Methaqualone Abuse

In the 1970’s, methaqualone, better known under the brand name Quaalude, was a notoriously popular party drug nicknamed “disco biscuits.” Methaqualone was classified as a Schedule I controlled substance by the FDA in 1984, but it can still be illegally purchased from dealers who obtain the drug from overseas.

Understanding Methaqualone Abuse

According to PBS’s Frontline, methaqualone was “first developed in India in the 1950’s as an anti-malarial drug. By the mid-60’s, U.S. doctors began prescribing Quaalude as a non-addictive alternative to barbiturates.” Unfortunately, like with many new drugs, time revealed that methaqualone was just as addictive, and dangerous, as the barbiturate drugs it was supposed to replace.

Methaqualone—still commonly called Quaalude even though the brand name no longer exists—may no longer be the infamous party drug it once was, but it is still a drug of abuse. Users take it to self-medicate anxiety and insomnia, or combine it with alcohol to create a sleepy, half-drunk, half-high state. Because it can increase your libido and lower inhibitions, some users take it before having sex—although, ironically, methaqualone tends to cause impotence in men.

At higher doses, the effects of methaqualone can be terrifying. Users may be conscious, but unable to speak or move. For this reason it has been be used by rapists as a way of incapacitating victims, usually by drugging the victim’s drink.

Signs and Symptoms of Methaqualone Abuse

People who have taken methaqualone will likely appear highly intoxicated and drowsy, and they will have poor motor control. If they have taken too much (or were drugged by someone else) they may be unable to respond to you, even if they are awake and trying desperately to communicate.

Regular use of illegal drugs tends to change people in noticeable ways. They often begin to neglect their appearance, and to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. They may neglect responsibilities at school, work, or home. Financial problems usually follow, sometimes leading addicts to steal money or items they can sell for cash to buy drugs.

Dangers of Methaqualone Abuse

If you continue to abuse methaqualone, you will develop a tolerance that will force you to raise your dosage to unsafe amounts. According to a PBS article about the 1970’s popularity of Quaaludes, “overuse could lead to respiratory arrest, delirium, kidney or liver damage, coma, and death. As the abuse reached its peak, it was linked to overdoses, suicide attempts, injuries, and car accidents.”

People high on methaqualone are so relaxed and confident, they may feel perfectly capable of driving or engaging in any other activity, while in actuality, they are completely out of touch with their mental and physical state. As a 1973 Rolling Stone article puts it, “People who have taken enough quacks can fall down flights of stairs and not feel the bruises until the next day.”

Also, when it comes to methaqualone, your psychological tolerance for the euphoric and sedating effects of the drug builds more quickly than your body’s tolerance for the drug’s other effects, making overdose a greater and greater probability with every use. That little bit more you take to “get high,” may cause you to slip into a coma and stop breathing.

Who Abuses Methaqualone?

You may abuse methaqualone 1970s style, as a party drug. Or you may use it to self-medicate severe insomnia, or to remedy an undiagnosed anxiety or panic disorder. With sustained use, you will become psychologically and physically dependent, so that you suffer withdrawal symptoms whenever you try to cut down or quit.

Methaqualone withdrawal is quite similar to barbiturate withdrawal, which is not only unpleasant, but dangerous. You should never abruptly stop taking methaqualone; instead, slowly taper your dosage to avoid amplifying the following withdrawal symptoms:

  • tremors
  • difficulty sleeping
  • nightmares
  • agitation
  • hallucinations
  • high temperature
  • sweating
  • seizures

Methaqualone Addiction

Anyone who regularly abuses methaqualone can become addicted. Although it was introduced as a “safe” treatment for anxiety and insomnia, after a few years on the market, methaqualone was revealed to be just as addictive and dangerous as barbiturates and benzodiazapines. Due to the unusually high danger of overdose with this medication, it is important that addicts get help as soon as possible.

Am I Addicted to Methaqualone?

But maybe you aren’t ready to admit you have a problem with methaqualone. It’s time to take a good, honest look at your relationship to drugs.

The 12-step program Narcotics Anonymous lists the following questions in their publication, Am I an Addict?

  1. Do you ever use alone?
  2. Have you ever substituted one drug for another, thinking that one particular drug was the problem?
  3. Have you ever manipulated or lied to a doctor to obtain prescription drugs?
  4. Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to obtain drugs?
  5. Do you regularly use a drug when you wake up or when you go to bed?
  6. Have you ever taken one drug to overcome the effects of another?
  7. Do you avoid people or places that do not approve of you using drugs?
  8. Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?
  9. Has your job or school performance ever suffered from the effects of your drug use?
  10. Have you ever been arrested as a result of using drugs?
  11. Have you ever lied about what or how much you use?
  12. Do you put the purchase of drugs ahead of your financial responsibilities?
  13. Have you ever tried to stop or control your using?
  14. Have you ever been in a jail, hospital, or drug rehabilitation center because of your using?
  15. Does using interfere with your sleeping or eating?
  16. Does the thought of running out of drugs terrify you?
  17. Do you feel it is impossible for you to live without drugs?
  18. Do you ever question your own sanity?
  19. Is your drug use making life at home unhappy?
  20. Have you ever thought you couldn’t fit in or have a good time without drugs?
  21. Have you ever felt defensive, guilty, or ashamed about your using?
  22. Do you think a lot about drugs?
  23. Have you had irrational or indefinable fears?
  24. Has using affected your sexual relationships?
  25. Have you ever taken drugs you didn’t prefer?
  26. Have you ever used drugs because of emotional pain or stress?
  27. Have you ever overdosed on any drugs?
  28. Do you continue to use despite negative consequences?
  29. Do you think you might have a drug problem?

The number of questions you answer yes to isn’t as important as how you feel while considering your responses. Deep down, you know if you have a problem.

Methaqualone Addiction Treatment

Loosening the grip that addiction has on your life may not be easy, but taking the first step towards a healthier, happier life can be. All you have to do is ask for help.


Although the introductory phase of healing from substance abuse should be cleansing your body of addictive substances, it is never a good idea to abruptly stop taking methaqualone. You should slowly wean yourself off the drug according to medical guidance.


Addiction treatment programs offer a range of treatment modalities and approaches. These include:

Levels of care that vary depending on need– Inpatient, residential programs offer intensive healing where all day, every day, you are immersed in the recovery process. Outpatient day or night programs provide more flexibility, allowing patients to incorporate recovery into their daily lives.

Diverse treatment environments– There are addiction treatment programs in rural settings where nature becomes another therapeutic tool for healing. There are programs in big cities where outings to museums or other cultural experiences are integrated into the recovery experience.

Individual, group or family counseling– All treatment programs will include counseling, as it is one of the most effective substance abuse treatments available. Working with a therapist can help you develop more positive ways of coping, heal past trauma, and learn how to communicate more effectively with loved ones.

Holistic Therapies– Recovery isn’t just about healing the mind. You must also heal your body and spirit if you want to stay in recovery for the long term. Therapies such as yoga, mindfulness training, and art therapy can heal with a whole-person approach.