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What is a Quaalude?

by Will Long

September 7, 2023
what is a quaalude - man relaxing while high on quaaludes

From the courtroom of Bill Cosby to the silver screen via Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf Of Wall Street,” Quaaludes have captured attention. Here’s an in-depth look at what this drug is and its impact on society.

Understanding Quaaludes

what are quaaludes graphic

Description of Quaaludes

Quaalude is the brand name for methaqualone, a depressant drug formulated in the 1950s. Gaining popularity as a party drug in the ’60s and ’70s for its euphoric effects, its potential for abuse led to its ban in 1983.

These drugs fall under the depressant category, alongside Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium, which can lead to severe health issues, including addiction and death. Alarmingly, depressants play a role in the ongoing U.S. drug crisis resulting in numerous fatalities annually.

Effects and Risks

Initially, Quaaludes were used as sedatives. Yet, when individuals resisted sleep, a high ensued. The pills were frequently mixed with alcohol, enhancing the sedative effect.

Like other sedatives, Quaaludes influence the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors (GABAA) in the brain. Increasing inhibitory signals results in a range of effects, from relaxation to hypnosis. As dosage rises, so do the risks. Overconsumption can cause concentration issues, respiratory arrest, lower blood pressure, delirium, kidney or liver damage, coma, or even death.

A Brief History

graphic describing how popular quaaludes were

The popularity of Quaaludes in the 1970s and early 1980s

Conceived as an anti-malaria drug in India in 1955, Quaalude made its U.S. debut in the ’60s as a treatment for insomnia and anxiety. However, it soon became a substance of abuse. Author Justin Gass points out the ease with which they were accessible in the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Regrettably, the addictive nature of methaqualone overshadowed its medical benefits. Branded as Quaalude, the pill stamped “714” became a cultural icon, mentioned in songs by David Bowie and Frank Zappa and consumed by celebrities like Keith Richards. By 1981, the DEA ranked Quaaludes as the second most-used drug in the U.S., right behind marijuana.

history of quaaludes

The history of Quaaludes

Efforts to curb its usage included targeting international methaqualone powder manufacturers. Coupled with the medical community’s transition to other insomnia treatments, the drug’s prevalence waned. Congress officially banned its production and sales in 1984, but it’s still produced in some international regions.


Other Depressants

the reason why quaaludes are no longer available

The reason why Quaaludes are no longer available in the US

While Quaaludes have become rarer, depressants remain widely used and abused. These drugs aim to induce sleep, alleviate anxiety, control muscle spasms, and prevent seizures. Two primary types include barbiturates and benzodiazepines, each having its risks and effects.

Seeking Treatment

Professionals can treat substance use disorders effectively when they factor in the drug type and individual needs. A comprehensive approach includes detoxification, counseling, medications, and therapy. Treatment varies per patient, but it’s crucial to seek help if you or someone you know struggles with substance abuse.

Recovery and Support

For those seeking recovery, numerous rehabilitation centers offer holistic treatments. Facilities like Landmark Recovery aim to guide patients towards long-term recovery. If you or someone you know struggles with addiction, contact a recovery specialist at 888-448-0302 or find a nearby treatment center.

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About the Author

Will Long

Will Long

A graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Long has been a writer for Landmark Recovery since 2021. He specializes in research and writing about substance abuse from a scientific and social perspective. Unearthing information from underexplored, far-flung corners of the Internet, Long’s passion is finding emerging trends in substance use and treatment that the public should know about.