Quaalude is the name brand of a sedative-type drug that was popular in the US in the 1970’s. The generic name is methaqualone. Although Quaaludes were available by prescription and widely available thirty years ago, one must really go out of there way now to find a supplier of this now underground illicit substance. The vast majority of people who remember Quaaludes are middle aged and beyond.
Methaqualone was discovered by researchers in India in the 1950’s and it was brought to the US and marketed by Rorer Pharmaceuticals as a non-addictive sleeping pill by the mid 1960’s. Quaalude acted by depressing the user’s central nervous system, often resulting in sedation or euphoria.
During the introductory phase, Rorer claimed that Quaalude was non-habit forming and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) failed to require any testing as to the veracity of these claims. We now know that prolonged Quaalude use led to tolerance and dependence. Serious side effects include headache, respiratory depression, and slurred speech. People withdrawing from Quaaludes reported feeling anxious and had trouble sleeping. It was possible to overdose on Quaaludes, even fatally.
Although Quaalude was initially intended as a sedative or sleeping pill, recreational users quickly discovered the substance’s euphoric effect. Additionally, the pill could make people black out and have no memory of previous events. It also increased sensitivity and decreased inhibition while offering relaxation during sex. The majority of recreational users enjoyed feeling the euphoric and hypnotic effect. A Quaalude high typically lasted about five hours and, because it is also a muscle relaxer, users had to be especially careful while walking around or driving.
However, as the drug caught fire on the US market it came under the scrutiny of various medical societies and news organizations, culminating in a series of Congressional investigations. By 1973, Quaalude landed on the Controlled Substances list (Schedule II drug) and Rorer’s output was severely restricted under governmental mandate.
Once the drug came under federal control, however, the Quaalude black market flourished with thefts and unscrupulous doctors providing the supply. As a result, the US government banned the production of Quaalude in 1981 entirely and, by 1983, the drug had been placed on the Schedule I Controlled Substance list.
Now, Quaaludes are manufactured either in small batches by individuals or in other counties like South Africa and India. In fact, India is now the single largest producer of the drug.