Methaqualone: Physiological effects

Last modified: Saturday, 20. June 2009 - 12:49 pm

Methaqualone is also classified as a sedative-hypnotic drug. It reaches peak levels in the bloodstream one to two hours after ingestion, and the user can feel its effects four to eight hours after taking the drug. Like alcohol, methaqualone is a CNS depressant. It is called a depressant because it decreases neurotransmitter levels in the brain and central nervous system. Neurotransmit-ters are CNS chemicals that allow signals to travel between neurons, or brain cells, and regulate thought processes, behavior, and emotion. Due to its depressant action on the central nervous system, methaqualone suppresses coughs and spasms.
Methaqualone also affects involuntary body functions that are controlled by the autonomic nervous system, lowering blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse and bringing about a state of deep relaxation. Though thought to be an aphrodisiac because it lowers inhibitions, methaqualone, as a CNS depressant, usually impairs sexual performance, inhibiting arousal and climax.
Harmful side effects
Methaqualone abusers rapidly build up a tolerance to the drug, and need increasingly larger doses to achieve the same physical and Mental effects. However, the user’s body and nervous system do not build up a resistance to the drug at the same rate. For this reason, tolerance can easily lead to unintentional overdose as the central nervous system is overwhelmed and shut down by increased doses of the drug. Coma and death can result. Ingestion of more than 800 mg of methaqualone in an adult and 150 mg in a child is considered toxic. The average lethal oral dose is 8-20 grams (100-200 mg/kg), and coma can occur after ingestion of 2.4 grams, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM) Hazardous Substance Database. However, methaqualone can cause coma or death at lower levels if it is taken with another CNS depressant such as alcohol. Because methaqualone is a street drug of varying quality, the rate at which tolerance progresses depends on the strength of the product. In addition, dangerous and even fatal delays in proper treatment can occur when health care personnel do not know what other substances to consider.
Reported side effects of methaqualone include gastrointestinal distress (nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea), headache, chills, sweating, irregular heartbeat, slurred speech, skin rash and itching, seizures, and fatigue. Because methaqualone induces sleep, there is a danger of users vomiting in their sleep and choking to death.
Methaqualone affects muscle movement and proper functioning of nerve sensation. Users experience paresthesia, which is a numb tingling, or “pins and needles” sensation, most commonly in the fingers and face. Individuals who take heavy doses of methaqualone also have a heightened pain threshold. The coordination of brain and body becomes disconnected, and nerve signals are slowed or stopped on their way to the brain’s command center. While under the influence of methaqualone, users may hurt themselves without realizing it.
Methaqualone also causes ataxia, or uncontrolled muscle twitching and movement. Users are sometimes referred to as “wallbangers” because they can appear as though they have lost control of their bodies, and may also repeatedly run into things for lack of feeling the painful effects. This side effect, combined with the impaired judgment and lowered inhibitions that accompany with methaqualone use, can result in serious injury, accidents, and death.
Driving or operating heavy machinery is particularly dangerous for anyone under the influence of methaqualone due to ataxia and slowed reflexes. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, of the 246 methaqualone-related deaths reported between 1971 and 1981, one-third of the deaths caused by trauma were associated with auto accidents.
Long-term health effects
Liver damage can result from long-term abuse of methaqualone or from ingestion of heavily adulterated methaqualone. The liver is responsible for metabolizing, or processing, drugs in the body, and impurities in the drug can cause irreversible damage to the organ.
Peripheral neuropathy, or damage to the nerves of the extremities (hands and feet) is also associated with methaqualone abuse. Typically this disorder, which is characterized by numbness in the hands and feet, reverses itself after abuse has stopped, but it has been reported to last up to five months in some long-term methaqualone abusers.
Methaqualone passes through to breast milk in lactating women. Animal studies have shown the drug to cause birth defects when used during pregnancy.

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