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Quaalude: Uses, Effects & History

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

Quaalude, once a popular recreational drug in the 1960s and 1970s, is a sedative-hypnotic drug that affects the central nervous system. Despite its history of use as a sleep aid and muscle relaxant, Quaalude abuse led to widespread addiction and health problems. In this guide, we’ll delve into the history of Quaaludes, their addictive nature, and the importance of addiction treatment for those struggling with substance abuse.

 

What are Quaaludes? A Sedative Hypnotic Drug

Quaaludes, also known by their generic name methaqualone, are a sedative-hypnotic medication that was once widely prescribed for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety. They belong to the class of drugs known as sedative-hypnotics, and they were first synthesized in the 1950s. Quaaludes gained popularity as a prescription medication in the 1960s and 1970s. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) played a significant role in classifying Quaaludes as a Schedule I controlled substance.

The drug’s sedative effects made it effective for promoting relaxation and sleep. However, due to concerns about its potential for abuse and addiction, as well as safety issues, many countries phased out the medical use of methaqualone. In the United States, methaqualone was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, indicating a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

 

Quaalude Street Names

Some common street names for Quaaludes include:

  1. Quaaludes: This term originates from the brand name Quaalude, which was one of the most widely recognized and prescribed versions of methaqualone.

  2. Ludes: A shortened and colloquial term for Quaaludes, often used informally to refer to methaqualone tablets.

  3. Disco Biscuits: Reflecting their association with the disco era of the 1970s, Quaaludes were sometimes referred to as “disco biscuits” due to their popularity in dance clubs and nightlife scenes.

  4. 714s: This term is derived from the numerical imprint “714” that was commonly found on Quaalude tablets manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Roche.

  5. Lemons: A slang term used to describe Quaalude tablets, possibly due to their yellow color or shape.

  6. Soapers: A term used to refer to Quaaludes, stemming from the belief that methaqualone tablets could be dissolved in water and used as a soap substitute.

Types of Quaaludes

Quaaludes, or methaqualone, were available in several formulations and brand names during their period of medical use. The drug was initially developed by Wallace and Tiernan in the 1950s, and various pharmaceutical companies produced their versions. Some of the notable brand names for methaqualone-containing medications included:

  1. Quaalude (Rorer 714):

    • The brand name “Quaalude” became synonymous with methaqualone. Rorer Pharmaceuticals produced a well-known formulation with the identification number 714, leading to the colloquial term “Rorer 714” for Quaaludes.
  2. Parest:

    • Parest was another brand of methaqualone-containing medications. It was manufactured by Wallace Laboratories, the company that initially developed methaqualone.
  3. Mandrax:

    • Mandrax is a combination drug that includes methaqualone and a stimulant called diphenhydramine. It was marketed in various countries, and the combination was believed to enhance the sedative effects of methaqualone.

Quaalude Dosages

Different manufacturers produced Quaaludes with different strengths, and the dosages were typically measured in milligrams (mg). Here are some examples of Quaaludes dosages associated with specific formulations:

  1. Quaalude (Rorer 714):

    • The most well-known Quaaludes with the imprint “Rorer 714” were often available in dosages of 300 mg. This dosage was associated with the tablet featuring the distinct Rorer 714 imprint.
  2. Parest:

    • Parest, another brand of methaqualone-containing medications, had various dosages depending on the specific formulation. Dosages could range from lower strengths to higher strengths.

Uses for Quaaludes:

  1. Treatment of Insomnia:

  • Quaaludes were primarily prescribed as a sedative-hypnotic drug to treat insomnia. They were used to induce sleep and relaxation in individuals experiencing difficulties with sleep.

  1. Anxiety Treatment:

  • In some cases, Quaaludes were prescribed to manage anxiety. The sedative properties of the drug were believed to have a calming effect, making it suitable for individuals with anxiety disorders.

  1. Muscle Relaxation:

  • Quaaludes were also used as muscle relaxants. The drug’s sedative effects contributed to muscle relaxation, making it potentially useful for conditions involving muscle tension or spasms.

