Quaaludes, scientifically known as Methaqualone, are a synthetic compound that acts as a central nervous system depressant. Originally synthesized in the 1950s, the drug gained notoriety under the brand name Quaalude, which cleverly combines the words “quiet” and “interlude.” Often referred to by its street name “disco biscuits,” Quaaludes became emblematic of the 1970s nightlife, largely due to their ability to diminish sexual inhibitions and promote relaxation.

As a member of the sedative-hypnotic class, Quaaludes function similarly to other depressants like Xanax, Klonopin, and Valium. They produce a range of effects, from mild sedation to deep sleep. The chemical impacts the brain by enhancing the activity of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) receptors, leading to decreased neural activity and an overall calming effect on the body. This makes them effective as anxiolytics (anxiety reducers) and sleep aids but also contributes to their high potential for abuse and dependency.

Despite their once widespread popularity, the use of Quaaludes has led to significant health crises, contributing to addiction, overdose, and death, prompting their ban in the United States in 1983. Today, the legacy of Quaaludes lives on in pop culture references and cautionary tales about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

Chances are, most people have probably heard of the word Quaalude before. Whether you know it from The Wolf Of Wall Street (where Leonardo DiCaprio played real-life Quaalude enthusiast Jordan Belfort) or maybe the Bill Cosby trial. Nevertheless, many of us are at least aware of the term. However, you might not have the knowledge of what it is or what it does to your body.

What Happened to Quaaludes?

Quaaludes, or Methaqualone, first synthesized in the 1950s, rose to prominence as a widely used recreational drug during the 1960s and 1970s. Originally introduced as a safe and non-addictive sleeping aid and anxiolytic (anti-anxiety medication), Quaaludes quickly found their way into the social scenes of the era, particularly within the disco and party circuits. Known for their sedative effects which facilitated an uninhibited euphoria, they earned the street nickname “disco biscuits.” The rampant popularity of Quaaludes, however, was marred by widespread abuse and a growing number of addiction cases. By the early 1980s, the drug had become synonymous with the party culture excesses, leading to severe health emergencies including overdoses. The U.S. government, recognizing the drug’s potential for abuse and the public health risks it posed, classified Methaqualone as a Schedule I controlled substance in 1984, effectively banning its manufacture and sale. Since their ban, Quaaludes have faded from medical use but remain a point of cultural reference and a symbol of past drug epidemics. Their history serves as a stark reminder of the potential for abuse that can accompany even prescription medications and highlights the importance of regulatory oversight in the pharmaceutical industry.

What Were Quaaludes Prescribed For?

Methaqualone, such as Quaaludes, were prescribed sedatives that increase GABA (neurotransmitter) receptor activity. As a sleeping aid, this drug was a sedative and hypnotic. A hypnotic, or sporophoric drug helps induce sleep, which is why someone would be prescribed Quaaludes in the first place.

When GABA increases, your breathing and heart rate decrease. Whenever this happens, your pulse rate and blood pressure drop too, entering a feeling of deep relaxation. A few hours later, the drug peaks and lasts in your system up to 20-60 hours. 

After using this muscle relaxant for an extended period of time, your body builds a tolerance. So, people have to take a higher dose to get that same feeling of relaxation again. This puts insomniacs (people who have a sleeping disorder) in danger of never waking back up.


Types and Physical Description of Quaaludes

Quaaludes, known chemically as Methaqualone, were most famously marketed under the brand name Quaalude in the United States and as Mandrax in the United Kingdom and other countries. These sedatives came in various forms, primarily as round or oval tablets. The pills were usually white or light-colored and distinctly marked for identification purposes. One of the most iconic markings was the number “714,” imprinted on the original Quaalude 300 mg tablets, which became a symbol of the drug’s identity.

Different formulations of Methaqualone like Sopor, Parest, and the aforementioned Mandrax catered to varying market demands, featuring differing dosages and occasionally color variations to distinguish between the types. These tablets were small, easy to consume, and designed for oral administration, making them both discreet and convenient. The physical characteristics of Quaaludes made them easily recognizable and contributed to their mystique and allure in popular culture.

Quaaludes Effects

The immediate effects of taking Quaaludes include a sense of deep relaxation and well-being, reduced inhibition, and a sleepy, lethargic sensation that could escalate to euphoria, especially at higher doses. These effects generally set in within 30 minutes of ingestion and could last anywhere from four to six hours, depending on the dosage and individual metabolism.

