This unusual topic is inspired by hair-dresser I chatted to this past weekend. She was a young American, and quickly asked where I was from after hearing my accent. When I told her I was from South Africa, she started asking me several interesting questions, like "Is it dirty there?"(Err... How do you answer that? Is it dirty here?)
One question was "Are drugs a problem?" (brief answer: Yes, but not a huge problem) While I'm in no way an expert, I felt an urge to explain that most people that use drugs use "recreational drugs" (dagga a.k.a. marijuana), although some harder drugs were a problem, especially Mandrax. This prompted her question: "What's Mandrax?"
I didn't actually know, until today (and thanks in part to a colleague that is having his wisdom teeth out tomorrow, which got me thinking about pain-killers, ...)
Mandrax will be known to most Americans as Quaalude, and the chemical name is Methaqualone. Wiki has a detailed page on this topic, which includes this snippet:
South Africa is the largest abuser of methaqualone in the world. Commonly known as Mandrax, it is not taken orally but is crushed and mixed in a pipe (usually the neck of a broken bottle) with marijuana (known as "dagga") and has become a major problem rivalling crack cocaine as the most abused hard drug in that country. The low price (R30.00 average against R150.00 for crack) of methaqualone together with the ready availability of cheap, low-grade marijuana means it is the preferred hard drug of the low-income section of South African society. Since methaqualone is no longer legally produced, illicit manufacture either in India, or in South Africa itself or other African countries produces methaqualone for the South African market.
(R30 is about $4 today).
So, now I will know how to answer my hair-dresser next time. (And so will you if this topic comes up - don't say you never learn anything useful here!)