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Cocaine: A History

While cocaine in its modern form has only existed since 1855, cocaine has existed as a leaf for hundreds of leaves. Cocaine comes from the coca plant which is native to South America. It’s been a staple in indigenous tribes in the region for over a thousand years. It has provided nutrients along with energy to the native populations of South America and also the settlers that arrived from Europe.

At first, the Europeans hated the idea of chewing coca leaves to get energy. The first European people to discover this practice were the Spanish. They were told of the plant’s energy and health, but they refused to acknowledge it until they tried it. Which promptly made them tax and and ship the laves back to Europe.

By 1855, scientists were able to isolate cocaine from the coca leaf. First, a German chemist, Friedrich Gaedcke, isolated it in 1855. In 1859, the purification process was improved by Albert Niemann, a Ph. D. student. Once his study was published, he earned his doctoral degree.

It didn’t take long for people to start using cocaine medically. One famous study in 1884 was conducted by Karl Koller, an associate of Sigmund Freud. He sampled cocaine for use in the eye and as an eye medicine. He dabbed some cocaine into his eye, then poked it with pins. Afterwards, Freud became a huge advocate for medical cocaine use. He believed it could treat morphine addiction as well as function as a local anesthetic. He believed it to be somewhat of a miracle drug, both medically and recreationally.

Cocaine also took hold as a recreational substance rather early on also. It was inserted to all kinds of different products. From coca wine to cigarettes. It was also used in the infamous first solution of Coca Cola, though it didn’t last long. Today, cocaine is an illegal recreational drug that is highly regulated by the government. Though it still makes it through the borders.