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What Are the Green Pills Shown in The Queen’s Gambit?

October 27, 2020
3 min read

In Netflix’s ‘The Queen’s Gambit,’ the chess prodigy, Beth Harmon (Isla Johnston and later Anya Taylor-Joy), develops an addiction to tranquilizer pills. It’s one of the most fascinating aspects of the character and adds to the complexity of her exceptional mind. Her mother, Alice, was a mathematics genius herself and even earned a Ph. D. But after she had Beth, she started losing grasp on her sanity and ultimately even tried to kill Beth in an attempted murder-suicide.

This has led to Grace having some trepidation about her own sanity, as she often feels that she is teetering between brilliance and madness. For most of the show, the pills seem to give her access to a deeper section of her consciousness, which leads to her envisioning entire chessboards on the ceiling. The first time Beth takes one of those green pills is the day she arrives at Methuen Home, an orphanage for girls. Given in the pretext that it is supposed to “even her disposition”, Beth has a queasy reaction due to taking it during the day time.

However, the next time, she heeds her new friend, Jolene’s (Moses Ingram) advice, and doesn’t take one until midnight. Like many other girls at the orphanage, Beth quickly becomes addicted to them, especially after she starts learning about chess from Mr. Shaibel (Bill Camp), the orphanage’s custodian. After a new law is issued that doesn’t allow children to be given such powerful meds, Beth desperately tries to break into the orphanage pharmacy to get the pills but is caught. As she had taken several pills, she immediately loses her consciousness.

In the following years, Beth continues to take the pills whenever she gets her hands on them. When she gets adopted by Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller) and her husband, she makes the full use of her resourceful self to use her adoptive mother’s prescription to get the drugs. Beth doesn’t lose her drug dependence until during her third match against Vasily Borgov (Marcin Dorociński), when she finally comes to terms with her ingenuity and brilliance.

Are the Pills Real or Fake?

In the show, the pills are supposed to be Xanzolam, apparently a type of tranquilizer pills. In the real world, however, no such pill exists. In the original book of the same name, author Walter Tevis mentions a similar real-world drug named Librium or chlordiazepoxide several times. It is likely that this particular medicine serves as an inspiration for Xanozolam.

A form of sedative, Librium, was first introduced in the market in 1960. It is often used to treat anxiety as well as acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome. If it were to be combined with clidinium bromide, the aftereffect could serve as a legitimate cure for irritable bowel syndrome. Some of the side effects of this medication are nausea, confusion, liver problems, Lack of muscle, and skin rash or eruptions.

Read More: The Queen’s Gambit Ending, Explained

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