Backdoor Pharmacist
Can’t Disco Dance

July 17, 2013 | Backdoor Pharmacist

If you don’t know what a Quaalude is, find an old person — anyone who would have been in their teens and twenties in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Ask them about “ludes.” If you can’t, read on.

The chemical name for Quaalude (“kway-lewd”) is methaqualone (“meth-uh-kway-loan”). Methaqualone and its most common chemical relatives etaqualone and methylmethaqualone are all quinazolinone depressants. The -qualones are highly addictive sedative/hypnotics and muscle relaxants. They act on the same receptors as alcohol. Methylmethaqualone has another danger in that, despite being depressant, it causes seizures at far lower doses than its relatives. You don’t want to be shelling out thousands at some shady internet vendor that could vanish any second, so don’t do it regularly. I’ve seen many a “weekend warrior” become a “daily doser.”

Metha-, eta- and other -qualones are not barbiturates. They’re not benzodiazepines or thienodiazepines. They are quinazolinone derivatives, but their effects are much like being drunk or being on barbiturates. There are two deviations from this script — ludes’ much greater muscle relaxation and an aphrodisiac effect. That’s where they got the nicknames of “wallbangers” and “the heroin of lovers.”

Methaqualone is a classic example of how everyone we expect to protect us — our doctors, our pharmacists, our reporters, and our regulators — failed. The winners of the methaqualone debacle were the pharmaceutical companies that made them.

The methaqualone story starts in India. Scientists, looking for anti-malarial drugs, discover that their newest invention is a good sedative. In the wake of the thalidomide disaster (when a sedative turned out to mutate fetuses) and several high profile barbiturate overdoses, the industry was looking for a safe non-barbiturate sedative/hypnotic. Methaqualone fit the bill. In 1965, Mandrax (250 mg methaqualone, 25 mg antihistamine) was introduced with a massive advertising blitz in Europe.

By 1971, over 2 million prescriptions were being written in Britain alone. Anyone who wanted a good time found them just as appealing as the doctors. Shockingly enough, it was over-the-counter in many places. From 1960-1964, methaqualone was a huge source of ODs in Europe and Japan. Japan reported that 40% of OD patients in mental hospitals were on methaqualone. These countries made methaqualone prescription only and stemmed the tide.

In 1966, the FDA ruled, ignoring the experience in Europe and Japan, that methaqualone did not have any “evidence of abuse potential.” US doctors, just as eager to get a replacement for barbiturates, quickly began writing prescriptions. Sales skyrocketed and there were many happy shareholders.

By the 1970s, “ludes” or “sopers” were common. Glamorous press reports spreading the “heroin of lovers” nickname and “knowledge” that it was safe, helped establish it as the downer of choice for a generation.

There were whole “juice bars” in Manhattan that served no alcohol — dance clubs for people who were on ‘ludes. On a hot New York summer, you’d head down there in your ridiculous ‘70s garb. You’d roll up to get an ice cold virgin cocktail, pop a couple of ‘ludes and wait 15 minutes.

The sensation is acute, a sudden contentedness. It won’t compare to any other downer you’ve had. Fioricet 3 with Codeine is the closest, but there’s no way to get that unless you’re a hysterical woman. Before you write 500 emails because you think that’s misogynistic, it is. If you’re a man and you go in with tension headaches, you’ll get a prescription for Advil. If you’re female, you’ll get barbiturates or codeine or heck, let’s do both! Doctors inherently trust women and are more likely to prescribe powerful drugs. These are bittersweet dividends of sexism. But let’s get back to the disco drug.

The music begins to really flow and you feel your body tingle. These are called parathesias. The muscle relaxation comes out when you hit the dance floor. It lets you flail like an idiot and be ok with it. Then she’ll stumble up. You’re both ‘luding. You share a dance. When you touch her, when she touches you, the tingling becomes like teasing. Each brush makes your hair stand up on end. It was only a matter of time before you leave together, slamming into the walls and falling into a cab. Don’t worry. The cabbie seen it all before.

It took 11 years after the first suicide, 8 years after introduction into the US, and 4 years after American doctors finally noticed the stuff was addicting, that the FDA suddenly shot it to Schedule II. In 1984, it became completely banned. The DEA chief bragging that he finally stopped the epidemic. By 1965, it was clear that methaqualone was highly addictive. I don’t congratulate someone who doesn’t have a serious brain injury for noticing something that was obvious a decade ago. Thank God the regulators stepped in to help make cocaine the drug of the ‘80s.

This is the kicker. Cocaine comes along and here’s the rush of the ‘80s. After the hippie counterculture of the ‘60s failed, this is what is there. Capitalism’s anesthetization in a pill. Capitalism’s encouragement in a line. Soon you’ll raise a kid, you won’t tell them of how you met while struggling to stand straight, and then you’ll vote for Reagan.

Methaqualone, etaqualone, and methylmethaqualone now belong to the shadows of the internet and the slums of South Africa where it’s mixed in with HIV anti-retroviral drugs (don’t ask). Tantalizing bags of powder appear on transient websites. Clandestine chemists peddle their wares, sometimes under the full chemical name. No Pharma company now presses pills of it, only powder. Whatever pills you find are likely triple doses of Valium with fake stamps. The color of the powder is a white to off-white. It’s crumbly and can clump up, making dosing for insufflation difficult.

However, the oral dosages here are quite large. This gives you flexibility in weighing it out. I still recommend a milligram scale, however less accurate centigram or 0.001 gram scales can also do the job. 200mg is the threshold. Now some people react badly to -qualones, so take 200mg to see if it kills you. To really feel the effects you need to upgrade to at least 400mg. Add 100mg if you’re taking etaqualone. For methylmethaqualone, divide the methaqualone dosage by 10. Then slap yourself as hard as you can. I said before methylmethaqualone can cause seizures, it’s not fucking worth it you idiot. Oral administration is preferred but insufflation is also possible. It doesn’t sting as badly as some substances, it seems to tickle more than anything. If you’re railing it, divide your target oral dose by 10.

As it becomes easier to talk, the sedation will increase to a peak around 1 hour. The duration for methaqualone is 4-6 hours, the duration for etaqualone is 2-2.5 hours, the duration for methylmethaqualone is who knows because you lose track of time while you’re twitching away on the floor soaked in your own urine. The end is very sudden, a snap back into sobriety.

There is no pupil dilation or visuals to give you away. Symptoms are very much like being very drunk, minus the body load. There is no heaviness, no nausea. To get to where you will be on ludes with alcohol, you’ll be violently freshman-bathroom-interior-decorating, whether or not you’d like to. The strong lack of coordination advises you not be anywhere with stairs, near high falls, and or behind the wheels of a moving vehicle.

A drink may be fun, but the synergy of the two depressants may relax you enough to keep drinking until you OD. Overdoses feature nausea, vomiting, slowed breathing, confusion and potentially, death. That’s not fun for anyone. As doctors don’t expect methaqualone, and likely won’t have even heard of etaqualone, there are likely no tests. Try to describe -qualones as a barbiturate overdose but with more seizing.

Have fun; try not to die.