Drug and Alcohol

Quaaludes: Learn About This Old-School Tranquilizer & Why It’s Still Dangerous

What are Quaaludes? We look at this old-school tranquilizer made famous in The Wolf of Wall Street. Buying Quaaludes can be incredibly risky, too.

What are Quaaludes?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

July 13, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Quaaludes were big in the 1970s.

These prescription tranquilizers – the name “Quaalude” comes from “quiet interlude” – were used recreationally as party drugs. Their allure has hung around for a while as witnessed in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street but they’ve largely been displaced by benzodiazepines.

Like other central nervous system depressants, Quaaludes can have various side effects and risks. The enhanced inhibitory effects on the brain can lead to drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, and slowed breathing. High doses or misuse of Quaaludes can result in severe respiratory depression, coma, or even death.

In addition, the consequences of Quaaludes abuse can strain relationships, lead to social isolation, and result in problems at work or school.

Due to the potential for abuse and associated risks, the use of Quaaludes has been heavily regulated, and it is no longer available for legal, medical use in most countries. 

Stats About Quaaludes:

According to research by the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), 6% of Americans over 12 take prescription medicines each year. A prescription tranquilizer or sedative use disorder in the previous 12 months was expected to affect 2.2 million adults aged 12 or older in 2021 (or 0.8% of the population) to the Misuse of Prescription Drugs Research Report.

What Are Quaaludes?

Quaaludes are a sedative and hypnotic medication that was once widely used. The term "Quaalude" is a brand name for the drug methaqualone, developed in the 1960s by the pharmaceutical company Roussel Uclaf. Methaqualone is the active ingredient in Quaalude tablets.

Quaaludes gained popularity in the 1970s as a recreational drug due to its soothing and euphoric effects. It was often used as a party drug and became associated with that era's disco and club culture. The drug was known for its ability to induce relaxation, reduce anxiety, and produce a sense of well-being. It was also used as a sleep aid and muscle relaxant.

Due to its potential for abuse, addiction, and various associated health risks, Quaaludes was classified as a controlled substance in many countries. The United States, for example, classified it as a Schedule I controlled substance, indicating a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. This classification led to restrictions on its production, distribution, and use.

Quaaludes’ popularity as a recreational drug declined in the 1980s and 1990s as regulations became stricter and its availability decreased. Some of the common effects include drowsiness, dizziness, impaired coordination, slowed breathing, and memory loss. In high doses or when combined with other substances, Quaaludes can cause dangerous respiratory depression, coma, or even death.

How Do Quaaludes Work?

Quaaludes, or methaqualone, affect the brain by acting as a central nervous system depressant. 

Methaqualone is a drug that enhances the activity of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that helps regulate brain activity and has a calming effect on the central nervous system. 

Quaaludes boost inhibitory signals in the brain by promoting GABAergic neurotransmission and suppressing neuronal activity. This soothing effect results in calmness, less anxiety, and relaxed muscles.

Also, methaqualone interacts with dopamine receptors in the brain. By modulating dopamine activity, Quaaludes can produce a euphoric effect, contributing to their recreational use.

What are the Symptoms of Addiction to Quaaludes?

Quaaludes, also known as methaqualone, are a sedative-hypnotic medication commonly prescribed for sleep disorders and anxiety in the past. Here are some of the common symptoms of addiction to Quaaludes:

Quaaludes Addiction: Physical Symptoms

  • Drowsiness and lethargy: As a central nervous system depressant, quaaludes can cause extreme tiredness and a lack of energy in users

  • Slurred speech and impaired coordination: Quaaludes can impair motor function, making it difficult to coordinate movements and speak clearly.

  • Muscle weakness: Muscle tremors and weakness are typical symptoms

  • Headaches: Recurrent headaches or migraines may develop from prolonged usage of Quaaludes.

  • Nausea and Vomiting: Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal distress, including nausea and vomiting.

Quaaludes Addiction: Psychological Symptoms

  • Euphoria: Quaaludes can induce a sense of intense pleasure and relaxation, leading to a euphoric state.

  • Anxiety and irritability: When the effects of Quaaludes wear off, people could become more agitated and anxious, which can start a cycle of dependence.

  • Mood swings: Addicted individuals may exhibit rapid and unpredictable mood shifts.

  • Poor concentration and memory problems: Quaaludes can impair cognitive function, resulting in difficulties with concentration and memory.

