Note: NSFW and some topics discussed are not suitable for all ages
Most of us have come to the depressing realization that Bill Cosby is likely a serial rapist and predator of aspiring actresses. Dozens of accusers claim that Cosby drugged and raped them after being lured into his residence under false pretenses. The circumstantial and anecdotal evidence is damning, and you probably know that he admitted in a recently released deposition to acquiring Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to women. Why would this be Cosby’s drug of choice and how does it affect people? We need to understand its origins and applications to find out.
Quaalude is one of many generic terms for methaqualone, which was originally developed as an anti-malarial drug in 1951. It was repurposed as a sleep aid, and quickly became a popular recreational drug in the 70’s and 80’s due to its hypnotic and euphoric side effects. Methaqualone was so pervasive that at one point its usage was second only to marijuana. Some of you may be familiar with the dramatization of Quaalude abuse from Leonardo Dicaprio’s performance in The Wolf of Wall Street.
However, what likely interested Cosby was methaqualone’s effectiveness at treating insomnia. Marketed as a safer alternative to barbiturates, Quaaludes are a powerful sedative and muscle relaxant. The drug is a central nervous system depressant (like alcohol) that increases specific receptor activity in your brain. This leads to decreased heart rate and blood pressure, slowed breathing, and general relaxation. In other words, take Quaaludes and you will fall asleep.
That is exactly why they were co-opted as a date rape drug; it made victims pass out quickly, and often times wake up without complete recollection of what happened during their sleep. As you might have suspected, the accusers’ accounts of Cosby’s aggressions are consistent with the effects of taking Quaaludes. What is also consistent is the manner in which Cosby allegedly drugged the women, as Methaqualone’s effects are exacerbated by alcohol.
Cosby maintains that any sexual relations with his accusers were consensual, along with any consumption of Quaaludes. The production of methaqualone in the United States was eventually halted in 1984, and more modern, safer versions of sleep aids are now found in medications like Ambien and Lunesta.
Please write to the Science ACEs if you would like to know more about the development and biological effects of methaqualone. Remember you can always tweet or email us!