Quaaludes were once a commonly prescribed sedative medication. They have long since been discontinued, with any continued production being made illegal. Nevertheless, Quaaludes continue to be abused, and their abuse presents several risks, including overdose and serious withdrawal symptoms.
What Are Quaaludes?
Methaqualone, also know by its brand name Quaalude, is a central nervous system depressant that has been used as both a sedative and a hypnotic drug. 2
Americans began using Quaaludes in the 1960s for the treatment of insomnia and anxiety, and they began to be abused recreationally in the 1970s and 1980s. 1 Their domestic production and prescription was banned in 1984 in response to their growing notoriety as a drug with profound abuse potential and rampant recreational use. 2 Even though they are now classified as a Schedule I drug, they can still be purchased on the black market.
When first released on the market, Quaaludes were highly effective in the management of insomnia, and little thought was given to their risk of being abused. However, by 1970, there was clear evidence of widespread abuse due to the euphoric effects Quaalude users enjoyed.
Around this time, researchers also began to document the existence of a number of withdrawal symptoms that dependent individuals experienced when they stopped using the drug. 3
Addiction can develop quickly, and users may have trouble quitting either because of the withdrawal symptoms or due to their becoming used to living in a sedated state. 4
Effects and Potential Dangers
Withdrawal symptoms include insomnia, hallucinations, seizures, and tremors.
Quaaludes are taken in pill form. Side effects of using the drug include relaxation, reduction of anxiety, and feelings of euphoria. 4
Potential dangers of using Quaaludes include: 4
- Slurred speech.
- Muscle incoordination.
- Stupor or coma.5
- Nystagmus (repetitive, uncontrolled eye movements). 5
These dangers pose a higher risk to users who take the drug for extended periods of time. But even first-time users can suffer some of these side effects.
In addition, withdrawal symptoms from Quaaludes can present several risks to users, including:
- Pulse rate greater than 100 beats per minute.
- Hand tremors.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Visual, tactile, or auditory hallucinations.
- Grand mal seizures. 5
An inpatient Quaalude recovery center can provide medical supervision for withdrawal and help to reduce the dangers of Quaalude detox and withdrawal. Some of the dangers associated with Quaalude withdrawal – such as seizures – may be managed throughout the duration of detox with other, non-Quaalude sedative medications.
Quaalude Overdose Signs
If you or someone in your life has an addiction to Quaaludes, you should be aware of the signs of overdose. A regular user can develop a tolerance, which may lead him or her to take increasingly higher doses to achieve the desired effect – increasing the risk of overdose.
Overdose symptoms include: 4
- Drowsiness and muscle incoordination.
- Deep sleep.
- Loss of reflexes.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Depressed breathing or full respiratory arrest.
- Heart failure.
Overdose is more likely to occur if the user takes Quaaludes while drinking alcohol because both substances are central nervous system depressants. Together, alcohol and Quaaludes create a synergistic effect, increasing the effects of both drugs and the risk of death due to loss of breathing.
After an Overdose
Helpline Information to get more information about Quaalude recovery programs in your area. Get help before an overdose or other serious consequences occur.
Once the person arrives at the hospital, doctors will begin Quaalude overdose rehab and recovery treatment. Treatment for the overdose will depend on the amount of the drug ingested and the amount of time that has passed since the person took the pills.
The doctor will likely insert a nasogastic canula (tube through the nose to the stomach) to begin gastric lavage (stomach pumping) and infusion of activated charcoal. Medications to minimize the risk of seizure and convulsions will be administered as the person recovers.
A doctor or other substance abuse treatment clinician will be able to discuss treatment options for individuals abusing Quaaludes or similar drugs.
If the person is regularly abusing Quaaludes, is abusing more than one substance simultaneously, or has additional medical or mental health issues, inpatient or residential treatment will likely be recommended. Types of inpatient treatment include:
- Standard inpatient. Inpatient or residential treatment centers usually offer 30-day,60-day, and 90-day treatment programs. Treatment involves 24-hour care and supervision that begins with detoxification. Health providers may administer medications, if appropriate, to relieve withdrawal symptoms. Once detoxification is complete, Quaalude users will most likely be advised to seek individual or group counseling, which address the underlying reasons for Quaalude abuse. Many programs also help users develop an aftercare plan that includes follow-up care to help prevent relapse.
- Executive or CEO. These inpatient programs offer detox, individual and group counseling, and aftercare planning. But they include extra amenities for working professionals, including meeting rooms, Internet access, and use of cell phones.
- Luxury. Luxury programs offer the same services as standard inpatient programs and also include extra amenities. However, instead of features designed for working professionals, these centers offer activities such as swimming and horseback riding, as well as holistic treatments such as yoga, massage therapy, nutritional therapy, and gourmet meals.
Some questions to ask when seeking an inpatient Quaalude recovery center include:
- How much does it cost, and how will you pay for it? The cost will depend on many factors, including where the program is located, how long you stay, and whether you have insurance. Many programs take private insurance or government-sponsored programs such as Medicare or Medicaid. If you don’t have insurance, ask about payment plans or sliding scale fees. You can also finance your recovery.
- What training and credentials do the staff have? Look for a program that has experience treating sedative addiction and medical and treatment staff who are certified in addiction medicine or licensed therapists.
- What is the program’s philosophy? Program approaches can vary from religious-based to evidence-based to 12-step and everything in between. Find out what a program’s approach is and make sure it matches your own values.
- Where is it located? Some people prefer to travel away from their current environment, which could be filled with triggers to use. Other people like to stay close to family and friends so it’s easier for them to be involved in treatment.
If the level of abuse is relatively mild or intermittent, or if the perso’s work will not allow a leave of absence, outpatient treatment might be the best option. Outpatient treatment offers a similar range of therapeutic approaches as inpatient treatment but for only a few hours a day versus 24-hour care.
Find a Recovery Program
Recovering from Quaalude overdose or addiction requires therapy and treatment. Whether you are looking for an inpatient or outpatient program for yourself or a loved one, we can help.
Call 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information to speak to a treatment support representative about recovery options and insurance coverage. If you don’t have insurance, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) toll-free helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
. Rhodan, M. What Are Quaaludes and Why Did Bill Cosby Use Them? Newsweek, July 7, 2015.
. Epatko, L. What are Quaaludes, and how do they work? PBS NewsHour, July 7, 2015.
. Pascarelli, E. F. (1973). Methaqualone abuse: The quiet epidemic. Journal of the American Medical Association, 224(11), 1512-1514.
. Kuhn, C., Swartzwelder, S. and Wilson, W. (2014). Buzzed: The Straight Facts About the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders fifth edition.Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.