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A Brief History of Cocaine

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An article on CNN recounts the history of the drug cocaine. Before war was waged against cocaine and its illicit relatives, it was hailed as the cure for everything from stomachaches to tuberculosis.

Centuries before cocaine hit the Western mainstream, its effects were well known to the indigenous tribes inSouth America, who would chew on the leaves of the coca plant from which the drug is derived. The stuff hit the ceiling in 1880, when various companies cultivated a potent version of the natives enjoyed: hydrochloric cocaine was the product, the white powdery substance that most anyone could identify. People would have been safer chewing coca with the natives because this new synthesis was hundreds of times more powerful than its leafy predecessor.

Despite cocaine’s dangers, it was lauded by Freud, who helped to push the powder into the European mainstream with his Über Coca, a 70-page book outlining the many benefits of das kokain. People were raving about the drug in theUnited States as well. It was made popular, in part, by a new drink called Coca-Cola. For the first several years of its production, it was laced with 6 milligrams of cocaine for every fluid ounce of the cola. This remained an ingredient until 1906, as the adverse effects of the cocaine began coming to light.

Freud and his medical contemporaries began to discover the ill effects when patients to whom the doctors had prescribed the cocaine would become desperate for more of the “miracle drug.” Freud himself struggled with dependency on the drug. In a letter to a friend, he wrote that he “need[ed] a lot of cocaine.” Freud managed to drop the cocaine, but there were many who were unable to kick their addictions.

Continued History of Cocaine

There were, were no doubt, many addicts around this time, but such cases were drowned beneath the wave of popularity that cocaine continued to ride for several more years. By the early 1900s, the cocaine hype had died down considerably. It was eventually stigmatized, associated with society’s undesirables. Cocaine made a comeback, however, in the 1980s. It was trendy to use and people did not seem to find it problematic.  But as was the case in the early 20th century, the cocaine’s ugly underbelly was exposed, and the government policy became more stringent.


Since the 80s coke frenzy, the number of users has been cut in half. This is progress, but as the substance abuse landscape shifts, this is small consolation. As some drugs drop in popularity, others pick up that slack. The bottom line is that addiction and substance abuse remain huge problems. Chat with someone live and confidential now If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction. ______________________________________________________________________________________

References: CNN

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