You may have heard about quaaludes from a 2005 revelation by legendary comedian Bill Cosby, but there’s a need to dig deeper into this substance to understand what it is, why it is being abused, and how it is detected and treated. In this article, we will look into quaaludes and its impact on society.
WHAT ARE QUAALUDES?
Quaaludes are synthetic hypnotic drugs similar to barbiturates. Its chemical name is Methaqualone, and is used as a sedative and hypnotic medication.
This drug was first thought to be a non-addictive sleeping tablet but then it was later discovered that it wasn’t safe. It now falls under Schedule I of Controlled Substances, which means that it has a high potential for abuse and has no currently medical use in treatment. Other drugs under this category include heroin, marijuana, mescaline and psylocybin, just to name a few.
Quaaludes are known with the following street names:
- Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
- Super super
- Disco biscuits
- Super soper
- Happy tablets
This drug was ultimately banned in the 1980s, although selling through the black market continued. Quaaludes are odorless, tasteless and inexpensive. If used recreationally, this drug is crushed with marijuana and can be smoked, liquefied or injected.
WHAT IS THE CHEMICAL STRUCTURE OF QUAALUDES?
The chemical name of quaalude or methaqualone is 2-methyl-3-(2-methylphenyl)-4(3H)-quinazolinone. It is functionally and structurally related to methyprylon, glutethimide and barbiturates.
HOW DID QUAALUDES BECOME POPULAR?
Quaaludes was first synthesized in India between 1950s and 1960s by an Indian named M.I. Gujral to treat malaria. It was first introduced as a non-addicting hypnotic medication that was used to treat sleeping disorders such as insomnia and anxiety.
Years later, the effects of the drug were found to increase the risk of danger to an individual, leading it to become far more dangerous than the drug it was supposed to replace. It was in 1968 when quaaludes have been widely prescribed as a sedative in the U.K.
By 1972, it has become one of the popular recreational psychoactive drugs in the U.S. and Britain. This drug was categorized under Schedule II in 1973 and was re-categorized to Schedule I in June 1984 due to the increasing problems brought about by the use of the drug.
HOW DO QUAALUDES WORK?
Quaaludes are similar as barbiturates, in the sense that they act as depressants. The substance is usually taken in the form of a tablet or capsule and may produce the following symptoms:
- Light sedation
When taken in higher doses, quaaludes may produce a euphoric effect and other similar effects found in alcohol. The effects may last up to 8 hours, and they include the following:
- Heightened sensitivity
- Loss of inhibition
- Improved ability to deal with pain
- Sense of well-being
- Increased confidence
- A feeling of relaxation
- Increased sexual appetite
WHAT ARE THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF QUAALUDES?
It has been determined that this drug is extremely dangerous that is why it is rarely used. The potential adverse effects may include the following:
- Addiction (within weeks of regular intake)
- Abdominal pain
- Anxiety and Paranoia
- Suicidal thoughts
- Organ damage
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of muscle coordination
- Rapid heart rate (or medically known as tachycardia)
- Overdose (and may lead to death)
- Withdrawal symptoms
When taken orally, methaqualone’s effect starts within 20-45 minutes after ingestion. The duration of its effect may last from 4 to 8 hours, but taking it in higher doses makes the effect last longer.
Tolerance to the drug may be achieved with just a few days of regular use. Individuals who may no longer feel happy being on that “unhappy state” may consider using other sedatives but may need to take them in higher doses to achieve the kind of high that they are looking for.
Individuals who use methaqualone may find themselves wanting to take in a much high dose each time. To eliminate the possibility of tolerance to the drug, some users spend a few days to a week off from taking the drug.
Tolerance for the drug’s unusual high effect develops more rapidly than tolerance to its respiratory depressant effect. This poses an extreme danger to the user as he would want to increase the dose to be able to achieve the same kind of feeling the first time he used the drug.
People using this drug should not be allowed to operate heavy machinery or even to drive a vehicle. The user may become disoriented under the influence of the drug, which may lead to an accident.
Some users prefer mixing quaaludes with other drugs or alcohol because they want to achieve that euphoric effect. This can be dangerous and fatal as it may lead to respiratory issues and suppression of the central nervous system.
WHAT ARE THE PHYSICAL EFFECTS OF QUAALUDE ABUSE?
Inappropriate use of this drug may harm the normal function of the body’s system. The harmful effects may include the following:
- Slowed speech
- Cardiovascular dysfunction
- Respiratory depression
- Photophobia or sensitivity to light
- Paresthesia or numbing of the fingers
WHAT ARE THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF QUAALUDE ABUSE?
Dopamine is the hormone responsible for the happy feeling that we experience. Using drugs that get in the way of the proper production of dopamine may lead to serious psychological disturbances, which include the following:
- Increased anxiety
- Mood disorders
HOW DO QUAALUDES AFFECT SOCIAL INTERACTION?