It’s important to note that the medical use of Quaaludes faced significant challenges. The drug became associated with abuse, dependence, and adverse effects, leading to regulatory actions to restrict its availability. In the United States, Quaaludes were classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, indicating a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

 

Quaaludes Onset and Duration

Quaaludes, or methaqualone, were once used as a sedative-hypnotic medication, and their onset and duration of action varied based on factors such as dosage and individual response. It’s important to note that the use of Quaaludes for medical purposes has largely been discontinued, and the drug is no longer a prescribed medication in most countries due to concerns about abuse, dependence, and adverse effects.

However, for historical reference, the onset and duration of action of Quaaludes were as follows:

  1. Onset:

    • The onset of action for Quaaludes was relatively rapid. Users typically started to feel the effects within 30 minutes to an hour after ingestion.
  2. Duration:

    • The duration of action varied, but the sedative effects of Quaaludes generally lasted for several hours—usually around 4 to 6 hours. The drug was known for producing a sense of relaxation and sedation.

How Long Do Quaaludes Stay in Your System?

The half-life of Quaaludes, also known by their generic name methaqualone, can vary depending on individual factors such as metabolism, age, liver function, and other medications or substances being used concurrently. However, the estimated half-life of methaqualone ranges from approximately 20 to 60 hours.

Half-life refers to the time it takes for the concentration of a drug in the bloodstream to decrease by half. With a half-life of 20 to 60 hours, it would take several days for methaqualone levels in the body to decrease significantly.

It’s important to note that while the half-life of methaqualone provides insight into how long the drug remains in the body, other factors such as duration of use, dosage, and frequency of administration can also influence its effects and duration of action.

How Long are Quaaludes Detectable in Your System?

The detectability of Quaaludes, also known as methaqualone, can vary depending on the type of biological sample used for testing, such as urine, hair, or blood. Here’s a general overview of the detectability of Quaaludes in each type of sample:

  1. Urine: Quaaludes can typically be detected in urine for up to several days after use. The exact detection window may vary depending on factors such as the dose ingested, individual metabolism, and frequency of use. In general, Quaaludes may be detectable in urine for approximately 3 to 7 days after ingestion.

  2. Hair: Hair testing can provide a longer detection window compared to urine or blood testing. Quaaludes may be detectable in hair for a longer period, potentially ranging from weeks to months after use. However, it’s important to note that hair testing cannot determine the timing or frequency of drug use, only the presence of the drug in the hair shaft.

  3. Blood: Quaaludes are typically detectable in blood for a shorter duration compared to urine or hair. The detection window for Quaaludes in blood is relatively brief, usually lasting for a few hours to a couple of days after ingestion. Blood testing may be more useful for detecting recent or acute drug use, but its utility for detecting Quaaludes may be limited due to the drug’s relatively short half-life.

It’s important to consider that the detectability of Quaaludes in biological samples can vary based on factors such as the sensitivity of the testing method, the dose ingested, individual metabolism, and time elapsed since last use. Additionally, accurate interpretation of drug test results should consider other relevant factors such as the specific testing method used and the presence of any other medications or substances.

Quaaludes Efficacy

The efficacy of Quaaludes, also known by their generic name methaqualone, lies in their ability to induce sedation, muscle relaxation, and anxiolysis (reduction of anxiety). Historically, Quaaludes were prescribed for conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, and muscle spasms due to their sedative-hypnotic properties.

Quaaludes work by enhancing the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurotransmitter in the brain that inhibits neuronal activity. By binding to GABA-A receptors, Quaaludes increase the inhibitory signals in the brain, leading to a decrease in overall brain activity and promoting relaxation and sedation.

 

How do Quaaludes Work in the Brain and Central Nervous System?

Quaaludes, or methaqualone, work as central nervous system (CNS) depressants. They produce their effects by interacting with a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that plays a crucial role in regulating neuronal excitability.

