Saturday, April 30, 2011

Coca as Tobacco Habit Cure

Two Leaves with Historically Parallelling Uses-

one getting a head start internationally due to it being less volatile then the other leaf, and thereby being easier adaptable to remaining sufficently fresh on the long ocean voyages back to the 'Old World'.

Tobacco becomes a major international commodity by the 1600s, whereas Coca does not begin to so make it big until the 1860s with its formulation and marketing as Vin Mariani, initially sold as an energizer for overworked, overstressed Parisian opera performers, and inspiring other such Coca leaf derived herbal products as other Coca beverages, lozenges, found to have numerious therapeutic virtues- including as a substitute for other substances with similar uses, particularly Tobacco.
Writing about Vin Mariani's use:
“I have also employed it in cases, happily rare in our army, of chronic alcoholism resulting from the abuse of brandy, absinthe or strong liquors. The produced all the excitement sought by drinkers, but had at the same time a sedative influence on their nervous systems. I have frequently seen hardened drinkers renounce their fatal habit and return to a healthy condition." "I have also used to save smokers of exaggerated habits, from nicotinism. A few glasses of taken in small doses, either pure or mixed with water, acted as a substitute for pipes and cigars, because the smokers found in it the cerebral excitement which they sought in tobacco, wholly preserving their intellectual faculties."
-- Dr. Liberman and Villeneuve

And writing, in an article by a Dr. F.E. Stewart appearing in the September 19, 1885 Philadelphia Medical Times, about a newer form of Coca leaf products intriduced by the 1880s- Coca leaf smokables- cigars, cheroots and even cigarettes.
"Coca has been used with great success in the treatment of the opium habit, it is also an excellent substitute for Tobacco [emphasis added]. It has been successfully used in dyspepsia, flatulency, colic, gastralgia, enteralgia, hysteria, hypochondria, spinal irritation, idiopathic convulsions , nervous erethism, and in the debility following severe acute affections. As it is a valuable restorative agent, checking tissue-waste, it is also a useful remedy in consumption [?] and wasting diseases generally. It is also of value in the nervous forms of sick-headache, migraine. It is also said to be an aphrodisiac." -- Dr. F.E. Stewart appearing in the September 19, 1885 Philadelphia Medical Times
Reporting on several cases of experiences with smoking Coca, Stewart found that most found them useful, with a high percentage finding Coca cigars as useful for stemming depression -- the "blues" -- and as a mild stimulant. Citing one example of a leading Wilmington, Delaware physician:
"After dinner, he smoked a couple of the cigars, with the effect that the blues were expelled and he felt the exhilarating effect of the drug in the same manner as after a dose of the wine. It is his opinion that the effect of the cigars is milder than that of the wine, but he is satisfied that he experienced the peculiar power of the coca by smoking it."
Citing others, a man suffering dyspepsia -- a digestive disorder -- and its attendant depression:
"smoked the cigars...the result being to dispel the depressed feeling and remove the fullness experienced after each meal. Repeated experiments confirm this. As coca is said to stimulate the gastric nerves and greatly facilitate digestion, the above experiment seems to prove that the cigar has a similar effect."
These experiments included Dr. Stewart's own use. Writing upon his personal discovery of Coca leaf smoking as a treatment for hay fever:
Personally, I have found the effect of smoking coca leaves to bear out the statement that the drug produces a general excitation of the circulatory and nervous systems. Smoking and inhaling the smoke of one or two cigars will increase my own pulse rate some eight or ten beats to the minute.

It certainly relieves the scene of fatigue. Smoked at night, in my own case and in the cases of several of my patients, it produces wakefulness similar to strong coffee. The exaltation produced by it does not seem to be followed by any feeling of languor or depression. I find it a relief after a full meal, like a good tobacco cigar. It seems to impart increased vigor to the muscular system as well to the intellect, with an indescribable feeling of satisfaction. I have never experienced any intoxicating effects from smoking it.

Dr. Bartholow says that coca, as in the case with tea and coffee, acts as an indirect nutrient by checking waste, and hence a less amount of food is necessary to maintain the bodily functions; and as I have just learned, in a letter from Messrs. Parke, Davis and Company, that "a Mr. Stevens, a citizen of Abilene, Kansas, who was afflicted with hay fever, and was about to go to the mountains, has concluded to remain at home, having obtained relief from the use of cigarettes of coca. Every morning he uses a cigarette and perfect relief. He uses three per day.

Information on Coca leaf smokables, their history and decline is rare- for records showing sales or later accounts are generally inaccessible.

As these even included a pipe mixture, described in its day with the misnomer as a "smoking Tobacco", Coca leaf smoking presented some interesting parallels, for one the possibility they were a more benign substitute to smoke then Tobacco.

Among “chewers” of these respective agricultural commodities, oral cancer is common with those using Tobacco, yet its rare among chewers of Coca.

