Drug and Alcohol

What Are Quaaludes? The History of This Tranquilizer Addiction

Quaalude Abuse: What You Need to Know

Quaaludes abuse is rare, but these discontinued drugs can still be purchased. Learn about the high risks of Quaaludes abuse in our blog.

Written by

brian-mooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

jeremy-arztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

Drug and Alcohol

February 27, 2023

Quaaludes (methaqualone) abuse refers to the non-medical use of this highly addictive sedative drug. Although Quaaludes are discontinued prescription drugs, it's still possible to find them. Prescriptions aren't a safeguard against abuse. Drug abuse can take various forms, including taking more than the prescribed dosage, using the drug without a prescription, or using it in a way that is not intended (e.g., crushing and snorting the drug).

Quaaludes abuse can lead to a range of adverse effects on a person's physical, mental, and emotional health. Short-term effects of Quaaludes abuse include drowsiness, dizziness, slowed breathing, impaired coordination, confusion, and memory loss. Over time, Quaaludes abuse can lead to addiction, as the body becomes dependent on the drug to function normally. In addition, Quaaludes abuse can also lead to mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and psychosis.

In general, addiction to sedatives can be challenging to overcome and often requires professional help. Also, various resources are available, including treatment programs, support groups, and counseling services.

By the Numbers

As per a study by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics(NCDAS), 6% of adults in the USA over 12 abuse prescription drugs each year. Also, the Misuse of Prescription Drugs Research Report estimated that 2.2 million adults aged 12 or older in 2021 (or 0.8% of the population) had a prescription tranquilizer or sedative use disorder in the previous twelve months.

What Are Quaaludes?

Quaalude, also known as methaqualone, is a sedative-hypnotic medication first introduced in the 1960s as a prescription sleep aid and muscle relaxant. Methaqualone is a central nervous system depressant that slows down brain activity and induces relaxation.

The drug was popular in the 1970s and early 1980s as a recreational drug due to its euphoric and sedative effects, which made it desirable for people looking to escape their everyday problems and relax. However, the drug was highly addictive and had significant side effects, leading to its eventual ban in many countries, including the United States, in 1984.

Quaaludes were typically taken orally as tablets, although they could also be crushed and snorted for a more rapid onset of effects. When taken orally, the results of Quaaludes can take up to 30 minutes to kick in and last for several hours. Quaaludes were also sold as the drug Mandrax, which contained diphenhydramine with 250mg of methaqualone.

In recent years, Quaaludes have been replaced with benzodiazepines, another class of prescription tranquilizers that have abuse potential of their own. Quaaludes also got a media boost with the release of the film The Wolf of Wall Street, which has multiple scenes depicting Quaaludes being abused.

How Do Quaaludes Work?

Quaaludes, or methaqualone, affect brain activities, including gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), dopamine, and norepinephrine.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps to regulate brain activity by slowing down or blocking the transmission of signals between neurons. Quaaludes enhance the effects of GABA by binding to specific receptors in the brain, known as GABA-A receptors. This binding increases the activity of GABA, which reduces brain activity and induces a state of relaxation.

Dopamine and norepinephrine are neurotransmitters that play a role in the brain's reward and pleasure pathways and regulate mood, motivation, and attention. Quaaludes can increase the release of dopamine and norepinephrine, producing feelings of euphoria and pleasure.

Quaaludes also affect the activity of other neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin and acetylcholine. These effects can contribute to the drug's sedative and hypnotic effects and its potential for addiction.

Repeated use of Quaaludes can lead to changes in the brain's reward and pleasure pathways, which can contribute to the development of addiction. Additionally, long-term use of Quaaludes can lead to tolerance. As a result, higher doses are required to achieve the same effects, and withdrawal symptoms can occur when the drug is discontinued.

The precise mechanisms of action of Quaaludes on the brain are complex and not fully understood. However, the drug affects several key neurotransmitters and pathways in the brain, contributing to its sedative, hypnotic, and addictive effects.

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Are Quaaludes Still Used Medically?

