Coca is one of the world’s oldest, most dangerous, most potent, and most addictive stimulants of natural beginnings. Several thousand years before the birth of Christ, to counter the effects of residing in the thin mountain air by speeding up their breathing and get their hearts racing, ancient Andean’s chewed coca leaves.

Native Peruvians used to chew coca leaves during their religious ceremonies. However, this religious custom was broken when Peru was invaded in the year 1532 by Spanish soldiers. The Spanish forced the Indian laborers to work in their silver mines. To make the laborer’s easier to exploit and control, they were continually supplied with coca leaves.


First Extracted from Coca Leaves

In the year 1859, German chemist, Albert Niemann was the first to isolate (extracted from coca leaves) cocaine. It was not until the 1880’s however, that the popularity of cocaine grew in the medical community.

The founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, was a user of cocaine himself. Freud was the first one who promoted the drug as a tonic to cure sexual impotence and depression. In the year 1884, the Australian psychoanalyst published an article with the title “Uber Coca” in which he promoted cocaine’s “benefits” while calling the drug “magical.”

Freud could not be an objective observer, however. He was a frequent user of the drug, prescribing it to his best friend and his girlfriend and recommended cocaine for general use. Freud continued to promote the dangerous drug to his close friends even while noting that cocaine is what led him to “physical and moral decadence”. In fact, one of these close friends believed he had “white snakes creeping over his skin” due to the paranoid hallucinations he was suffering.

Furthermore, Freud had mistakenly believed cocaine appeared to have no lethal dose and the toxic dose of the drug was extremely high for humans. This belief was proven wrong when one of his patients died due to the high dosage he had prescribed.

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The Start of Coca-Cola

In 1886, John Pemberton helped boost the popularity of the drug when his new soft drink, Coca-Cola, began including coca leaves as one of its ingredients. By the turn of the century, the popularity of Coca-Cola skyrocketed due to the energizing and euphoric effects.

Thomas Edison, Sarah Bernhardt, and Hollywood

Cocaine and Opium-laced elixirs (medicinal or magical potions), wines and tonics were widely used by people of all social standings. Actress Sarah Bernhardt and inventor Thomas Edison were just one of the notable figures promoting the “miracle” effects that were provided from cocaine elixirs and tonics. Millions were influenced by the pro-cocaine messages that were coming out of Hollywood due to the popularity of the drug in the silent film industry.

Society’s use of cocaine increased while at the same time the danger of this potent drug was becoming more evident. In the year 1903, the Coca-Cola company removed the cocaine from their soft drink product due to public pressure.

The popularity to snort cocaine occurred by the year 1905, and within five years, medical literature and hospitals had begun to report cases where the drug resulted in nasal damage.

The United States government reported in the year 1912, that there were 5,000 cocaine-related deaths. By the year 1912, the dangerous drug was officially banned in the U.S.

Cool New Drug Surfaced

During the 1970s, the addictive drug surfaced as a cool new drug for business people and entertainers. It seemed that cocaine was the perfect companion for those looking for a trip into the fast lane. This drug helped those who took it stay up and provided them with energy.

The percentage of students at some universities in the United States who began experimenting with the drug cocaine increased tenfold between the years of 1970 and 1980.

Columbian drug cartels started in the later part of the 1970s to set up a sophisticated network for smuggling the powerful drug in the United States.

In the year 1982, in the United States, the use of cocaine climaxed with an estimated 10.4 million users.

Due to cocaine habits huge expense, cocaine was traditionally thought of as being a rich man’s drug. However, by the later part of the 1980s, cocaine was not thought of anymore as being the drug of choice for wealthy. By this time, the drug had a reputation of being America’s most addictive and dangerous drug. By this time, cocaine was now associated with crime, poverty, and death.

In the early part of the 1990s, 500 to 800 tons of the drug a year was produced and exported by the Columbian drug cartels. They shipped to the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Law enforcement agencies were able to dismantle the large cartels, however, smaller groups ended up replacing them with over 300 drug smuggling organizations that are known to be active in Columbia today.

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Cocaine and The Drugs Use Today

Over the last few decades, the demand for the addictive drug cocaine has declined worldwide. Between the years of 1982 to 2008, there was almost a 50% drop in the number of past-years cocaine users. There was a decrease from 10.5 million past-year users in the year 1982 to 5.3 million past-year users in the year 2008. There were approximately 5.1 million past-year users in the year 2016.

While the recent drug abuse trend steers more towards heroin and opioid abuse, cocaine seems to be making a comeback. Between the years of 2014 and 2015, coca cultivation increased by 42% in Columbia according to the U.S. State Department. This may help to answer the question, Where does cocaine come from?

Furthermore, the number of cocaine overdose deaths cocaine overdose deaths was the highest in the year 2015 than it had been since the year 2006.

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Medical disclaimer:

Chapters Capistrano strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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