It was the end of an era. In 1990, the American pharmaceutical firm Rorer Group Inc. was sold for $3.14 billion to Rhone-Poulenc S.A.
We wonder how many of the counter-culture entrepreneurs who put Rorer on the map through clandestine sales back in the day even got so much as a “Thank You!” note.
The product, of course, was Quaaludes, or simply known as ‘Ludes.
First synthesized by researchers in India in 1951, and ultimately outlawed in the U.S. in 1982, Rorer's ride with methaqualone was certainly an interesting one.
In business since 1910, Rorer's fortunes first shot up with their creation of Maalox, the household antacid staple from the fifties. Like many companies of their type, Rorer would also manufacture, package and distribute pharmaceuticals created by others. By 1965, Rorer was licensed to press methaqualone powder into tablets bearing the memorable '714' identifier. Later, Lemmon Pharmaceuticals Inc. was licensed and began production as well.
Prescribed originally as a sedative and muscle relaxant, “mother's little helpers” went mainstream, celebrated in song by the Rolling Stones. It was also used to treat insomnia. Sales for the intended users were respectable, but forces beyond the combined imagination of Big Pharma and Big Brother were about to conspire to put Rorer on the map!
Millions of bottles of tablets that had been sold sat quietly, awaiting discovery by curious, liberated teens and young adults. By early 1967, the mainstream media started spreading the message of personal liberation. The Summer of Love began. Tune in. Turn on. Drop out.
Of course ‘Ludes weren't alone - people began turning on in all sorts of ways. New tribes formed, with new rituals and sacraments. Stoners baked and chilled. Acid eaters tripped. 'Ludes became popular with people who liked to dance - vertically or otherwise.
During the Summer of Love the price of sex was reduced to free. Hemlines were raised. Bras were banned. These were new and exciting times!
And conveniently, our favorite party favors were scored, so splitting a tab with a friend was easy. The sharing of this sacrament lead to the horizontal mambo more often than not.
And so it went through the '70s. Hippies, bikers, musicians, artists, seekers, adventurers, poets... what once had been the fringe, the counter-culture, was growing, and uniting around a new, guiding principle:
Better Living Through Chemistry
Yet as the parties reached fever pitch, in the glam rock clubs, and in the discos, and in the dorms, the forces of Evil were conspiring to turn out the lights and let the mirrored balls stop spinning.
Trace the lineage of the DEA back to Henry J. Anslinger, that great demonizer of Marijuana (Reefer Madness et. al.). The Federal Bureau of Narcotics' Buzz-kill Baton was passed to the DEA in 1973. For some, this was the cruelest trick ever by President 'Tricky Dick' Nixon. The sound of goose-stepping jackboots echo in the halls of the White Hosue still, no doubt.
With their shiny, new goon squad, the Feds now had a plan to bring quick end to the enjoyment of any substances not approved: Outlaw anything not regulated and taxed.
Beyond tobacco and alcohol - popular drugs with well-established power bases - recreational drugs were outlawed, many with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Methaqualone dodged the bullet until 1982 in the US. Production from Rorer, and later Lemmon continued for a time, but as their legal sales channels started to wither, they slowed and then stopped production. Methaqualone was last produced legally in South Africa in 1989, under the name “Mandrake”.
'Ludes, legal elsewhere were smuggled in from Mexico and Columbia, while bootleg tabs were available for a time here in the US. But by the '90s the public's taste had shifted, so even these producers switched to newer drugs with higher demand.
By the end of the millennium, the disco ball was still. The Quaalude party was over.
Or was it?
In 2010, reminiscing with buds from back in the day, we started telling our tales of Quaalude-fueled fun. From that humble conversation, our Quaalude memorabilia business was born. With our website online, we began to reach a broader audience - and they began to reach back! We added these Quaalude stories to ours and our illegal smile grew a little bit wider each day. And occasionally we would hear rumors of clandestine pockets of production. Nice to think that someone out there was keeping the tradition alive, but nothing further would develop.
Then we received a mysterious package
The sender claimed the contents to be methaqualone. Official testing confirmed the formula. Our consumption of the remaining evidence confirmed that the effect was just as we remembered! That afternoon in 2014, the Summer of Love returned, just for us. If you'd like to learn the details of this later-day Quaalude story, simply subscribe to our newsletter.
We wistfully ship our authentic reproduction Quaalude bottle to you empty. Customer messages often start with "From the moment I held the bottle in my hand..." and then launch into another amazing, memorable narrative.
So until they legalize it, or unless they invent time travel, let our Quaalude Memorabilia Merchandise take you back to your better days!
Peace and Love.