Quaaludes were originally widely prescribed to treat a variety of medical conditions. However, it became apparent that it was very easy to build up a tolerance to quaaludes, meaning people had to take more and more of them to feel the same effects. Tolerance is a red flag of addiction, and taking larger doses of quaaludes means overdosing on them was more likely.

By the early 1980s, the Drug Enforcement Agency reported Quaaludes were the second most popular recreational drug in the US, with only marijuana being more popular. The Lemmon Company, a pharmaceutical company that had the rights to manufacture Quaaludes in the 1970s, quickly ran into an image problem. Their CEO once said Quaaludes made up 2% of their sales and created 98% of their problems.

Quaaludes have largely been phased out in favor of benzodiazepines, which have addictive issues of their own. However, Quaaludes are still manufactured overseas and are common in South Africa, India, and other countries.

What Are the Effects of Quaaludes?

Quaaludes are tranquilizers and the main effect is feeling sedated. Quaaludes are often classed as hypnotics. Hypnotics are a class of drugs that help people sleep.

When people abuse Quaaludes, they often resist the sleep-inducing effects of the drug. This creates what some call a "sleepy high." This high is especially pronounced when mixed with alcohol, although mixing alcohol with Quaaludes can be lethal. In general, most people feel the effects of Quaaludes around a half-hour after they take them. Quaalude effects are long-lasting, too. Quaalude highs last for six hours or more.

There are some harmful effects to Quaalude use, however.

Physical Effects of Quaaludes

Quaalude abuse can create harmful physical effects, including:

  • Problems breathing

  • Difficulty driving and operating machinery

  • Organ damage

  • Delirium

  • Coma

  • Death

Quaaludes can also cause additional problems including:

  • Photophobia: Extreme light sensitivity

  • Paresthesia: Numbness in the extremities

It can't be stressed enough how dangerous mixing Quaaludes with alcohol is. Ordinarily, a lethal dose of Quaalude is a dose 30 times larger than one Quaalude tablet. When mixed with alcohol, that amount shrinks to two grams.

Mental Effects of Quaaludes

Quaaludes also have mental effects when abused. Despite being a tranquilizer, Quaalude abuse can cause mood swings, mood disorders, insomnia, and anxiety.

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Quaaludes Abuse: How Long Do They Stay in the System?

The length of time that Quaaludes, or methaqualone, stay in the body can vary depending on several factors, including the dose, duration of use, individual metabolism, and other factors such as age and overall health.

Quaaludes have a half-life of approximately 20 to 60 hours, meaning it takes time for the body to eliminate half of the drug from the system. After four to six half-lives, the drug is considered to be eliminated from the body.

Based on this, Quaaludes can be detected in urine for up to four to eight days after the last dose, depending on the individual's metabolism and the amount of drug taken. The drug can also be detected in blood and saliva, although these tests are less commonly used.

It is important to note that the detection time for Quaaludes can vary widely depending on the specific testing method used and other individual factors. Additionally, chronic or heavy drug use can lead to a drug buildup in the body, increasing the detection time and potential for long-term effects on the body and brain.

Overall, the length of time that Quaaludes stay in the body is influenced by several factors and can vary widely from person to person.

What Are the Signs of Quaalude Addiction?

Methaqualone, often known as quaaludes, is highly addictive, and regular usage can have several harmful effects, including physical dependency and psychological addiction. Some of the signs of Quaaludes addiction include:

Continued use despite negative consequences: Individuals addicted to Quaaludes may continue to use the drug even when it causes problems in their personal or professional lives, such as financial difficulties, job loss, or strained relationships.

Signs of Quaaludes abuse include:

  • Withdrawal symptoms: People physically dependent on Quaaludes may experience withdrawal symptoms when they stop using the drug. These symptoms can include anxiety, restlessness, muscle pain, tremors, and insomnia.

  • Tolerance: Chronic use of Quaaludes can lead to tolerance, meaning that higher drug doses are required to achieve the same effects. This can increase the risk of overdose and other negative consequences.

