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History of Cocaine   PDF  Print  Email 
History of Cocaine
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Cocaine in its various forms is derived from the coca plant which is native to the high mountain ranges of South America. The coca leaves were used by natives of this region and acted upon the user as a stimulant. The stimulating effects of the drug increase breathing which increases oxygen intake. This afforded native laborers of the region the stamina to perform their duties in the thin air at high altitudes. In time science figured out how to maximize the strength and effect of the drug contained in the Coca leaves. Through chemically synthesizing the coca leaves the white crystal powder we have come to know as cocaine was created. As time passed newer methods to magnify the euphoric effects of the drug were invented which has led us to the most potent and addictive form of the drug, Crack.

Crack cocaine is the most popularly used version of cocaine today. Smoking cocaine rocks began in the late 1970's. Rocking-up cocaine powder and smoking it was originally the method developed so distributors of cocaine could test the purity of the drug before it was purchased from the manufacturers. Crack has destroyed millions of lives since it was first introduced to the streets of America. Crack is a relatively new drug on the scene compared to drugs like opium or heroin; nonetheless, it has been part of our history and culture for nearly 150 years.

Cocaine's Role in American History

Cocaine was first synthesized in 1855. It was not until 1880, however, that it's effects were recognized by the medical world. The first recognized authority and advocate for this drug was world famous psychologist, Sigmond Freud. Early in his career, Freud broadly promoted cocaine as a safe and useful tonic that could cure depression and sexual impotence. Cocaine got a further boost in acceptability when in 1886 John Pemberton included cocaine as the main ingredient in his new soft drink, Coca Cola. It was cocaine's euphoric and energizing effects on the consumer that was mostly responsible for skyrocketing Coca Cola into its place as the most popular soft drink in history.

From the 1850's to the early 1900's, cocaine and opium laced elixirs, tonics and wines were broadly used by people of all social classes. This is a fact that is for the most part hidden in American history. The truth is that at this time there was a large drug culture effecting a broad sector of American society. Other famous people that promoted the "miraculous" effects of cocaine elixirs were Thomas Edison and actress Sarah Bernhart. Because there were no restrictions placed on acquiring these drugs in the early 1900's, narcotics were an acceptable way of life for a large number of people, many of whom were people of stature. Cocaine was a main stay in the silent film industry. The pro-drug messages coming out of Hollywood at this time were receiving international attention which influenced the attitudes of millions of people about cocaine.

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