From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
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, particularly in the 1970s in North America. In the 2000s, it is widely used as a recreational drug in South Africa.
Effects can include euphoria, drowsiness, reduced heart rate, reduced respiration, increased sexual arousal (aphrodisia), and paresthesias (numbness of the fingers and toes). Bigger doses can bring about respiratory depression, slurred speech, headache, and photophobia (pain in the eyes when exposed to light).
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 other anticonvulsants.
Quaaludes became increasingly popular as a recreational drug in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The drug was used during sexual activity because of heightened sensitivity and lowered inhibition coupled with relaxation and euphoria.
The drug was often used by people who went dancing at glam rock clubs in the early 1970s and at discos in the late 1970s; however, it was no easy task to learn how to dance on Quaaludes and balance oneself properly while wearing platform shoes. One slang term for Quaaludes was disco biscuits. In the mid 1970s, there were special bars in Manhattan called juice bars that only served non-alcoholic drinks that catered to people who liked to dance on methaqualone.
The drug was more tightly regulated in Britain under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and in the U.S. from 1973. It was withdrawn from many developed markets in the early 1980s (in 1982 in the United States), being made a Schedule I drug in the U.S. in 1984.
Smoking methaqualone, either by itself or as an adulterant added to various legal and illegal smoking mixtures, gained popularity in the U.S. among a few during the mid-1970s. 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 can lead to emphysema and other chronic lung disorders, most notably talcosis.
Commonly known as Mandrax, M-pills buttons, or smarties, it is not taken orally but is crushed and mixed in a pipe with marijuana. Methaqualone is one of the most commonly used hard drugs in South Africa. The low price (South African Rand 30 R average, which is about $4 of methaqualone together with the ready availability of cheap, low-grade marijuana make it (in addition to methamphetamine and temazepam) the preferred hard drug of the low-income section of South African society.)