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Methaqualone chemical structure
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Methaqualone is a sedative drug which is similar in effect to barbiturates, a general CNS depressant. It was used in the 1960s and 1970s as an anxiolytic, for the treatment of insomnia, and as a sedative and muscle relaxant. It has also been used illegally as a recreational drug, commonly known as Quaaludes, particularly in the 1970s in North America. In the 2000s, it is widely used as a recreational drug in South Africa.
An overdose can cause delirium, convulsions, hypertonia, hyperreflexia, vomiting, renal insufficiency, coma, and death through cardiac or respiratory arrest. It resembles barbiturate poisoning but with increased motor difficulties and a lower incidence of cardiac or respiratory depression. Toxicity is treated with diazepam and sometimes an anticonvulsant.
Illegal use as a recreational drug
Quaaludes became increasingly popular as a recreational drug during the 1960s, and during the disco club scene in the 1970s. The drug was more tightly regulated in Britain under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and in the U.S. from 1973. With its addictive nature clear, it was withdrawn from many developed markets in the 1980s, being made a Schedule I drug in the US in 1984.
Smoking methaqualone, either alone or as an adulterant added to various legal and illegal smoking mixtures, gained popularity in the United States during the mid 1970s. When smoked, methaqualone gives the user an immediate trance-like euphoria that quickly wears off. Because the various binders and inert ingredients that were contained in the pill form were toxic when smoked, this practice was roundly decried by the medical community as a serious health risk. Smoking methaqualone pills leads to emphysema and other chronic lung disorders.
Commonly known as Mandrax, it is not taken orally but is crushed and mixed in a pipe (or the neck of a broken bottle) with marijuana. Mandrax has become a major problem and is one of the most commonly abused hard drugs in South Africa. The low price of methaqualone together with the ready availability of cheap, low-grade marijuana means it (in addition to crystal meth) is the preferred hard drug of the low-income section of South African society.
Since methaqualone is no longer legally produced, illicit manufacture either in India, or in South Africa itself or other African countries produces methaqualone for the South African market.
- van Zyl EF. A survey of reported synthesis of Methaqualone and some positional and structural isomers. Forensic Science International (2001) 122: 142-149.
- Hypnotic drugs
- Methaqualone (Quaalude) Synthesis by Rhodium. General information and description of Methaqualone's synthesis plus many references
- The Meth Epidemic Frontline (US TV series)discusses quaaludes as part of the history of methamphetamine