Quaaludes Addiction: Behavioral Symptoms

  • Craving and seeking Quaaludes: A primary sign of addiction is a strong and persistent desire to obtain and use the drug.

  • Doctor shopping or illegal acquisition: Individuals may engage in deceptive behavior, such as visiting multiple doctors or obtaining Quaaludes illegally to ensure a steady drug supply.

  • Neglecting responsibilities: Addiction to Quaaludes can lead to neglect of personal, professional, and social obligations.

  • Financial problems: The cost of obtaining Quaaludes can contribute to financial difficulties, as addicted individuals may prioritize acquiring the drug over other essential expenses.

  • Withdrawal from social activities: As addiction progresses, individuals may withdraw from activities they once enjoyed in favor of drug use.

CTA background

We’re here to help you find your way

Would you like more information about quaaludes? Reach out today.

What are the Effects of Quaaludes Abuse?

The effects of Quaaludes abuse can be categorized into short-term and long-term effects:

Short-Term Effects of Quaaludes Abuse

  • Euphoria and relaxation: Quaaludes produce a sense of intense pleasure and relaxation, leading to euphoria. This effect is one of the primary reasons why individuals abuse the drug.

  • Sedation and drowsiness: Quaaludes are central nervous system depressants that slow down brain activity and induce sedation. Excessive drowsiness is a common short-term effect of Quaaludes abuse.

  • Impaired coordination and motor skills: Quaaludes can impair motor coordination, resulting in clumsiness, stumbling, and difficulty walking. 

  • Reduced inhibitions: Quaaludes can lower inhibitions and lead to risky behaviors, such as engaging in unsafe sexual activities or making impulsive decisions.

  • Memory problems and confusion: Methaqualone abuse can cause memory impairment and confusion, making it difficult to recall events or concentrate on tasks.

  • Nausea and vomiting: Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal disturbances, including nausea and vomiting, due to Quaaludes abuse.

Long-Term Effects of Quaaludes Abuse

  • Physical dependence and addiction: Quaaludes have a high potential for addiction. Prolonged abuse can lead to physical dependence, where the body adapts to the presence of the drug and requires it to function normally. Therefore, addiction to Quaaludes can have severe consequences for overall health and well-being.

  • Withdrawal symptoms: When a person dependent on Quaaludes abruptly stops using the drug, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These can include anxiety, insomnia, tremors, muscle aches, sweating, and even seizures. Quaaludes can be dangerous and should be medically supervised.

  • Cognitive impairments: Long-term abuse of Quaaludes can lead to persistent cognitive impairments, including difficulties with memory, attention, and problem-solving abilities.

  • Mental health issues: Quaaludes abuse can contribute to the development or exacerbation of mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, and psychosis.

  • Overdose: Taking high doses of Quaaludes increases the risk of overdose, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms of Quaaludes overdose may include extreme sedation, slowed or stopped breathing, loss of consciousness, and potential coma.

How Do Co-occurring Conditions Affect Quaaludes?

Co-occurring diseases, also known as dual diagnosis or comorbidity, refer to the presence of both a substance use disorder, such as addiction to Quaaludes, and one or more additional mental health disorders. Co-occurring diseases can have a significant impact on Quaaludes addiction and its treatment. 

Increased Vulnerability

Co-occurring mental health disorders can increase an individual's vulnerability to Quaalude addiction. Conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may contribute to the initiation or continuation of substance abuse as individuals attempt to self-medicate or alleviate symptoms.


Individuals with co-occurring mental health disorders may use Quaaludes as a form of self-medication to temporarily alleviate distressing symptoms. They may find that Quaaludes' sedating and calming effects provide relief from anxiety, insomnia, or emotional pain associated with their mental health condition. 

Interactions and Effects

Co-occurring mental health disorders can influence the effects of Quaaludes. For example, Quaaludes may exacerbate symptoms of depression or increase feelings of lethargy and low motivation. On the other hand, individuals with anxiety disorders may experience heightened sedation and relaxation effects, leading to an increased risk of dependence.

Impaired Treatment Response

Co-occurring mental health disorders can complicate the treatment of Quaalude addiction. Untreated or undertreated mental health conditions may interfere with the individual's ability to effectively engage in and respond to addiction treatment. It can also contribute to relapse if the underlying mental health issues are not addressed concurrently.

Integrated Treatment Approach

Effective treatment for co-occurring diseases requires an integrated approach that simultaneously addresses addiction and mental health disorders. Integrated treatment involves collaborating with healthcare professionals, such as addiction specialists and mental health professionals, to develop a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to the individual's needs.

