Drug Effects - Methaqualone
Methaqualone was introduced into the pharmaceutical market as
non- addictive ‘sleeping pills’ in 1965. It was listed in the US
Federal Register of March 1966 as an approved sedative-hypnotic
under the trade name Quaalude. The abuse potential of
methaqualone soon became apparent, resulting in the drug being
listed in the 1971 United Nations (UN) Convention on
Psychotropic Substances. It was subsequently banned in most UN
member countries. Methaqualone is currently listed in the UN
Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
Methaqualone is the synthetic drug of choice among South
African drug users. Methaqualone represents more than 60 per
cent of all drugs seized on the street and that are submitted to
the National Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) of the South
African Police Service. In 2002, a total of 6 064 methaqualone-related
cases involving more than three million dosage units were
submitted to the FSL.
Methaqualone was introduced into the South African
pharmaceutical market under the trade name Mandrax, a
formulation containing methaqualone (250 mg) and diphenhydramine
hydrochloride (25 mg). Following the identification of its abuse
potential, methaqualone and its isomers were removed from the
legal market in 1971. Methaqualone is currently regarded as an
Undesirable Dependence-Producing Substance and is listed in Part
III of Schedule 2 of the South African Drugs and Drug
Trafficking Act, 1992 (Act No 140 of 1992).
The methaqualone seized in South Africa comes from the
Middle-East, South and Central Asia, South Africa and other
countries in Southern Africa. The product is sold in South
Africa as tablet formulations, usually in combination with the
antihistamine diphenhydramine and sometimes with diazepam.
Methaqualone is highly addictive. The abuse of this drug
gives rise to a barbiturate-type dependence. In South Africa,
methaqualone is often mixed with cannabis and smoked as witpyp,
that is, white pipe.
The effects of methaqualone
The sought-after effects of this drug are -
- relief of tension, mental stress, and anxiety; and
- relief of the side-effects of over-stimulation or
withdrawal symptoms associated with other drugs.
The possible short-term and long-term effects of this drug
are similar to the effects of other CNS depressants. The effects
include a reduction of mental activity, cardiac and respiratory
depression, a growing tolerance to the drug, and psychological
and physical dependence on the drug.
Laboratory research has revealed that the majority of the
dosage units of this drug on the South African market contain
notable quantities of the precursor chemical toluidine.
Toluidine is reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen (that is,
a substance that can cause cancer) according to the Ninth Report
on Carcinogens (PB2000-107509, 2000).
Van Zyl, E.F. The synthesis and Analysis of Methaqualone and
some Positional and Structural Isomers Thereof. M.Sc (Chemistry)
Terminology and Information on Drugs, Revised Edition, United
Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, New York,
Merck Index, 13th Edition, Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse
Station NJ, 2001.
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