Methaqualone is a sedative drug which is similar in effect to barbiturates, a general CNS depressant. It was used in the 1960s and 1970s as an anxiolytic, for the treatment of insomnia, and as a sedative and muscle relaxant. It has also been used illegally as a recreational drug, commonly known as Quaaludes, particularly in the 1970s in North America. In the 2000s, it is widely used as a recreational drug in South Africa.
Usual effects include relaxation, euphoria, and drowsiness, also reducing heart rate and respiration. Larger doses can bring about depression, muscular miscoordination, and slurred speech.
An overdose can cause delirium, convulsions, hypertonia, hyperreflexia, vomiting, renal insufficiency, coma, and death through cardiac or respiratory arrest. It resembles barbiturate poisoning but with increased motor difficulties and a lower incidence of cardiac or respiratory depression. Toxicity is treated with diazepam and sometimes an anticonvulsant.
Illegal use as a recreational drug
Quaaludes became increasingly popular as a recreational drug during the 1960s, and during the disco club scene in the 1970s. The drug was more tightly regulated in Britain under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and in the U.S. from 1973. With its addictive nature clear, it was withdrawn from many developed markets in the 1980s, being made a Schedule I drug in the US in 1984.
Smoking methaqualone, either alone or as an adulterant added to various legal and illegal smoking mixtures, gained popularity in the United States during the mid 1970s. When smoked, methaqualone gives the user an immediate trance-like euphoria that quickly wears off. Because the various binders and inert ingredients that were contained in the pill form were toxic when smoked, this practice was roundly decried by the medical community as a serious health risk. Smoking methaqualone pills leads to emphysema and other chronic lung disorders.
Commonly known as Mandrax, it is not taken orally but is crushed and mixed in a pipe (or the neck of a broken bottle) with marijuana. Mandrax has become a major problem and is one of the most commonly abused hard drugs in South Africa. The low price (R30.00 average) of methaqualone together with the ready availability of cheap, low-grade marijuana means it (in addition to crystal meth) is the preferred hard drug of the low-income section of South African society.
Since methaqualone is no longer legally produced, illicit manufacture either in India, or in South Africa itself or other African countries produces methaqualone for the South African market.
In popular culture
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Fee Waybill, the lead singer of San Francisco rock band The Tubes created a persona for their live show named "Quay Lewd". Mr. Lewd was a drugged-up, drunken, fallen-from-grace Cockney rock star who dressed in a silver spandex jumpsuit with 12" silver platform boots and sported a large dildo on his costume. Quay Lewd's appearance came to be the highlight of the finale of The Tubes' live show, even making it onto the band's 1978 live album, What Do You Want From Live. He vomited, spat and swore his way through songs such as "White Punks On Dope" and "I was A Punk Before You Were A Punk". The character was in fact a parody of many 70s rock stars who had fallen to a lifestyle of drug abuse.
In the 2000 movie Almost Famous, the character Penny Lane attempted suicide by swallowing Quaaludes. Her stomach was pumped, and she survived.
Just before the credits of the movie "Dick" run, updates on the characters' lives are superimposed over the image of Darlene and Betsy roller-skating in the Oval Office. One of the updates states that Betsy's brother Larry makes a fortune after he helps invent quaaludes.
Jonestown Cult leader Jim Jones was known to be taking Methaqualone up until the mass suicides at the commune.
South African musician Koos Kombuis asks the question "Is daar buttons in die hemel?" (Are there buttons (street name for Methaqualone) in Heaven?) in his hit song Johnny is nie dood nie.
Hardcore punk band Gorilla Biscuits got their name from the drug; it was the drug of choice in their neighborhood. The name was only meant to be temporary but stayed with them.
Redd Kross wrote a song called "Beer and Ludes" on their album Lovedolls Superstar.
Comedian Patton Oswalt refers to TV painter Bob Ross as "a human Quaalude'
On cult television show Strangers with Candy, the main character Jerri Blank talks about "the good old days" and how no one makes good quaaludes anymore.
Celia from the Showtime show Weeds claims to take the "last pharmaceutical Quaalude on Earth," in the episode entitled "A Lude Awakening."
In the David Bowie song "Time" (1973), one of the lines is: "Time—through quaaludes and red wine". In the song "Rebel Rebel" (1974), he sings, "You got your cue line and a handful of 'ludes".
Frank Zappa's "Pygmy Twylyte" (1973) tells a story about someone who is "hurtin' for sleep in the Quaalude Moonlight". In "Flakes" (1979), while Adrian Belew is impersonating Bob Dylan, Zappa asks, "Wanna buy some Mandies, Bob?"
