Beyond David Musto
Cocaine basically is an alkaloid -- a nitrogen bearing molecule -- found in a plant in small quantities that serves as a CNS stimulant: a member of the same pharmacological family as caffeine and nicotine.
However, having been used in so many different forms -- a white powder taken up the nose or injected; a rock smoked, or a component of the original 1886-1903 vintage Coca-Cola, or something otherwise contained within the leaves of the plant where it naturally occurred: Coca -- cocaine has been seen in no less broad a variety of ways.
Damnation came with isolated cocaine via injection. Made available, sometimes as part of a kit to take hypodermically. Some began prescribing these injections, most prominently Sigmund Freud (May 6,1856-September 23,1939) This lead to disaster, as was the case with his first such patient, his friend, the physiologist Ernest Fleischl von Marxow (August 5, 1846- October 22,1891) Prescribed cocaine injections as an antidote to his morphine addiction, a habit picked up from an earlier prescription for morphine injections as a painkiller for an amputated thumb resulting from an accident in a dissection room, Fleischl may have felt good briefly before quickly escalating his usage, reportedly 1 gram of the hydrochloride daily, and experiencing a mind and body racking poisoning.
Additional criticism came with cocaine powders, available in varying concentrations, sold as hay fever and catarrh remedies to be taken up the nose. These sniffing powders, first appeared during the 1890s. Sold as hay fever and catarrh remedies, sniffing powders had a far lower abuse liability than cocaine injections, though nonetheless, could lead to similar – if less intense – such problems - and unknown with what had induced the praise: Coca.
The plant containing cocaine, generally from 0.5% to 1 of the dried leaf's weight, Coca is routinely used -- primarily chewed, though also drank as a 'tea" -- by millions of South Americans as a traditional remedy, its importance undeniable. Though not a widely well-known topic outside of South America -- where it’s primarily seen as the first half of the name of the world's currently best known soft-drink, or as the source of cocaine or even the cocaine problem -- Coca is of primary importance in the Andes, both culturally and out of sheer practicality.
Coca, a plant that grows in soils too poor to support many other crops, provides a valuable medicine, stimulant, indeed tonic that’s greatly appreciated; it’s featured upon Peruvian and Bolivian money and flags. Its leaves are consumed -- primarily chewed --by millions in the Andes where it is said to be the thing making life at such altitudes bearable, a fact attested by visitors to the region.
Tourists’ guidebooks invariably recommend Coca adjusting to the altitudes, customarily being served Coca tea upon dismemberment. Coca is traditionally taken as a specific remedy for soka (weakness, fatigue and malaise), fiero (a chronic wasting disease)," lucura (severe mental disturbances), sorache (G-I tract disorders, toothache, mouth sores), etc. Coca leaves are also taken regularly to safe guard health, its nutritional qualities and that of conserving body heat being specifically appropriate for life at high altitudes. Perhaps most commonly, Coca is a favored stimulant, the choice of Andean cultures much as others favor Coffee, Tea, or Tobacco. Routinely chewed, Coca is said to provide a more useful stimulant effect, making possible tasks that would ordinarily be far more tiring.
As noted, Coca is also drank: its most popular use outside South America prior to its prohibition, circular 1914. For half a century, Coca products were commercially available throughout much of the industrialized world, usually in beverage form. Such Coca products grew rapidly in popularity through the latter 1800s- this being the time of the original Coca-Cola. Made with the extract of Coca leaves and Kola nuts, amongst other things, this drink was advertised as a "brain tonic and nerve stimulant," and acknowledged -- in this pre-air-conditioning era -- as useful and refreshing in humid, South-Eastern U.S.; Coca beverages though reflected the full range of the things Coca leaf have been used- and more. Coca wines, initially offered as a restorative for overstressed stage performers in Paris, spurred a reputation for Coca, viewing its as preferable to infinitely more established stimulants, such as Tea, Coffee and even Tobacco.
Pharmacologically this made perfect sense. Coca's cocaine is dilute, and mixed with other leaf components said to modify its effect in good ways- quite the opposite of "cocaine" as twentieth century people conceived it as a concentrated drug of abuse. In light of the colloquial use of the term "caffeine" in meaning a beverage made with Coffee or Tea, the origins of the positive perception of "cocaine" were perfectly understandable- after all, to how many people does "caffeine" evoke images of snorting white lines of ground up No Doz?
Hmmm. Not simply "cocaine," Coca-Cola, or something like crushed up caffeine pills (which, in the case of No Doz, contains mannitol, a common adulterant for illicit cocaine powder), but rather Coca Leaf. Given the extent and importance of its recently acknowledged possibilities, Coca's place in medicine, and as a general stimulant would seemingly be assured, it being appreciated for any one of a variety of applications. First and foremost for a society up in arms over the spectra of cocaine abuse, or "addiction" -- or specifically habitual use with undesirable -- e.g. toxic -- consequences of the refined drug, should be a call to least a look at allowing Coca to serve as a substitute for refined cocaine (intranasal, freebase, injection and "crack"). This alone could be invaluable for weaning cocaine users away from concentrated forms of the drug, let alone an interesting alternative to other commonly taken stimulants, including caffeine containing beverages.