Quaaludes--perhaps you’ve heard of them or maybe you have even tried them yourself? Quaaludes are often talked about with a sense of nostalgia, usually being referenced in movies by someone’s grandma who has a secret stash of them left over from the 70’s when the drug was at its height in popularity. More recently however, the drug has hit media headlines, as accusations of alleged sexual assault against Bill Cosby resurfaced. The disgraced, former TV star later admitted to giving Quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with. It comes as no surprise that the drug was eventually outlawed in 1983 when authorities caught on to the large amount of people who were either abusing the drug recreationally or using it as a date rape drug. So exactly are Quaaludes and why were they popular?
The brief history of Quaaludes
Before the drug was marketed under the brand name of Quaaludes (as well as Sopor) by pharmaceutical companies, the generic name for it was methaqualone. Quaaludes were first synthesized in India during 1951 by Indra Kishore Kacker and Syed Husain Zaheer. Originally, methaqualone was synthesized as a new treatment for malaria when they found that it also had some highly sedative properties aside from what they had created it for. The first two markets it hit were Germany and Japan, where it racked up quite the extensive record of addiction and recreational abuse. Eventually, by 1955 it was being prescribed in Britain under the name of Mandrax, a name still used to this day.
The drug slowly made its way over to the United States in the 1960’s, where it became widely popular in the “hippie” era. In the United States, methaqualone was mainly manufactured by a pharmaceutical company in Pennsylvania who gave the drug its iconic name. The word Quaalude combines the word “quiet” with “interlude”. During this time, doctors were essentially giving Quaaludes out like candy. People could buy “Ludes” in semi-legal stress clinics without ever having to visit with an actual doctor. By 1972, it was the sixth best-selling sedative in America. They were also widely prescribed for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety.
However, it did not take very long for the recreational abuse and addiction to follow methaqualone overseas where it was now sold in America under the brand name of Quaaludes.
How Quaaludes became so popular in the drug culture of the United States
In part due to the easy access of obtaining Quaaludes, it became very popular in night clubs and disco scenes. This earned the drug yet another popular pop culture name known as “disco-biscuits”. Due to its popularity in night clubs and disco scenes, non-alcoholic clubs known as “juice bars” were established. These clubs catered to people who wanted to dance while high on Quaaludes, or for short, “Ludes”. Moreover, in 1981 the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) declared Quaaludes the second most abused drug in America. So, by 1983 Quaaludes were outlawed in the United States for reasons including: widespread rates of addiction, recreational abuse and because it could potentially be used as a “date rape drug”.
With the popularity of the drug during the time it was legal in the United States, one has to wonder why so many people abused the drug. Considering how long it has remained in pop culture references during the 1960’s, up until it was banned in 1983, “Ludes” remained somewhat of an urban legend. One of the main reasons for its popularity is that Quaaludes are a very powerful barbiturate. These types of drugs act as a central nervous system depressant. Quaaludes are also highly addictive.
Some of the more noticeable side effects of Quaaludes include:
- An intense and euphoric high
- Drowsiness, lethargy
- Tingling sensations in the arms and legs
- Nausea, upset stomach, abdominal cramps, and vomiting
- Depression, increased anxiety, and mood disorders
- Itching, sweating, and rashes on the skin
- Slurred speech
- Slowed breathing, respiratory distress, or respiratory arrest
- Cardiovascular dysfunction or irregular heartbeat
- Kidney or liver damage
These are just a few of the side effects that come with taking Quaaludes or methaqualone. Part of the increased risk of abusing Quaaludes is that it was often consumed with other substances such as alcohol, which severely increased the risk of these negative side effects occurring.
The real danger of Quaaludes
At its peak, it was also associated with a large number of suicides, overdoses, injuries, and other dangerous incidents, like car accidents. In prescribed doses, methaqualone was known to produce relaxation, sleepiness, and a slight feeling of euphoria. But the often deadly trio of easy access, peer popularity, and consumption of alcohol lead to many overdoses and comas. The reason being that a lethal dosage of methaqualone is much smaller when combined with other substances, such as alcohol, crystal meth, or other drugs with a potential for abuse. Many people also reported using the substance because of its euphoric high and sleepy drunk effect.
Addictive drugs often become popular in the United States
Part of the popularity of the drug was also due to its highly addictive properties. When people begin using drugs, it chemically and physically alters the functioning of the brain and its production of dopamine. Much like any other substance, with repeated use people eventually will develop tolerance to the drug. This leads them to consume more and more of the drug, in order to achieve the same desired effects. Over time, the chemicals that get released in the brain will eventually trick your brain into believing that it needs that certain substance in order to survive. This makes quitting the drug much more difficult, as the brain begins to associate different places, people, or things with the drug use.
Thankfully, psychological and medical research on addiction has come a very long way since Quaaludes were outlawed in 1983. Since then, they are nearly impossible to come by on the street, but that doesn't mean they have completely vanished. If you or a loved one may be struggling with an addiction to Quaaludes, or any other substance, then please allow our wonderfully trained staff here at More Than Rehab to help. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help when you need it! You do not have to go through your addiction alone. We understand what it takes to lead a healthy and fulfilling life without the use of drugs or alcohol, so give us a call today: