Quaalude or methaqualone is a hypnotic, sedative drug that rose in popularity during the early 1960s because of its properties as a barbiturate substitute.
Quaaludes were initially manufactured to be a sleep aid; it wasn’t long that people – college students and teenagers – became using it recreationally. This increase is attributed to the amount of prescriptions being written for Quaaludes to actual patients.
Quaaludes’ Rise In Popularity
By early 1970s, this drug was deemed the most popular prescribed sedatives in the U.S. even as the U.S. and Britain were trying to curb their dispense. One of the more popular applications was “luding out” – this is where the drug was used in combination of a healthy cup of wine. It was extremely popular with college students.
In David Bowie’s “Time” song, he mentions “red wine and Quaaludes.”
Quaaludes were often prescribed at a 300mg level, which could be harmful for first-time users. Its effects would depend on the person’s tolerance to the drug. One person could take up to 20,000mg and be fine while, for another person, taking 8,000mg could be lethal.
The drug reduces the chemical levels, known as neurotransmitters, of both the central nervous system and brain. This leads to a drop in the blood pressure and a slowdown in pulse rate so that you can become relaxed.
Quaaludes’ effects often last between four and eight hours. As a person continues using it, they build up a tolerance to it. Thus, they need more of the drug more often. This can lead to an overdose, which involves symptoms of hypertonia, renal failure, delirium and convulsions. It can also cause due to respiratory or cardiac arrest.
Pills that were legitimately manufactured for patients were being used recreationally, being sent to the black market along with the counterfeit drugs that criminal U.S. and South American labs were manufacturing.
DEA’s Investigation Of Quaaludes and How The Agency Was Combating It
In the early 1980s, the DEA felt that Quaaludes were being abused second to marijuana, with 90 percent of its production going to the illegal drug trade. The DEA predicted that 20 million pills would hit the streets within a year. Realizing the problem was getting worse, the DEA took immediate action to eliminate the ease in which people were buying it.
By the time 1984 rolled around, the DEA was able to shut down the manufacturing of Quaaludes by getting rid of the developers of the methaqualone powder. The strategy paid off; Columbians were primarily responsible for the illegal manufacturing of Quaaludes and were unable to attain the powder to make more.