Methaqualone (Quaalude) was first synthesized in India in 1951, by Indra Kishore Kacker and Syed Hussain Zaheer. It was soon introduced to European and Japanese consumers as a safe barbiturate substitute. By 1965, Methaqualone became the most commonly prescribed sedative in Britain, where it has since been legally sold under the brand names Malsed, Malsedin, and Renoval. In 1965, a Methaqualone/antihistamine combination was sold as the sedative drug Mandrax, by Roussel Laboratories. Around this time, Methaqualone became a popular recreational drug (called “mandies” or “mandrake” or “mandrix”). Its use peaked in the 1960s and 1970s as a hypnotic, for the treatment of insomnia, and as a sedative and muscle relaxant. In 1972, it became the sixth-bestselling sedative in the USA, where it was legal under the brand name Quaalude. Taking Quaaludes and “luding out” (similar to an alcoholic blackout) soon became a popular college activity. Illegally produced Methaqualone is still seized by government and law enforcement agencies around the world.
Methaqualone is a sedative-hypnotic drug that is similar in effect to barbiturates, a general central nervous system depressant. The DEA lists Methaqualone as a Schedule I drug, outlawing the manufacture, possession, sale, distribution and use by anyone, punishable by federal law.
Barbiturates like Methaqualone are hypnotic drugs that act like tranquillizers and are most commonly used as anesthesia before surgery. Quaaludes became popularized as a recreational drug in the late 1960s and early 1970s and was used during sexual activity because of heightened sensitivity and lowered inhibition coupled with relaxation and euphoria. Quaaludes were often used by people who frequented glam-rock clubs and discos in the early 1970s (a slang term for Quaaludes was “disco biscuits”). In the mid-1970s, bars in Manhattan called “juice bars” sprang up that only served non-alcoholic drinks that catered to people who liked to dance while under the influence of Methaqualone.
Effects can include euphoria, drowsiness, reduced heart rate; reduced respiration, increased sexual arousal (aphrodisia), and paresthesias (numbness of the fingers and toes). Larger doses can bring about respiratory depression, slurred speech, headache, and photophobia (a symptom of excessive sensitivity to light).
Drugs with similar effects to Methaqualone include barbiturates such as Allobarbital, Amobarbital, Aprobarbital; Alphenal, Barbital, Brallobarbital, and Phenobarbital and benzodiazepines such as Alprazolam (Xanax), Bromazepam, Lorazepam (Ativan), and Diazepam (Valium). The use of benzodiazepines replaced barbiturates in the medical field because they are much safer.
Long-term use of Methaqualone and other barbiturates leads to physical dependence on, and addiction to, the drug, resulting in a need to increase doses to get the original desired pharmacological or therapeutic effect; other adverse effects include memory loss, seizures, twitching; depression, bronchitis, pneumonia, and fatal overdose.
Withdrawal symptoms of Methaqualone include anxiety, insomnia, muscle tremors; loss of appetite, irritability, feeling faint; seizures, hyperthermia, tremors; tachycardia, nausea, delirium; hallucinations, barbiturates blisters, and death.
The common physical findings of barbiturate overdoses are similar to those of alcohol and include hypothermia, hypotension, respiratory depression; gangrene, skin abscess, clammy skin; dilated pupils, coma, and death. Barbiturate abusers are susceptible to fatal overdose because the difference between an effective dose and a lethal dose narrows as the length of use increases.