However, the drug was not without its dangers. At higher doses, Quaaludes could lead to severe side effects such as respiratory arrest, delirium, and profound motor impairment that could result in accidents or injuries. The relaxing effects, while initially sought after, could dangerously depress the central nervous system when combined with other depressants like alcohol, significantly increasing the risk of overdose and death.

The widespread recreational abuse of Quaaludes ultimately led to severe physical, psychological, and social consequences, highlighting the drug’s potential for dependence and addiction. The seductive pull of its initial euphoria often masked the perilous drop toward health complications and societal withdrawal.


The addictive nature of Quaaludes manifests through an overwhelming desire to continue using the drug despite adverse consequences. Dependency often develops from prolonged use, as the brain begins to rely on the drug to function normally.

Physical Effects

This sedative, hypnotic drug has a standard effect on a person’s body and mind. When used in small amounts, a person will typically feel lively or relaxed. When taken in large quantities, this drug can cause a stimulating effect. As the dose increases, feelings become more intense and can cause dangerous physical effects on the body. This drug was often abused with alcohol and created a “drunken, sleepy high.” Usually, the effects begin after 30 minutes and last up to 6 hours. However, overuse of Quaaludes can lead to serious physical issues including:
  • Respiratory arrest
  • Delirium
  • Kidney or liver damage
  • Coma
  • Death
A lethal dose would be considered 30 times what was in one Quaalude tablet. When combining this drug with alcohol, that dose becomes much smaller, with only two grams possibly inducing a coma. Moreover, at its peak, the drug was linked to overdoses, suicide attempts, injuries, and car accidents. Quaalude abuse can be detrimental to your body as you harm normal mechanisms, organs, and systems. Physical effects may include:
  • Cardiovascular and motor dysfunction
  • Respiratory depression
  • Photophobia – An extreme sensitivity to light
  • Paresthesias – Numbness of the fingers and toes
  • Drowsiness, headache, and slowed speech

Psychological Effects

The abuse can lead to harmful psychological effects such as:
  • Delirium
  • Insomnia
  • Mood disorders
  • Increased Anxiety
  • Depression

Social Effects

The following are ways that addiction can negatively interfere with your social life:
  • Decreased social interactions
  • Increased isolation and segregation from loved ones
  • Withdrawal from social activities and events

Signs and Symptoms of Quaaludes Addiction

Knowing the signs and symptoms of a Quaalude addiction can be helpful to you or a loved one. The following signs and symptoms may happen as a result of abusing this drug:

  • Nausea, Vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Loss of appetite
  • Slurred speech
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Memory Loss
  • Hives
  • Weakness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Motor dysfunction
  • Overdose, death

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of these possible side effects resulting from Quaaludes, please seek help. It is essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Treatment and Recovery from Prescription Drug Addiction

Overcoming prescription drug addiction requires a comprehensive treatment strategy tailored to address both the physiological and psychological aspects of dependency. Recognizing the need for help is the first crucial step toward recovery. Here’s how our approach at Healthy Life Recovery can guide you through the process:


The initial phase of recovery involves detoxifying the body from the drug. This medically supervised detox ensures safety and helps manage the potentially severe withdrawal symptoms that can occur, such as insomnia, intense anxiety, and physical discomfort. Professional medical intervention is essential to mitigate health risks during this stage.

Therapeutic Interventions

Following detox, individuals typically engage in a combination of therapy modalities to address the psychological roots of addiction. Our program includes individual counseling, group therapy, and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which help clients develop coping mechanisms, understand the triggers of their addiction, and learn how to deal with cravings and avoid relapse.

Rehabilitation Programs

We offer both inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs of our clients. Inpatient programs provide a structured environment that supports recovery, while outpatient programs allow individuals to continue their day-to-day activities while still receiving regular treatment sessions.

Aftercare Support

Recovery from addiction doesn’t end with the completion of a rehab program. Aftercare is crucial for long-term sobriety, which is why we provide ongoing support through recovery groups, continued therapy sessions, and check-ins to help individuals navigate the challenges of a drug-free life.

Educational Workshops and Life Skills Training

Part of our comprehensive approach includes educating individuals about the nature of addiction and equipping them with life skills that are vital for maintaining sobriety. These workshops help strengthen the personal development and resilience needed to resist future temptations.

At Healthy Life Recovery, we understand that each journey to recovery is unique. We are committed to providing a supportive, nurturing environment where individuals can heal and find a new path forward, free from addiction. Contact us today to learn more about our programs.

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