  • Obsession with obtaining and using the drug: People addicted to Quaaludes may spend a lot of time and energy obtaining it, using it, and recovering from its effects. They may also experience cravings for the drug when they are not using it.

  • Changes in behavior: Addiction can lead to behavioral changes, such as social withdrawal, isolation, or secretive behavior. Individuals may also become more irritable, agitated, or aggressive when not using the drug.

  • Neglecting responsibilities: People addicted to Quaaludes may neglect their work, school, or home responsibilities. They may also experience financial problems or legal issues related to their drug use.

  • Health problems: Chronic use of Quaaludes can lead to various health problems, including respiratory depression, seizures, liver damage, and other negative consequences.

Addiction to Quaaludes is a severe disorder that requires the care and support of medical professionals.

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Quaaludes Abuse: Signs & Symptoms

Quaaludes can have various adverse side effects on the body and brain, mainly when used for a prolonged period or in high doses. Some of the most common side effects of Quaaludes addiction include:

  • Respiratory depression: Quaaludes can depress the respiratory system, slowing breathing and reducing oxygen intake. This can be particularly dangerous when combined with other drugs, such as alcohol or opioids, and can lead to respiratory failure or even death.

  • Cognitive impairment: Chronic use of Quaaludes can lead to cognitive impairment, including memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and impaired judgment. This can interfere with an individual's ability to function in daily life and can lead to accidents or other negative consequences.

  • Sleep disturbances: Quaaludes can disrupt normal sleep patterns, leading to insomnia, nightmares, or other sleep disturbances.

  • Mood disorders: Chronic use of Quaaludes can lead to mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or irritability. These symptoms can persist even after the drug is no longer being used.

  • Physical health problems: Quaaludes can adversely affect physical health, including liver damage, kidney problems, and an increased risk of infectious diseases, particularly when the drug is injected.

  • Social and legal problems: Quaaludes addiction can lead to various social and legal issues, including strained relationships, job loss, financial difficulties, and legal trouble related to drug use.

  • Overdose: Quaaludes overdose can occur when an individual takes a high drug dose, particularly when combined with other substances. Overdose symptoms can include seizures, respiratory depression, coma, and death.

Addiction to quaaludes can have a range of additional negative side effects on the body and brain and can interfere with an individual's ability to function in daily life.

Quaaludes Abuse: Withdrawal and Recovery From Quaaludes Addiction

Withdrawal from quaaludes can be very unpleasant and may include a range of physical and psychological symptoms. The severity of withdrawal symptoms depends on a variety of factors, including the user's dosage and frequency of use, as well as their overall health and psychological state.

Some of the physical symptoms of quaalude withdrawal may include:

  • Headache

  • Sweating

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Tremors or shaking

  • Muscle pain

  • Rapid heart rate

  • High blood pressure

Some of the psychological symptoms of quaalude withdrawal may include:

  • Anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Agitation

  • Insomnia or other sleep disturbances

  • Depression

  • Intense drug cravings

Quaaludes Abuse: Timeline of Quaaludes Withdrawal

The withdrawal process from quaaludes typically begins within 12 to 24 hours after the last dose and can last for up to a week or longer. Sometimes, it may take several weeks or months for the body to recover from the effects of quaaludes fully.

The severity of withdrawal symptoms can vary depending on the individual, but in many cases, the symptoms can be severe enough to require medical attention. In addition, medical detox may sometimes be necessary to manage the withdrawal process and prevent potentially life-threatening complications safely.

Quaaludes Abuse: How It's Treated

Treatment for quaalude addiction involves a combination of drug detox, therapy, and support groups. Medications may be used to manage withdrawal symptoms and reduce drug cravings, while therapy can help address the underlying psychological issues that may have contributed to the addiction.

Recovery from Quaaludes addiction consists of a multi-step process that addresses addiction's physical, psychological, and social aspects. The healing method can be challenging and may take some time, but it is possible to achieve long-term sobriety with the proper support.

  • Detoxification: The first step in the recovery process is detoxification. This involves removing Quaaludes from the body and managing withdrawal symptoms. Because withdrawal from Quaaludes can be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous, it is important to seek professional medical help. In some cases, medications may help manage symptoms and reduce drug cravings.