The Dead Kennedys' song "MTV—Get Off the Air" claims that the MTVVJs "always talk like [they're] wigged out on Quaaludes".
In the 1983 movie The Big Chill, Jeff Goldblum's character is shown taking a quaalude tablet during a house party.
Handsome Dick Manitoba declares, "Just give me a Sopor for the weekend!" in The Dictators' song "Weekend" off of their 1975 debut album The Dictators Go Girl Crazy!
In Bret Easton Ellis' novel The Rules of Attraction, a character goes to a party dressed as a Quaalude for Halloween.
In the sitcom The King of Queens, after doing a favor for Doug, Supervisor O'Boyle mentions, "I wouldn't mind if a handful of Mexican quaaludes found their way into my drawer."
In the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the character Jeff Spicoli, while driving erratically and smoking a marijuana joint and drinking a beer, says "people on 'ludes should not drive" when everybody else is driving slower than him.
In the movie Scarface, Tony Montana referring to his wife says "Another Quaalude, and she'll love me again."
Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers talks about his experiences while on quaaludes to a great extent in his book, Scar Tissue.
Robbie Williams sings of having "a body full of Mandrex" in his 2006 song "Rudebox".
In the novel Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami, the main characters take large quantities of Nibrole.
In the Armistead Maupin series of novels Tales of the City, the character Mona is a frequent user of Quaaludes.
Alice Cooper sings "Little Betty ate a pound of Quaaludes" on the live version of the song 'Dead Babies' featured on the DVD "Good to See you Again".
Free's guitarist Paul Kossoff became heavily addicted to the drug, which led to his eventual death from drug-induced heart attack.
In the Cheech and Chong movie Up In Smoke, Quaaludes are mentioned in several places. While driving the "van made entirely out of marijuana," which the narc Sergeant Stadenko is pursuing, Cheech and Chong pick up two hitchhiking women. One of them, 'Jade East,' offers Chong a 'lude. At the Roxy, she gives Chong pills she believes are uppers, but which are actually Quaaludes, before he attempts to perform. Chong's stage persona during his band's performance is "Captain Quaalude"; he is dressed in tights, a shirt emblazoned with a huge Quaalude and a cape. The apparent overdose of Quaalude Chong has received causes him to fall all over the stage and his drums, until he is revived by marijuana smoke being drawn into the Roxy's ventilation system from the van burning in front of the club.
In the Tom Clancy novel Without Remorse one of the main characters fights an addiction to Quaalude.
In The Comic Strip Presents... episode "A Fistful of Traveller's Cheques", Nigel Planer plays a hitchhiking freeloader who repeatedly asks if people have "Got any Mandies?"
At the beginning of the Supergrass song "We're not supposed to" (from their 1995 debut album "I Should Coco" one of the band (in a sped-up to high pitch, smurf-like voice) asks, "Anybody got any Mandies?"
The second track on Earth's album Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions is called "Tibetan Quaaludes".
Four different versions of the Ben Sinister song "Fistful Of Mexican Quaaludes" appear on the "Giggle & Stink" (2006), "Gigglepuss" (2006), & "Ad Lucem" (2007) albums.
The Lynyrd Skynyrd song "That Smell" includes the lines "Now they call you prince charming, Cant speak a word when youre full of ludes"
The song "Little Man's Bangin' Lude" was on R&B artist Ginuwine's album 100% Ginuwine
In the movie Blades of Glory figure skater Chazz Michael Michaels played by Will Ferrell says he does not remember the competition at Oslo because he was on Quaaludes.
In the movie Summer of Sam hairdresser Vinny abuses Quaaludes as his relationship with Dionna deteriorates.
In Sex and the City, Samantha blames falling asleep during sexual intercourse on the 'ludes'.
In the Rick James hit song Super Freak a line is "in room 714 I'll be waiting".
Ian Dury's song "Billericay Dickie" includes the lines: "Another thing with Sandy, what often came in handy, was passing her a Mandy: She didn't half go bandy."
In Danny Sugerman's "Wonderland Avenue" biography, he mentions a time in the early 70's when Quaalude was his drug of choice.
The Starz's song "Subway Terror" includes the line "I got my ludes, I'm in the mood."
Richard Carpenter, of the Carpenters, suffered from an addiction to quaaludes.
Austen Tayshus on the B-side to his 1983 comedy single 'Australiana' makes a joke about The Road Runner taking Mandrax.
Eddie Kaspbrak, one of the characters in Stephen King's It (novel), has a Sucrets bottle with four quaaludes in it on the bottom shelf of his medicine cabinet.
^ van Zyl EF. A survey of reported synthesis of Methaqualone and some positional and structural isomers. Forensic Science International (2001) 122: 142-149.