitless”, which I was surprised I hadn’t heard about (or don’t remember ever hearing about) since it was only released a couple of years ago.

Well, it took a while, but I finally got around to watching it last night. And, yes, I did enjoy it and think it’s a good movie, but there are a few details that I would question. These details don’t really matter and probably no one cares, but it’s just a small matter of plausibility and scientific accuracy and stuff like that. But, you know, there are also some details that the movie covered quite well.

Just a warning: if you haven’t already seen “Limitless”, some of the things I’m about to discuss may spoil the story for you. Also a caveat that my pharmacology, etc knowledge may be a bit rusty, so some of the details might not be 100% but you’ll get the general idea. Oh, and another warning that, unless you also have an interest in pharmaceuticals, the rest of this entry might be kind of boring to you.

The first issue in “Limitless” is that a tablet of NZT supposedly only takes 30 seconds to have an effect. Most tablets, capsules, etc that are taken orally (swallowed whole) will take 15-30 minutes for an effect. This is because it has to disintegrate and dissolve and then get absorbed and then distributed to the site of action. It also takes about a minute for blood to be pumped around the entire body, so NZT would basically need to be absorbed instantaneously so that it has a chance of being pumped to the brain within half a minute (assuming, logically, that the brain is the site of action).

It might have been more believeable if they did it as a sublingual tablet or something. The guy who injected it kind of had the right idea, though. And I suppose we can assume it lasts longer that way (as he said), considering that it would bypass first-pass metabolism (assuming it is subject to some metabolism by the liver).

The next issue is when Eddie drinks that guy’s blood to get a fix (sorry, I really can’t remember that other guy’s name or if he actually had a name). If NZT distributes to the site of action so quickly, how could there have been enough drug left in the blood that Eddie lapped up? However, although that scene was totally gross, I do appreciate the twist and the cleverness of it.

Some of the things that the movie covererd well include addiction, withdrawals and medication side effects. That Eddie managed to gradually wean off NZT in the end was good. I liked the ending. I like the movie overall – it was quite interesting.

Not sure if a drug like that would ever get developed, though. Maybe something similar could have some use in, like, helping people with learning disorders and stuff.

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