What is Quaalude and is the drug dangerous?

A QUAALUDE is a pill which works as a sedative and hypnotic drug.

In the UK it’s also known as Mandrax and became popular in the 1970s – with some people using it for anxiety and stress.


The drug was called Mandrax (or known as “Mandies”) in the UK

People usually take it in tablet form, but hard users are known to liquefy it and inject it into their veins.

The drug was first synthesised in India in 1951 by Indra Kishore Kacker and Syed Hussain Zaheer.

In years gone by, it’s been revealed that the drugs were popular with a host of celebrities.

Notably Richard Carpenter was believed to have been addicted to it.

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In the late 1970s Carpenter, who had found fame singing with his sister Karen in The Carpenters, suffered from insomnia, panic attacks and depression and became addicted to Quaaludes.

David Bowie’s song Time references “Quaaludes and red wine” while Frank Zappa speaks of “Quaalude moonlight”.

Here we take a look at the drug, what they are, how they work and if they are dangerous.

What is Quaalude? 

It has been banned in the US for more than 30 years.

In Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street film, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character goes on a Quaalude binge, where he can barely speak and can’t even walk.

The drug was called Mandrax (or known as “Mandies”) in the UK and both here and the US it was used in the 1960s to treat insomnia and anxiety.

But the drug quickly became misused and was easily available in the US where it earned the nickname “Disco biscuits”.

By 1984 the drugs were classified as class-B in the UK – which makes the production and distribution illegal.

How does Quaalude work?

Justin Gass, author of the book Quaaludes (Drugs: The Straight Facts) now a professor of neurosciences at the Medical University of South Carolina, said the drug gave a “really powerful high” with the effects lasting up to six hours.

The drug was particularly dangerous when mixed with alcohol, leading users to fall asleep but never to wake up again.

According to Gass, Quaaludes have similar effects to the modern day Rohypnol, acting to erase memory and is a muscle relaxant.

They are a mild sedative and can include alcohol and Valium.

They work by binding gamma-aminobutyric acid receptors (GABAA) in the central nervous system.

This then results in increased signals to the brain.

Is Quaalude dangerous?

Taking any drug is dangerous – especially if you take too many.

If you take Quaaludes then you’ll likely experience symptoms such as a reduced heart rate, drowsiness and respiration.

The drug itself is highly addicted so prolonged use could result in substance abuse.

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If you overdose on the drug, this could cause a coma, or in the worst case scenario, death.

Many underground labs still manufacture the pill, and the drugs are still used in some parts of South Africa and India.

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