Here’s how Quaaludes work:

  1. Enhancement of GABA Activity: Quaaludes enhance the inhibitory effects of GABA on neurons. They do this by binding to a specific site on the GABA-A receptors, which are ionotropic receptors responsible for mediating the effects of GABA.

  2. Increased Chloride Ion Influx: When Quaaludes bind to the GABA-A receptors, they increase the influx of chloride ions into the neurons. This influx of negatively charged chloride ions hyperpolarizes the neuron, making it less likely to generate an action potential.

  3. Neuronal Inhibition: The enhanced inhibitory action of GABA and the increased chloride ion influx lead to neuronal inhibition. In simple terms, Quaaludes suppress the activity of neurons in the brain, resulting in a calming effect on the central nervous system.

  4. Sedation and Muscle Relaxation: The CNS depression caused by Quaaludes leads to sedation, relaxation of muscles, and an overall calming effect. This is why they were initially prescribed for conditions like insomnia and anxiety.

  5. Impaired Cognitive and Motor Function: Due to the CNS depressant effects, Quaaludes can impair cognitive functions, including memory and attention. Motor skills may also be affected, leading to slowed movements and impaired coordination.

Quaaludes Legal Status

The legal status of Quaaludes, also known by their generic name methaqualone, varies depending on the country. In many countries, including the United States, Quaaludes are classified as a Schedule I controlled substance, indicating that they have a high potential for abuse, no accepted medical use, and severe safety concerns. As a result, the manufacture, distribution, possession, and use of Quaaludes for recreational or medical purposes are prohibited by law.

In the United States, Quaaludes were classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act in 1984, following widespread abuse and addiction. Since then, Quaaludes have been largely discontinued for medical use, and their production and distribution have been strictly regulated.

Internationally, Quaaludes are also classified as controlled substances in many countries, with varying degrees of regulation and enforcement. Some countries have banned Quaaludes outright, while others have imposed restrictions on their availability and use.

Side Effects and Risks of Quaaludes

The short-term and long-term effects of Quaaludes can vary, and it’s important to note that the recreational use of Quaaludes is illegal. Here are some general considerations:

Quaaludes abuse is particularly dangerous due to the increased risk of overdose and severe withdrawal symptoms similar to those of barbiturates.

Short-Term Effects:

  1. Sedation and Relaxation: Quaaludes produce a sedative effect, leading to feelings of relaxation and drowsiness.

  2. Impaired Coordination: Short-term use can result in impaired coordination, leading to unsteady movements and difficulties with motor skills.

  3. Dizziness: Users may experience dizziness and lightheadedness as a result of the drug’s central nervous system depressant effects.

  4. Slurred Speech: Speech may become slurred, and communication may be affected.

  5. Euphoria: Some users may experience a sense of euphoria, contributing to the drug’s potential for abuse.

Long-Term Effects:

  1. Dependency and Addiction: Long-term use of Quaaludes can lead to the development of physical and psychological dependence, with individuals experiencing cravings for the drug.

  2. Tolerance: Over time, individuals may develop tolerance, requiring higher doses to achieve the desired effects.

  3. Cognitive Impairment: Chronic use can contribute to cognitive impairment, affecting memory, attention, and overall cognitive function.

  4. Withdrawal Symptoms: Abrupt cessation of Quaaludes after prolonged use can result in withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness.

  5. Health Risks: Long-term use may pose health risks, including liver damage and cardiovascular issues.

  6. Psychological Effects: Chronic use of sedative-hypnotics like Quaaludes can contribute to mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

It’s important to reiterate that the recreational use of Quaaludes is illegal, and obtaining the drug outside of medical supervision poses serious health risks.

 

Are Quaaludes Addictive? Understanding Quaaludes Addiction

Yes, Quaaludes, also known as methaqualone, can lead to quaaludes addiction, characterized by signs and symptoms such as dependence and withdrawal. Methaqualone is a central nervous system depressant that can produce feelings of euphoria, relaxation, and sedation when abused. Like other drugs that affect the brain’s reward system, methaqualone can lead to dependence and addiction when used repeatedly or in high doses.

