The Origin and History of Cocaine
Purified Cocaine comes from the leaves of the Erythroxylon coca bush native in South America. Dated back more than 3000 BC, ancient civilization used coca leaves for its properties to:
- relieve fatigue
- increase energy
- lessen hunger
- increase the production rate
- increase oxygen intake
The above mentioned are the much-needed skills for farm works. Historically, people only chew the leaf to extract cocaine from its leaves. The stimulating effects of cocaine provide the farmers for increased oxygen intake in high altitudes in the Andes Mountains. Over time, the news about the effects of oxygen reaches other lands. With the help of science, they discovered how to maximize the strength and effects of the coca plant.
The white crystalline powder we have come to know was synthesized using chemicals to extract the drug from the coca leaves. Today, newer methods intensifying the euphoric effects of the drugs are discovered. This created the most powerful and the extremely addictive form of cocaine, known as crack. Countries of Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan grew the coca plant commercially in the past. But the contrary to popular beliefs, the first cocaine cartel was formed in Amsterdam and not in Columbia.
Albert Nieman first extracted cocaine from the leaves in 1860.
After two decades, the medical community used cocaine as a local anesthesia for surgeries in the eye, ears, and throat. The drug constricts blood vessels and limits bleeding in the affected area.
The 1880s and 1890s
The popularity of cocaine made its way as the main ingredient for various tonics and elixirs packaged as a ‘cure all’ medications. Coca leaves made into teas claiming to relieve stress from a hard day’s work.
Coca-Cola even chose the drug as the main component in their world famous drink. They marketed the beverage for its energizing effect. The company claimed that the drink can also generate a ‘feeling good’ or the euphoric feeling associated with the drug. John Pemberton introduces the drink containing cola syrup, caffeine, sugar and of course cocaine. Many patented medications in the United States contain the addictive drug.
In 1890 a German chemist named Eduard Ritsert first synthesized benzocaine. The white powder contains the same anesthetic effect of cocaine as the first over-the-counter medicine.
Giant pharmaceuticals like Sandoz, Merck, and Hoffman-LaRoche founded the Cocaine Manufacturers Syndicate. Currently, the clandestine laboratories in South America make the drug.
However, along with the rise its popularity, the dangerous side effects of cocaine emerge and eventually push authorities to ban cocaine and remove it from all products.
The government passed legislation, the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 to prohibit any use, marketing, and production of cocaine, except for medical purposes.
Recreational use of cocaine went unnoticed because of the discovery of amphetamines during the 1930s. Pharmaceutical companies marketed amphetamines but the public misuse its purpose. The government then put strict guidelines under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the made its production limited.
During this time, cocaine abuse started rising, along with the discovery of crack cocaine, it ranks as the most abused drug. But in Netherlands, cocaine was still sold as a legal drug under the Dutch Cocaine Factory.
A Peruvian doctor named Carlos Gutierrez Noriega published a scientific report about the harmful effects of chewing coca. However, a few decades after it was published, Burchard discredited the report in 1992.
The 1970s to 1980s
Since, no concrete evidence reported about the harmful effects of cocaine, countries all over the world was torn apart on how to manage cocaine use. Some classified it as a legal drug while most labeled it under controlled substances.
In 1987, Lima supported the traditional use of cocaine. But in Bolivia, they put it under controlled substances. Two years later, Argentina followed the footsteps of Lima and allowed the chewing of the coca leaves and permitted drinking it as a tea. In the US, the first debate happened to legally classified cocaine as a narcotic.
Millions of American fall prey in the introduction of ‘decocainised’ coca tea from South America. Peru made its own legitimate cultivation of coca. The National Enterprise of Coca, a government arm controlled the production and licensed in the drug export. To market and expand the use of coca, the agency even promotes the benefits of the plant in its traditional use.
Since the 80s, cocaine became the major source of income for most poor South American countries. The region exported around 1000 tons of refined cocaine for the year 2000 alone.
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