Flashback Friday: Everything You Wanted To Know About Quaaludes

From the October, 1980 edition of High Times comes a portrait of a controversial pill that defined an era.
High Times/ Todd Gray

Before Bill Cosby admitted to drugging women with quaaludes and allergy meds, quaaludes were a staple of the American recreational drug scene, one that “everyone remembers fondly.” It’s even been called an “icon of the 1970s,” before it was discontinued in 1985—in part because of its widespread illegal recreational use. In the October, 1980 issue of High Times, we featured quaaludes as a centerfold and discussed why they were called everything from a dangerous downer to an aphrodisiac.

Q. Are Quaaludes (methaqualone) really the ultimate love drug?

A. Different strokes for different folks, really. A lot of people do ‘ludes to get high, lower their inhibitions and go to town. A lot of other people use grass, booze and fast cars for the same thing. Since lots of people expect to get horny behind ‘ludes, more often than not they do. But there are always some people who use the Quaalude euphoria as an excuse to act out pent-up hostilities or self-pity and that gets decidedly antiaphrodisiacal. And there are always some people for whom the drug euphoria becomes an end in itself, and these folks will tend to prefer getting high to making love. Basically no, sexual arousal is not a specific pharmacological property of methaqualone.

Q. Are Quaaludes as addictive as barbiturates?

A. As with reds and Tuies, regular ‘ludes users do tend to develop a tolerance to the euphoria and need progressively higher doses to get suitably stoned. But unlike barbiturates, ‘ludes don’t tend to promote heavy withdrawal symptoms—craving, convulsions, cramps—when a moderate user gives them up. Most people who do ‘ludes can voluntarily and independently kick their dose down from, say once a day to twice a week, without anything like the trouble they’d have with barbiturates.

People who get strung out on ‘ludes to the point where they’re socially dysfunctional will need help kicking the habit. The Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic detox center in San Francisco switches heavy ‘ludes junkies to phenobarbital, a far less euphoric trank, for a standard ten-day step-down kick; they could probably step them down just as easily with methaqualone itself, detox chief Dr. Daryl Inaba says, but the euphoria would probably undermine their determination to kick at all.

Q. How safe are bootleg ’ludes?

A. Alas; the boot ‘lude scene has been rendered entirely unsafe this year with the appearance on the streets of “Valium ‘ludes.” These are counterfeit ‘ludes containing massive amounts of diazepam, the active principal in Valium. People who’ve been burned with these things typically experience vomiting, prolonged sleep, hours of general spaciness on awakening and amnesia for the whole wretched, ugly episode. People who pop these weird diazepam boots along with real ‘ludes in the same mouthful stand a substantial risk of going into coma, respiratory depression and dying. Contrary to common street rumor; there’s really no dependable way to tell one of these killer boots from a real ‘lude by checking the pill markings, size or weight of the tabs. Bootleg Quaaludes are simply not a safe deal anymore.

Q. Well, how do you tell for sure if you’ve got real pharmaceutical ’ludes?

A. Your best shot is to get them on prescription, and even then it gets confusing. The William H. Rorer Company of Pennsylvania used to put out Rorer 714s. Then last year they sold the copyright to the Lemmon Company of Pennsylvania, who currently produce Lemmon 714s. But now Lemmon says it’s about to change the name of the drug itself from Quaalude to Mequin, so God knows what ‘ludes will look like a year from now.

Q. What are ’ludes supposed to be good for, anyway?

A. Their official indication in the PDR is to promote sleep for hard-core insomniacs and to promote “daytime sedation.” However almost everyone we know who’s ever done the recommended therapeutic “sleep” dose— 150 to 300 milligrams, representing a half or a whole Lemmon 714—has reported that the conscious euphoria is far more interesting than plain old tranked-out dreamless sleep. Methaqualone was supposedly developed as a nonbarbiturate sedative with a low addiction factor; and it’s still billed that way. However; very few hospitals or clinics issue ‘ludes routinely anymore, and fewer and fewer GPs are writing ‘scrips for them.

Q. If High Times isn’t that enthusiastic about ’ludes, why are you running such a snazzy Quaalude centerfold?

A. It got you to read this, right? Now you know everything you ever wanted to know about ‘ludes, and maybe a little more than you ever wanted to know.

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