Learn the History of Cocaine for Earth Day
Grown primarily in the mountains of South America, the coca plant has played an influential part in the development of recent history. The crystalline tropane alkaloid substance known as cocaine was first isolated by a German chemist in 1859. The unique chemical properties of cocaine make it ideal for use as either a stimulant or depressant. Drug users around the world, including Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, quickly learned that cocaine packs a powerful punch when snorted, smoked or injected.
On its own, the coca leaf is a powerful natural stimulant. It was chewed by the ancient Incas to relieve the effects of the thin mountain air. The leaf was also chewed by native Peruvians during religious ceremonies. The coca leaf was even used to control silver mine laborers after the region was conquered by the Spanish in the early 16th century.
Modern Cocaine Usage
The practical benefits of the coca plant received quite a boost in 1886 when entrepreneur, John Pemberton, included the coca leaf in his recipe for Coca-Cola. Needless to say, Pemberton’s new soft drink gradually rose in popularity. Actually, cocaine and opium were used to invigorate countless medicinal potions in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The negative aspects of cocaine soon became apparent as the drug became more popular in Hollywood and throughout the nation. Although the Coca-Cola Company was forced to remove the coca leaf from its soft drink in 1905, the popularity of the drug continued to grow.
Rise of Cocaine
In the United States, government officials reported that cocaine use was causing 5,000 deaths a year, but the drug wasn’t officially banned until 1922. Cocaine had become the drug of choice in America by the early 1970’s. Entertainers and business professionals took advantage of the immediate spike in energy that cocaine provided. Cocaine experimentation among university students exploded.
Consumer demand for cocaine in the United States led to the rise of Colombian drug cartels, and the era of serious illegal drug trafficking began in earnest. The price of smuggled cocaine had dropped, and cocaine addiction began to spread in the major urban areas of the United States. Cocaine exports from South America expanded to Europe and Asia. Cocaine quickly gained a reputation as a threat to the health of drug users and society in general.
Psychological Effects of Cocaine
Cocaine is known to be psychologically addictive. The number of rehabilitation centers specializing in cocaine addiction has expanded along with cocaine usage. Aside from the severe physical side effects that cocaine can impose, cocaine is known to create a sense of exhilaration by interfering with the production of dopamine and other brain chemicals. Methamphetamine, a synthetic drug that can be produced in underground labs, has become the drug of choice in recent years since it is much cheaper than cocaine.