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History of Drugs: Cocaine

What is Cocaine?

Cocaine was first extracted from coca leaves in 1859 by German chemist Albert Niemann. It wasn’t until the 1880s, however, that it started to be popularized among the medical community.

It is a stimulant, an appetite suppressant, and a topical anesthetic. A stimulant, cocaine is a psychoactive drug that can cause temporary increases in either mental or physical functions or both. The effects of cocaine include alertness, wakefulness, racing heart, increased movement and activity.

Cocaine Throughout Ancient Time

Coca is one of the oldest, most potent and most dangerous stimulants of natural origin. The ancient Incas in the Andes chewed coca leaves to get their hearts racing and to speed their breathing to counter the effects of living in thin mountain air.

Native Peruvians also chewed coca leaves but only for spiritual purposes, reserving its use for during religious ceremonies only. When the Spanish invaded Peru in 1532 they forced Indian laborers in Spanish silver mines by steadily supplying them with coca leaves because it made them easier to control and exploit.

Cocaine and Western Medicine

From the 1850s to the early 1900s, people of all social classes used medicinal solutions that contained either opium or cocaine for a variety of issues such as nausea and stomach ache . Notable figures who promoted the “miraculous” effects of cocaine tonics and elixirs included inventor Thomas Edison and actress Sarah Bernhardt. The drug became popular in the silent film industry and the pro-cocaine messages coming out of Hollywood at that time influenced millions.

Cocaine and Coca-Cola

You may have heard this before: that Coca-Cola used to contain cocaine and that’s in fact where it got its name. This may sound like a myth or urban legend of sorts but it’s actually true. From 1886 until 1903, cocaine was infused with the soft drink in order to boost its popularity and keep people wanting more. By the turn of the century, Coca-Cola’s popularity has skyrocketed. Once cocaine use in society increased, however, the dangers began to become more and more evident. The Coca-Cola Company removed the ingredient of cocaine from its product due to public pressure.

Cocaine Use Today

Cocaine is a powerful nervous system stimulant. Its effects can last from 15–30 minutes to an hour, depending on the dosage and how it is administered. It is still used as a topical anesthetic.

Cocaine increases alertness, feelings of well-being and euphoria, energy and motor activity, feelings of competence and sexuality. Athletes sometimes use cocaine for its performance-enhancing capabilities such as improved attention and increased endurance. Anxiety, paranoia and restlessness often occur during use and especially when coming down from cocaine.

Cocaine overdose can come on rapidly and without warning. Signs of cocaine overdose include seizures, tremors, and general shakiness as well as rapid speech, excessive talking, acting violently, or having paranoid thoughts. Cocaine use can lead to permanent brain injury, even after only one time use. This is because cocaine can cause stroke or severe seizures. It increases blood pressure and heart rate, causing stroke and/or heart attack at any moment. Some people can go into cardiac arrest leading to sudden death even after only the first time they use cocaine.

If you or someone you know needs treatment for Cocaine Addiction please call us at 800-951-6135 or visit us online at








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