The use of quaaludes may affect the user’s relationship towards family and the surrounding community. Here are some of the social effects of abusing quaaludes:
- Withdrawal from social activities
- Increased isolation and segregation from loved ones
- Decreased social interactions
When you happen to notice any of these symptoms from any member of your family, try to investigate further. And if your thoughts are right, there may be a need to seek professional treatment to overcome the addiction.
ARE QUAALUDES ADDICTIVE?
Just like any sedative drugs, quaaludes may pose great danger in getting permanently hooked when taken beyond its usage. Quaalude abuse may lead to physical addiction and psychological dependence. A dose of 600 mg of quaaludes may lead to addiction when taken regularly for just a couple of weeks.
WHY ARE QUAALUDES ABUSED?
It was in the 1970s when people who went to night parties and clubs would take methaqualone together with alcohol to achieve a different kind of high. It was considered a party drug back in the day, and was even referred to as “party biscuits”. During that era, quaaludes were commonly used for medical purposes but the availability of the drug eventually lead to addiction in some patients.
The unusual feeling of happiness has made individuals crave for this drug to escape their personal problems. It has also become a way to bond with friends. Unfortunately, many quaalude abusers were unaware that the continuous use of the drug makes quitting the vice too difficult to do.
HOW POPULAR IS THE USE OF QUAALUDES?
According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the popularity of quaaludes has declined over the years. However, one report revealed that airport seizures in 2014 and 2015 were traced to quaalude use.
These days, drug users prefer those that have a stronger “kick” than quaaludes. However, it is still considered as one of the choices among drug users in South Africa.
HOW ARE QUAALUDES TAKEN?
Some users take as little as 75 mg throughout the day while others would take in 300 mg. However, those who are terribly hooked to the drug may use as much as 8,000 mg a day to achieve that euphoric effect. Many cases of ingesting more than 8,000 mg of quaaludes involved irreversible damage and even death.
WHAT ARE SOME FACTS ON QUAALUDE OVERDOSE?
From an occasional user to a habitual user, tolerance to the drug may occur. Once the user crosses this line, overdose is bound to happen.
- Quaaludes affect the brain and the nervous system, by stopping respiration and blood pressure, leading to an abnormal state of relaxation.
- At higher doses, quaaludes may cause respiratory depression, coma, and possibly death.
- Using quaaludes with alcohol intensifies the effect and the danger.
- A person who overdoses on quaaludes may feel terribly drowsy.
- With the frequent use of high doses of quaaludes, the user has a higher risk of being terribly injured but would not be able to notice it right away because of an increased tolerance to pain.
The popularity of quaaludes may be dying a slow death, but it is beneficial to know how this drug has become so infamous back in the day.
- Quaaludes were very popular among college students in the 1970s.
- Quaalude possession in Tennessee is penalized by a sentence of 8 years in prison and fined for $60,000.00
- Taking in quaaludes may affect your sex life as it may cause erectile dysfunction in males.
- It was the drug taken by the character of Leonardo di Caprio in his movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”.
- Quaaludes didn’t get into the U.S. until the 1960s.
WHAT ARE WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS OF QUAALUDES?
The long-term use of any drug may lead to addiction. Withdrawal symptoms soon happen when users finally decide to get themselves clean.
The severity of the symptom may vary according to the length of time that the user has taken the drug and the dosage. Some of the common quaalude withdrawal symptoms include:
- Fatal seizures
- High fevers
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle spasm
- Strange sensation in the limbs
HOW IS QUAALUDE ADDICTION TREATED?
In treating a quaalude addict, it is not enough for the user to completely stop using the drug. The high likelihood of withdrawal symptoms may require medical supervision because these effects may be sometimes daunting to the user.
Users may think that they are capable of leading a normal life with the use of quaaludes. However, once addiction steps in, it may not be as easy to have that firm grip on reality. Quaalude addiction may lead to physical and psychological dependence, and cannot be controlled by the user alone without seeking professional assistance. Fortunately, there are medical facilities that can help recovering addicts get back to their feet.
As soon as the user is admitted to the hospital, his respiration is carefully monitored. Oxygen will be administered if the user is found to have difficulty in breathing. Activated charcoal may be prescribed by the doctor to absorb any drug inside the user’s stomach. Using activated charcoal can enhance absorption and removal of the drug by as much as 60%.
The mode of treatment is primarily detoxification. In this case, the drug is slowly flushed out of the system. This may take several weeks until the user’s health becomes stable.
Treatment for quaalude users does not stop after they have undergone the detoxification process. There is a need to psychologically rehabilitate the individual and help him prepare to face the real world once again.