Methaqualone Addiction & Abuse
Methaqualone is a sedative-hypnotic drug whose effects are similar to those caused by barbiturates. They come in tablet or capsule form and they are totally tasteless and odorless. They were also fairly inexpensive during the time they were legal in the United States. Methaqualone use peaked in the 1970's when it was a widely-prescribed treatment for insomnia. It was also used as a sedative and muscle relaxant. Recreational use at dance clubs eventually spread because of its much sought after hypnotic and euphoric effects as well as its touted ability to get rid of a person’s sexual inhibitions.
Quaaludes and South Africa
It may be difficult to obtain methaqualone (Quaaludes) in the United States but according to reports, it is still the most widely abused drug in South Africa. It's not so hard to imagine how some of them can end up in the United States. In fact, over the last few years, DEA special agent Eduardo Chavez said there have been sporadic seizures of Quaaludes in the U.S. This drug has “contraband” status and whatever quantities exist in the U.S would most likely have come from abroad.
First synthesized in 1951 by Syed Hussain Zaheer and Indra Kishore Kacker in India, methaqualone was meant to be an anti-malarial drug. It became very popular in Britain by 1965 and was the most widely prescribed sedative. It was sold under the brand names Malsedin, Malsed and Renoval. There was also a methaqualone/antihistamine combo Mandrax which was sold by Roussel Laboratories (part of Sanofi-Aventis today).
In the United States, also in 1965, William H. Rorer, Inc. began manufacturing methaqualone under the brand name Quaalude, a Schedule V drug. Rorer was also the manufacturer of the popular antacid Maalox, which was named for its ingredients MAgnesium and ALuminum HydrOXide. When coining a name for their new “feel better” drug, the company decided to carry-over the “AA” of their best-known product Maalox. In the same way that their Maalox provides immediate relief for an upset stomach, this new product was marketed as a prescription only sleeping pill to provide relief from sleepless nights; it provides a “quiet interlude” hence Quaalude.
In the years that followed, illegal manufacture and the misuse and abuse of legally-prescribed Quaaludes rose, resulting in a very bad reputation for the drug. It became a major part of the “love, sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll scene” of the 1960's and 1970's. It was wildly popular among students struggling with the stresses of college/university life. They also mistakenly believed that Quaaludes enhanced sexual performance and desire.
In 1973, Quaalude was reclassified from its original Schedule V controlled substance to a Schedule II. A Schedule II substance has a medical application and can still be prescribed by doctors but is acknowledged to be highly addictive. It was an effort to restrict the drug’s availability. This measure however proved ineffective in the long run.
Rorer chairman at the time, John Eckman, lamented that their Quaalude sales only accounted for 2% of their revenues but 98% of their headaches. In 1978, the rights to manufacture Quaalude were sold to Lemmon Company. Regardless of the bad public image, both Rorer and Lemmon still considered Quaalude as an excellent sleep-inducing drug. Lemmon campaigned in medical journals for physicians not to permit abuses that deprive legitimate patients access to Quaalude. They manufactured the drug with the number 714 stamped on the tablets. This is why “714” became a popular street name for the drug. Lemmon also marketed a small percentage of the drug under a different name Mequin, so it can be prescribed by doctors without the stigma.
Lemmon stopped manufacturing the drug in 1983 and following that in 1984, Ronald Reagan banned the production and sale of prescription Quaaludes. This does not mean that the drug disappeared from the market. Despite the ban, there were plenty of Quaaludes left over from the 3 decades it was available in the United States.
The clandestine drug markets of North, Central and South America get their hands on the drug from large-scale illegal labs in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Belize and other places. In the U.S. and Canada, there are numerous small labs churning out methaqualone.
Screening Cut-Off and Detection Time for Methaqualone
In drug testing, the cut-off level separates a negative and a positive test result. The cut-off levels are set at that point where drug detection happens with the smallest probability for false positives. It is imperative to note that a negative sample does not automatically mean that it does not contain any drug - it only indicates that it may contain a drug at such a low concentration that it is below the established cut-off levels.
Specimen Concentration Detection Time Urine Drug Test Kit/Saliva Drug Test Kit 300 ng/ml (initial screening) and 300 ng/ml (confirmatory) Up to 2 weeks Hair Follicle Drug Test Kit Up to 90 days
What is Methaqualone?