Addiction to Quaaludes can develop over time as individuals build tolerance to the drug’s effects and require higher doses to achieve the desired effects. Dependence occurs when the body becomes accustomed to the presence of methaqualone and requires it to function normally. When individuals try to stop using Quaaludes or reduce their dose, they may experience withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, muscle spasms, and restlessness.

 

Can You Overdose on Quaaludes?

Quaaludes, also known as methaqualone, can cause overdose when taken in excessive amounts or in combination with other substances. An overdose occurs when the body is overwhelmed by the effects of the drug, leading to potentially life-threatening symptoms.

Symptoms of a Quaaludes overdose may include:

  1. Severe drowsiness or lethargy
  2. Confusion or disorientation
  3. Slurred speech
  4. Impaired coordination or motor skills
  5. Respiratory depression (slow or shallow breathing)
  6. Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  7. Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
  8. Coma
  9. Death

In severe cases, a Quaaludes overdose can lead to respiratory failure, cardiac arrest, or other serious complications. Prompt medical attention is essential if overdose symptoms are suspected.

If someone is experiencing symptoms of a Quaaludes overdose, it’s crucial to seek emergency medical help immediately by calling emergency services or visiting the nearest emergency room. While waiting for medical assistance to arrive, stay with the person, monitor their vital signs, and provide any necessary first aid or life-saving measures as directed by emergency dispatchers.

History of Quaaludes

Quaaludes, once hailed as a revolutionary medication for sleep disorders and anxiety, have a storied history that spans several decades. From their inception as a prescription sedative to their eventual classification as a controlled substance, the trajectory of Quaaludes reflects both medical innovation and societal challenges. In this blog post, we delve into the timeline of Quaaludes, tracing their evolution from a widely prescribed medication to a banned substance associated with abuse and addiction.

Timeline of Quaaludes:

  • 1950s: Methaqualone, the active ingredient in Quaaludes, is first synthesized in India by researchers seeking to develop a safer alternative to existing sedatives and hypnotics.
  • 1960s: Methaqualone gains popularity as a prescription medication in the United States, where it is marketed under various brand names such as Quaalude, Sopor, and Mandrax. It is prescribed for conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, and muscle spasms.
  • 1970s: Quaaludes become a symbol of the disco era, with widespread recreational use fueled by their sedative and euphoric effects. They are often referred to as “disco biscuits” and feature prominently in popular culture.
  • 1980s: Concerns about Quaalude abuse and addiction lead to increased regulation and restrictions on their medical use. Quaaludes are classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States, indicating a high potential for abuse and addiction with no accepted medical use.
  • 1990s: Production and distribution of Quaaludes decline significantly as a result of regulatory measures and public awareness campaigns highlighting their risks. They are largely discontinued for medical use and become increasingly scarce on the illicit market.
  • 2000s to Present: Quaaludes fade into obscurity as newer medications and treatment approaches emerge for sleep disorders, anxiety, and other conditions. They are no longer manufactured or legally available for medical use in most countries.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Quaalude abuse represents a significant issue with its history of addiction and health risks. Seeking professional help and addiction treatment is crucial for individuals struggling with Quaalude addiction or substance abuse. By addressing withdrawal symptoms and psychological dependence under medical supervision, individuals can begin their journey towards recovery and regain control of their lives. Remember, addiction is a treatable condition, and reaching out for professional help is the first step towards a healthier, substance-free life.

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FAQ's

They’re often referred to as “Ludes”, “Sopers”, or “Mandrax” in various regions.

No, they’re no longer legally manufactured or prescribed due to their high potential for abuse and limited therapeutic use.

Generally, the effects can last several hours, but this can vary based on the dose and the individual’s metabolism.

Yes, treatments focus on behavioral therapy and counseling. Detox may also be required in cases of severe dependency.

Both substances depress the CNS, which can amplify the effects and potentially lead to respiratory failure, overdose, or death.

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