Quaaludes were the most popular brand of a medical drug called methaqualone. Healthcare professionals prescribed it for a wide range of conditions, including sleeplessness and anxiety. Recreational users began experimenting with it, and “ludes” quickly became an equally popular non-medical drug in many countries. It was eventually declared illegal in many countries because of its addictiveness and its association with crime.
Recreational buyers adopted various codenames for Quaaludes, including ludes, quads, soaps, and Lemmons. One of the most popular slang names was “714,” which was based on the identifying numbers etched into each pill by the manufacturer.
This drug depresses the body’s central nervous system, primarily its brain activity. It relaxes inhibitions for five to eight hours on a single normal dose. Healthcare professionals often prescribed them as an anti-anxiety medication and a muscle relaxant. It was also prescribed for insomnia and other sleep disorders. The possible side effects of Quaaludes include euphoria, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. Some people also have more unusual side effects, including increased sexual arousal and numbness of the extremities.
The 1970s saw a surging popularity of Quaaludes being used in social settings like dance clubs. Many people deliberately ingested them with alcohol, which is also a drug. The interaction between the two is unpredictable and potentially dangerous. This particular combination sometimes caused memory “blackouts,” with people reporting no recollection of events that occurred during their intoxication.
Law enforcement officials attributed many vehicle accidents to the drug’s influence. Reports were also made of people committing crimes by slipping the drug into the alcoholic drinks of other people to sedate and disable them. Quaaludes acquired the reputation as a date rape pill.
Addiction and Overdosing
Healthcare professionals realized by the 1980s that Quaaludes are highly addictive. Frequent users developed a tolerance for its effects, and subsequently larger doses. This often led to a state of deep, crippling depression. Some people crushed their pills and smoked the powder. This caused permanent lung damage, and medical professionals resolutely publicized the hazard of using the drug in this manner. Fatal overdoses from quaaludes triggered muscle convulsions, heart attack and kidney failure.
Treating the addiction usually involved forced withdrawal of the drug, a physically painful ordeal. This was followed by a program of forced addiction to barbiturates, which is considered easier to treat.
Countries like the United States and the United Kingdom began tightening regulations over the drug in the 1980s. Concern over its abuse culminated in 1984 when the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency declared Quaaludes to be an illegal “Schedule I” drug. By that definition, it has no legitimate medical use, and poses a high risk of abuse and addiction. Much of Europe also banned the drug. In some countries elsewhere in the world, variants of methaqualone remain readily available for medicinal and recreational use.