Methaqualone is a central nervous system depressant. They are also called sedatives, downers or tranquilizers. Brain activity slows down, inducing a state of relaxation. Depressants in general are prescribed for anxiety and sleep disorders. Some other depressants include:
- GHB (Gamma-hydroxybutyrate)
Forms and Routes of Administration
- Oral – Methaqualone only came in solid white tablet or water-soluble capsule forms of either 150mg or 300mg and was taken orally
- Smoking – Illicit users sometimes crush the tablets and mix the powder with marijuana for smoking
- Injection - Really heavy users liquefy the drug for IV injection
Quaaludes may have been prohibited in the United States since 1984 but counterfeit versions were still being manufactured in places like South Africa and India as recently as 2005. These imitations were made to look like the legal pharmaceutical versions right down to the markings on the tablets.
The most popular way to take methaqualone in the 1970s was with wine, called “luding out”. This was a particularly dangerous way of taking the drug as the alcohol only increases the depressant effect of the drug which can adversely affect the respiration process and lead to accidental overdose.
DEA Drug Class
Methaqualone used to be legal in the United States, until 1984 when it was put under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act which lists drugs, substances or chemicals that:
- have a high potential for abuse
- have no currently accepted medical/therapeutic use in the U.S.
- lack an accepted “safe-to-use” under medical supervision
Drugs under this class are considered dangerous and no prescriptions may be written for them. Other examples of drugs that fall under Schedule I include:
- Bath Salts
- Ecstasy (MDMA or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine)
- GHB (Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid)
- Heroin (Diacetylmorphine)
- Khat (Cathinone)
- LSD (Lysergic Acid Diethylamide)
- Marijuana (Cannabis, THC)
- Mescaline (Peyote)
Brand Names for Methaqualone
Methaqualone Street Names
- Disco Biscuit Drug
- Down & Dirties
- Joe Fridays
- Lemon Drug
- Love Drug
- Ludes Drugs
- Vitamin Q
Uses for Methaqualone
Medical/Therapeutic Uses for Methaqualone:
Being a Schedule I drug, methaqualone has no legal medical or therapeutic uses in the United States at present. Before being prohibited, physicians prescribed methaqualone for the following conditions:
- Sleeplessness (insomnia)
- Anxiety (feelings of fear, panic, worry)
Recreational Use of Methaqualone
In the 1960's thru the 1970's, Methaqualone surged in popularity as a recreational drug. They are more fondly called “ludes” or “sopers” in the streets of the United States and “mandies” or “mandrakes” in the UK, New Zealand and Australia.
It was a favorite among hippies or people who regularly hung out at discos and glam rock clubs. In Manhattan in the 1970's, “juice bars” that only served non-alcoholic drinks catered to customers who liked to dance on methaqualone.
Short & Long Term Effects of Methaqualone
Depressants in general have both psychological and physiological effects on its users. They lower neurotransmitter levels in the brain and the nervous system. This results in the lowering of blood pressure and the slowing of pulse rates and breathing, which many users perceive to be a state of deep relaxation.
Within an hour of two from being taken, methaqualone reaches its peak levels in the bloodstream and its effects can last from 4-8 hours. Common side effects may include:
- chills or sweating
- irregular heartbeat
- nausea and vomiting
- skin rash and itching
- slurred speech
- stomach cramps
When used with other substances like alcohol the effects of methaqualone are intensified. The average lethal dose is between 8-20 grams, depending on the user’s physical size, recent food intake and tolerance level. However, much lower doses have been known to cause coma and/or death when alcohol (another depressant) comes into the picture.
Regular use of the drug eventually affects muscle movement and coordination, often accompanied by paresthesia or that “pins and needles” sensation in the face and fingers. Heavy doses also increase a user’s pain threshold, making him/her unable to feel pain. The can end up hurting themselves without noticing it at all because they did not feel any pain. Thought processes are also impaired, making them unable to protect themselves in a timely manner in order to avoid injury. Another long-term effect is a condition called “ataxia”, or uncontrollable muscles twitches and movements. Finally, regular use can lead to a physical tolerance to the drug, making users need more of it to achieve the same effects. Over time, these increasing doses can cause the nervous system to shut down, leading to coma and death.
Long-term non-medical use of methaqualone will lead to addiction. Withdrawals will most certainly occur when users suddenly stop using it after continued use. The severity severe the symptoms depends upon how long the abuse has been going on and the dosage taken for the duration of use. These withdrawal symptoms include:
- High Fevers
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle Spasms
- Seizures (can be fatal)
These withdrawal symptoms can be severe and it is best to be under medical supervision when trying to quit.