South Africa is the largest abuser of Mandrax in the world.
Mandrax has initially been considered a miracle drug for sleeplessness, high blood pressure and anxiety attacks. At first, it was not considered a habit-forming drug. However, eventually, it came to light that Mandrax has serious side effects when taken with alcohol and dagga when people started breaking into pharmacies to get hold of it. Mandrax was then banned worldwide because of its misuse.
The active ingredient of Mandrax , a synthetic drug, is Methaqualone, and it is chemically and functionally related to barbiturates. That means it has a sedatory effect on the user. Britain was the origin of manufacturing during the late 60s and early 70s. Mandrax tablets were initially a controlled substance prescribed as a sleeping aid but were pulled off the market and banned because of their high dependency (addiction) rate.
Crime syndicates started producing it because pharmaceutical companies already set up the market. In addition, it is a highly addictive drug, and users smoke it for a more intense rush. The street value of Mandrax is approximately between R25-R65 per tablet.
The Methaqualone that sells in South Africa is illicit tablet formulations produced n clandestine laboratories. A precursor to produce Mandrax is anthranilic acid, which comes mainly form India. Dealers may combine it with the antihistaminic drug diphenhydramine. Less frequently it contains the benzodiazepine tranquilliser, diazepam. MX is a small tablet that varies in colour and is extremely addictive.
Users mostly smoke Mandrax. The Mx tablet is crushed, mixed with dagga and smoked through a pipe or broken bottleneck known as a ‘white pipe’. Mandrax can also be swallowed whole or injected.
Short term effects
- Relaxation – feeling happy (or laughing), calm and carefree
- Aggression – when the high wears off
- Nausea and vomiting
- Falling over and passing out
- Risk of addiction – tolerance builds up rapidly
- Decreased immune system
- Mental and physical deterioration
- Breathing becomes slower, leading to respiratory failure, comas or death.
Symptoms of excessive use
Nausea, vomiting and stomach pains are not unusual. A user will often have red, glazed or puffy eyes, especially if the Mandrax is taken together with dagga. Smoking of the “Bottleneck” causes distinctive stains on the palm of a Mandrax user.
Increased usage to achieve the same effects as before is usually the first sign of a full-scale addiction developing. In many cases, users feel tired after taking Mandrax and may go to sleep for lengthy periods. Depression is also not uncommon and is part and parcel of the Mandrax’ hangover’. It often leads to the repeated use of Mandrax to counteract the negative and unpleasant feelings.
Withdrawal from Mandrax takes place a few days after stopping use. Sleeping problems, nervousness, anxiety and irritable feelings, headaches, restlessness and eating problems are also common. Mandrax has proved to be a tough habit to break, according to the Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre.
Van Zyl, E.F. The synthesis and analysis of Methaqualone and some positional and structural isomers thereof. M.Sc (Chemistry) Thesis 2001.
Terminology and Information on Drugs, Revised Edition, United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, New York, 1999.
Merck Index, 13th Edition, Merck & Co., Inc., Whitehouse Station NJ, 2001.