Ed Cobin loves Quaaludes. He hasn't had one in about three decades, sure, but he remembers the drug fondly. About fours years ago, the 65-year-old retiree made a shirt for his friend that featured the prescription pill bottle's iconic logo. It was a hit. The friend got compliments everywhere he went and was constantly approached by baby boomers wanting to swap stories about far-out times.
So Cobin, a North Miami native, started a business, quaaludebottle.com, selling Quaalude merchandise such as hats, mouse pads, and coffee mugs that people could use to advertise their party credentials. He even contacted the pharmaceutical company that used to produce the Quaalude's amber bottle, which looks like a smaller version of the one that contains Red Stripe beer. Antique bottles were selling for up to $300 a pop on eBay, but Cobin sold his replicas for a bargain price of $7.
Quaalude is the brand name of methaqualone, a sedative-hypnotic drug popular in the '70s. It was synthesized in India, popularized in Britain, and named after a shortened version of "quiet interlude." In Miami, Cobin says, it was ridiculously easy to get the drug. One would just go see a Quaalude doctor who would prescribe them for about $3 a pill -- "a scam," as the business owner puts it.
But the good times eventually came to an end. The beloved Lude was last manufactured in South Africa under the name Mandrake and was ultimately discontinued in 1984. Today, Cobin says, it has a rabid fan base of people who tell him they would pay $25 or $30 a pill if they could get their hands on one. What kind of euphoria could possibly inspire such a fondness among older Floridians?
"You have a very positive feeling, you're in a good mood, and you feel like you can talk to women," he says. "Men used to call them panty droppers or crotch teasers because they had this effect on women."
At first, the Miami Norland Senior High grad was selling about eight items per week, making what he calls only "drinking money." A month ago, though, he noticed orders skyrocketing. He was receiving about eight times as many orders as before. It took him a while to figure out why, but a friend eventually clued Cobin in. The Wolf of Wall Street, a Martin Scorsese flick in which Leonardo DiCaprio plays a famed Quaaludes addict, was dominating at the box office.
"Everybody was talking about Quaaludes all of a sudden," he says. "What I was selling in a week I was suddenly selling in a day." Cobin says he sent a box of merch to Scorsese and DiCaprio through their agents as a way to say thanks. He hopes they'll spread the word.
Does he think the merchandise promotes drug use? No, only because the pills aren't available anymore. He's also a big believer in personal responsibility and moderation. If he can say one thing positive about Quaaludes, though, it's that people never seemed to get addicted. In fact, popping half a Gorilla Biscuit made people drink less because it took the edge off so effectively, he says. A bonus: No hangover.
The wistful text of Cobin's website, though, tells a different story: "And who says that our driving abilities weren't further improved by a Lude or two? While alcohol and coke did much to improve the party feeling, it was indeed the Quaalude that got the party going!"
As for Cobin's craziest tale of debauchery: He remembers a 40-person party getting naked and diving into an El Portal pool while under the influence. But another tale brings him the most joy.
"You shouldn't drive on them, but I was on West Dixie Highway once at 2 in the morning when I turned the corner and hit something," he recalls. "I wasn't sure if it was a person or a thing. I turned in the rear-view mirror and saw it was a Bob's Barricade -- what I call a one-eyed zebra."
He laughs into the phone.
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"God, that's just so many good times," he says. "And it could only happen on Quaaludes."
Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter: @allie_conti