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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Tobacco-Land's Conveinent Confusion of Coca and Concentrated Cocaine

From my unpublished manuscript "Coca- Forgotten Medicine"

Nevertheless, a mindset against Coca began appearing through the south-eastern United States, based upon a confusion of the poisonous effects of concentrated cocaine with the regular long term indirect use of dilute cocaine via Coca products via a disregard of the pharmacological matters of dosage and potency: a disregard that would benefit an alliance of convenience for Tobacco and some pharmaceutical interests, but ultimately with high social costs.

An example of this mindset was the anonymously written June 12, 1891 Atlanta Constitution article “What's in Coca-Cola? A Popular Drink Which Is Said to Foster the Cocaine Habit”, in a virtual monologue (reproduced in its entirety as reported) between two individuals, described only as a "thoughtful citizen" and a "gentleman":
Thoughtful Citizen: I want to call your attention to a very vicious and pernicious thing which is going on in this and almost every other town," said a thoughtful citizen yesterday'

Gentleman: What is that?

Thoughtful Citizen: The drug stores and the soda founts are selling enormous quantities of something they call coca cola. It is said to relieve nervousness, and "that tired feeling" and all that sort of thing, and people are drinking it a dozen times a day. I am told by a physician that the ingredient which makes coca cola so popular is cocaine. There is evidently enough of it in the drink to affect and it is insidiously but surely getting thousands of people into the cocaine habit, which is ten times worse than alcoholism and is bad as the morphine habit. It is an awful drug and the victims of it are slaves. I have seen it!"

And here the gentleman shuddered.

Thoughtful Citizen: "A friend of mine was a victim of it," he continued, "and he killed himself before my eyes. He got so under the power of the cocaine habit that he saw he could not stop it, and he took a pistol and ended his life. "I am confident that a chemical analysis of coca cola would show the presence of cocaine. A physician tells me that is the ingredient which makes it popular, and it seems to me that it is a matter which the board of health ought to look into."
This anti-Coca mindset also appeared in medical publications- again, interestingly, by the anonymous. According to such an anonymous "letter to the editor" -- lacking even a city of origin -- appearing in the August, 1897 The Druggists' Circular and Chemical Gazette at page 1xxxv:
I [sic] know, therefore, whereof I speak, when I point out the awful danger threatened by the popular sale and use of such drinks as are founded upon the support of the coca leaf and the kola nut, and the catarrh snuff containing pure cocaine. Cocaine is not a safe drug for self-administration, in any way [emphasis added], and what then can be said of its use in ignorance, under a delusion that it is a tonic to nerve and stomach, and heart, administered at soda fountains, and out in chewing gum, to give strength to some organ.
This blurring of Coca and sniffed or injected cocaine also appeared in various pharmacy journals, as with this following April 1897 piece from the same – and again, anonymous -- "The Cocaine Habit":
If one may believe but a tithe of the reports which have lately been made from various quarters, the cocaine habit is spreading to an alarming extent. This habit is one so disastrous in its results as to excite the gravest concern of all those who have had the least sense of sympathy with their fellowmen; those upon whom it becomes flexed sink to depths of physical and mental degradation not sounded by even the devotees of opium. Physicians are doubtless responsible for some of the spread of this frightful evil; in treating disturbances of the nasal passages they have used this agent as a palliative, often placing it in the hands of the patient to be employed at pleasure. As it cannot be expected to have any real curative action, its frequent application as a measure of temporary relief may be expected to follow, and its constitutional effect will soon become pronounced. But the chief cause is presumably to be found in the placing of the drug before the nostrum-taking public in the guise of catarrh "cures" and the like. The use of such preparations is manifestly fraught with the gravest danger, as the self-prescriber has no warning as to the risk he is incurring The question of prohibiting the sale of the drug in any form, "patent" or otherwise, excepting under suitable stringent regulations, is attracting legislative attention in Illinois. A bill is to be, or possibly already is, introduced in the Legislature for this purpose, and the local government of Chicago has been considering the matter independently. All reputable druggists may be expected to cordially favor such a movement wherever it may take form. And now that the note of alarm has been so strongly sounded, they may be expected to exercise renewed care as to the chance of placing in the hands of a lay customer a drug which is none too safe even in the hands of the physicians. And this warning may be extended to the parent drug, the use of which, especially in wines, has become popular during late years, and is asserted to be on the increase. It must always be borne that the use of any drug of this nature is attended with the risk of the formation of a "habit," and the responsibility for the employment of such agents should rest with the physician and not the pharmacist [emphasis added].
These two anti cocaine in any form writings confuse the abuse of concentrated cocaine with the indirect use of cocaine as it naturally occurs diluted in Coca, without considering the significant pharmacological differences between all of these various modes of cocaine use – particularly the dosage and glycemic indexes – how quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, nor cocaine’s anesthetic inhibiting properties as an alkaloid taken dilute through Coca products: taken as caffeine is in Coffee drinking rather then as the sniffing or smoking or shooting of pulverized No Doz or Vivarin caffeine tablets.

Neither is very explicit if their concern over the “habit” with regard to the dilute preparations was that such was the same as concentrated cocaine, or if the former lead to the latter, even as the drug abuse disasters from cocaine emerged within months of its industrial release in concentrated form about 1883-84, and not the Coca beverages which emerged some 20 years earlier.

The emerging absolutist anti-cocaine (in any amount) stance would not be able to state any specific examples of alleged health related problems from Coca or cocaine beverages; instead it would rest upon confusing dilute and concentrated preparations, if not that of other substances altogether, as the makers of Coca-Cola found. Supposedly, an insane man whose brother had charged him with molesting the latter's 12 year old son, had committed that act because drinking Coca-Cola had made him hallucinate [1899 U.S. government tax case] Yet it was also determined that the man had consumed large quantities of alcohol.

For a time, Coca manufacturers defended themselves against such attacks. In Atlanta, Georgia at a board of directors meeting of Coca-Cola, Asa Candler stood firm against the notion of removing the beverage's whole Coca extract, as recounted by Mark Pendergrast from Coca-Cola's annual report of 1899, in his 1993 book For God, Country and Coca-Cola:
Everywhere they went, the salesmen were encountering more and more rumors about how Coca-Cola led to cocaine addiction. Even the temperance women, who should have been on Coca-Cola's side, were turning the drink. Finally, someone asked the heretical questions: "Could not we just take out the cocaine? Does it really make that much of a difference?" The room hushed as Asa Candler tapped his fingers upon the desk. Finally, he spoke. "So you want me to change the formula because of some hysterical women? Do we want to change Coca-Cola, the purest, most healthful drink the world has ever seen?" His voice rose higher and cracked as he began to shout, "Never! There is nothing wrong with Coca-Cola."

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