Medication Considerations

Medication management becomes more complex when treating co-occurring diseases involving Quaalude addiction. Certain medications used to treat mental health disorders may interact with Quaaludes or increase the risk of misuse. Therefore, it is crucial for healthcare providers to carefully assess and monitor the individual's medication regimen to ensure safety and optimal outcomes.

Relapse Prevention

Individuals with co-occurring diseases may be at higher risk of relapse. Relapse prevention strategies should address addiction and mental health disorders to enhance long-term recovery. This may involve ongoing therapy, medication management, support groups, and developing healthy coping mechanisms to manage triggers and stressors associated with both conditions.

How Long Do Quaaludes Stay in the System?

Several variables, including the person's metabolism, dosage, frequency of use, and general health, might affect how long Quaaludes stay in the body.

Here are the approximate detection times for Quaaludes:

Blood Test for Quaaludes

Quaaludes can be detected in the blood for 1-2 days after use. 

Urine Test for Quaaludes

Quaaludes can be detected in urine longer than in blood. It is typically detectable for 5-7 days after the last use. Chronic and heavy users may have traces of the drug detectable for a slightly longer.

Saliva Test for Quaaludes

Quaaludes can be detected in saliva for a shorter period compared to urine. It is generally detectable for 1-2 days after use.

Hair Test for Quaaludes

Hair follicle tests can potentially detect Quaaludes significantly longer than other methods. The drug can be detected in hair for 90 days or even longer, depending on the length of the hair sample taken.

CTA background

We’re here to help you find your way

Do you have more questions about quaaludes? Reach out.

Treatment for Addiction to Quaaludes

Treatment for addiction to Quaaludes, or methaqualone, typically involves a comprehensive approach that addresses addiction's physical, psychological, and social aspects. Some of the commonly used treatment methods are:

Drug Detox

The first step in treating Quaaludes addiction is often drug detox, which involves safely managing withdrawal symptoms as the drug is cleared from the body. Medical supervision during detoxification is crucial to ensure the individual's safety and comfort. The process may involve gradually tapering off the drug or using medications to alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Inpatient rehabilitation programs provide intensive treatment in a residential setting. These programs typically last for 30 to 90 days and offer a structured environment with 24/7 medical and therapeutic support. Inpatient rehab focuses on detoxification, counseling, behavioral therapies, and developing relapse prevention strategies.

Outpatient Rehabilitation

Outpatient rehabilitation programs allow individuals to receive treatment at home. These programs are more flexible and suitable for those with less severe addiction or significant external responsibilities. Outpatient treatment involves counseling, group therapy, educational sessions, and regular check-ins with healthcare professionals.

Individual Counseling

Individual counseling, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), is a key component of addiction treatment. It helps individuals identify and address the underlying causes of their addiction, develop coping strategies, and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with drug use.

Motivational interviewing techniques can also be used to enhance motivation and commitment to recovery.

Group Therapy

Group therapy provides a supportive environment where individuals can share their experiences, gain insights, and receive encouragement from peers going through similar challenges. It can help individuals build social connections, develop interpersonal skills, and receive feedback from others who have successfully overcome addiction.


While no specific medications are approved for treating Quaaludes addiction, certain medications may be used to manage associated symptoms or co-occurring mental health disorders. 

Aftercare Support

Recovery from Quaaludes addiction is an ongoing process, and aftercare support is essential to maintain sobriety. Aftercare programs may include outpatient counseling, support groups (12-step programs like Narcotics Anonymous), sober living homes, and continued access to medical and mental health services.

Quaaludes Addiction is Serious & Potentially Lethal. The Forge Recovery Center Will Help

There’s one more danger to Quaaludes addiction: counterfeit pills. Quaaludes are hard to get these days, and any pill advertised by a dealer or a seller as a Quaalude is likely to be another drug. Sometimes that other drug is fentanyl. Prescription drug abuse is incredibly risky.

The Forge Recovery Center provides comprehensive treatments that help people overcome their Quaaludes addiction. Our highly experienced nurses, therapists, and counselors work together to offer customized treatment for our clients’ specific needs.

In addition, we also provide robust aftercare and counseling services. The Forge is committed to helping patients recover and lead a healthy, sober life. If you’d like to learn more about our Quaaludes treatment program, reach out to The Forge Recovery Center today.

Newsletter banner

Sign up for our newsletter

Stay updated with the latest news, resources, and updates from The Forge Recovery Center.