  • Therapy: Once the individual has completed detoxification, therapy is typically the next step in recovery. Therapy can help address the underlying psychological issues that may have contributed to the addiction and provide the individual with tools and strategies to manage triggers and cravings. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a commonly used therapy that can help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors related to addiction. Family therapy and group therapy may also be beneficial in helping the individual build healthy relationships and a supportive network of peers.

  • Ongoing Support: Maintaining long-term sobriety often requires ongoing support. Support groups can provide a safe and supportive community of individuals who are going through similar experiences. These groups offer regular meetings, peer support, and encouragement for maintaining sobriety. In addition, regular check-ins with a healthcare provider can help the individual stay on track with their recovery goals.

  • Complementary Therapies: In addition to traditional therapies, complementary therapies like experiential therapy can also play a role in the recovery process. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and yoga, can help reduce stress and promote a sense of calm. Exercise and nutrition can also be beneficial in improving physical and mental health.

  • Relapse Prevention: Addiction relapses are common, and it is important to have a plan in place to prevent them. The individual may need to avoid certain triggers or situations that could lead to drug use, and they may need to learn new coping strategies to manage stress and cravings. Ongoing support from a healthcare provider or support group can help develop and maintain a relapse prevention plan.

Recovery from Quaaludes addiction requires a comprehensive approach that addresses addiction's physical, psychological, and social aspects.

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Quaaludes Abuse: How to Avoid Quaalude Addiction

The best way to prevent Quaaludes addiction is to avoid using the drug altogether. However, for individuals who have already been using Quaaludes or other addictive substances, several alternative strategies can help prevent addiction to drugs like Quaaludes.

  • Education: Understanding the risks associated with Quaaludes use can help individuals make informed decisions about drug use. Educating oneself on drug use risks and potential consequences can help individuals make informed decisions and avoid addiction.

  • Healthy Coping Strategies: Developing healthy coping strategies can help individuals manage stress and difficult emotions without turning to drugs. This may include practicing mindfulness, engaging in physical activity, or seeking support from friends or family.

  • Prescription Drug Monitoring: Quaaludes are no longer available for medical use, but other prescription drugs that have a high potential for abuse, such as opioids and benzodiazepines, are still widely prescribed. Prescription drug monitoring programs can help prevent addiction by monitoring the use of these medications and identifying potential cases of abuse or misuse.

  • Non-Drug Therapies: For individuals who struggle with chronic pain or other conditions that may lead to prescription drug use, non-drug therapies, such as physical therapy or acupuncture, may be effective alternatives to prescription drugs.

  • Early Intervention: Early intervention is key to preventing addiction. If an individual is struggling with drug use or is showing signs of addiction, early intervention, and treatment can help prevent the development of more severe addiction.

Prevention is key to avoiding Quaaludes addiction. By understanding the risks associated with drug use and developing healthy coping strategies, individuals can reduce their risk of addiction and achieve a healthy, fulfilling life.

Struggling with Quaaludes Abuse? The Edge Treatment Center Will Help

Quaalude abuse is rare given the drug's availability, but it's still possible to find Quaalude pills. Used recreationally, addiction is a matter of time. These drugs were removed from the market due to their ease of abuse and danger of overdose.

If you're struggling with Quaaludes abuse, reach out to The Edge Treatment Center. We provide comprehensive treatment for individuals struggling with Quaaludes addiction. Our team of healthcare professionals is dedicated to helping individuals achieve long-term sobriety and improved quality of life.

We'll start by matching you with a drug detox center ideal for your needs and history. When you're ready to attend our outpatient drug rehab, we'll continue to help you leave Quaaludes abuse behind. You'll be able to address the root causes of drug addiction, gain a better understanding of yourself, and create a new healthy life for yourself while at The Edge.

Don't risk a Quaaludes overdose. Reach out to The Edge Treatment Center today, and leave Quaaludes abuse behind.

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If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, there is hope. Our team can guide you on your journey to recovery. Call us today.