Among "smokers" of these plant substances, Virginia Bright Leaf Tobacco is long associated with lung cancer- far longer then commonly thought, significently pre-dating the official U.S. government acknowledgment of 1964- for instance, Harvey Wiley warned about it in Good Housekeeping reportedly as early as 1916, and with the correlation even noted on the floor of the U.S. Senate during the 1914 debates upon the Harison 'Narcotic' Tax Act signed by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, December 17, of that year.

The Coca leaf smokables were introduced only about 30 years before this 1914 ban, hence having less of a history to be fully aware of their long term chronic effects, though no recognized such corelation. Research upon this appears non-existent- baring any possible secret research, much like the cigarette companies' purported non-study of the pharmacological properties of nicotine.

In any event, either smoked, or drank as a beverage or some other oral means, Coca's effectiveness as a Tobacco substitute was recognized, as evidenced by the positive accounts as the preceeding, and the type of 'misunderstanding' that began being peddled by the latter 1880s.

An example of that 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].

Such reflected the fear of Coca in the portion of the U.S. where it was enjoying its greatest popularity growth- the southeastern U.S. where Tobacco is 'King'.

Such a geographically based fear was evident through the post 1903 national campaign to ultimately supress Coca- an agricultural commodity that at that time was otherwise destined for even greater international commercae popularity, given the United State's takeover of the project to construct a Panama Canal, which once completed would have significently shortened the shipping of Coca from ports on South America's Pacific coast to northern Atlantic markets, and which was completed and opened to traffic in 1914, the year of the Harrison 'Narcotic' Act banning Coca.

It was evident in the 1908 'Homes' Commission.
During the past decade soda fountain specialties containing caffeine, extract of kola nut and extract of coca leaf, the active property of which is cocaine, have been offered in considerable quantities and, due to extensive and attractive advertising, both as beverages and as headache remedies and nerve tonics, their sale has assumed large proportions.

The first appearance of preparations of this type was in the South in the eighties, their importation following the success which Moxie had attained in the East, though this particular drink was of an entirely different character. From the South the demand spread in other sections and the number of products has increased until the present time, there are probably over one hundred of them bottled and sold all over the United States.

The greatest demand in still in the South, however, almost every drug store, confectionery shop, and fruit stand has its favorite products on sale. -- 1908 U.S.D.A. report to the U.S. Congress in a President's Homes Commission "Report on Soft-Drinks Containing Caffeine and Extracts of Coca Leaf and Kola Nuts”, transmitted on October 21, 1908

U.S.D.A. Chief of Drug Division Lyman F. Kebler, M.D.:

The USDA crusade against Coca or cocaine in any amount particularly ironic was the particular medicinal use of Coca the USDA was to reserve its fury for: Coca as a Tobacco substitute!

According to the 1910 U.S.D.A. Farmer's Journal article "Habit-Forming Agents: Their Indiscriminate Sale and Use A Menace to the Public Welfare":

There are quite a number of so-called tobacco habit cures on the market.

The USDA here wrote "so-called tobacco habit cures.." in refusing to acknowledge the utility it was here condemning, continuing:

All of them are ineffective, and some contain cocain in one form or another, which at once indicates the purpose of the promoter of the remedy. Instead of eradicating what is commonly believed to be a comparatively harmless habit, there is grave danger of fastening a pernicious drug habit upon the user.

Examples of preparations of this character recently examined and found to contain cocain and caffein derivatives are Coca-Bola, Tobacco Bullets, and Wonder Workers. The Coca Bola is marketed by Dr. Charles L. Mitchell, of "Philadelphia, and the Tobacco Bullets by the Victor Remedy Company, now the Blackburn Remedy Company, of Dayton, Ohio, while the Wonder Workers were produced by George S. Beck, of Springfield, Ohio.

This USDA reluctance to openly acknowledge Coca's utility as a Tobacco substitute contrasts with an article in the Journel of the American Medical Association, at least for those who had formed (or would be likely to form) the habit for cocaine- what ever this may have exactly meant - dated January 1, 1910 by E.F. Ladd, a chemist at the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station, at pages 63-64 of Volume LIV, Number 1 of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), under the heading Pharmacology, titled “Coca Bola and Oxy-Tonic: Two Nostrums Exposed by the Chemists of the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station”


"We have recently had occasion to examine a sample of Coca Bola, a product labeled as having been produced by Charles L. Mitchell, M.D., Philadelphia, and the face label bears the following statement:
Each ounce contains 0.71 grams of cocain. A chewing paste of leaves of the cocoa [sic] plant, combined with other valuable tonics. The directions for use say coca-bola is made in the form of flat cakes or plugs divided into squares and should be used by chewing one of the small squares marked on the plug and swallowing the saliva.
They further say it should be used at occasional intervals as needed throughout the day. To get its full effect it will be necessary to use several squares. They further say:
"Although a powerful muscular or nervous tonic, coca-bola has no evil after-effects, and hence is far superior to any other stimulant in the material medica"
Now this information given out in the advertising which accompanies each package is, it would seem, intended to give the impression that this product is an entirely harmless one; in other words, that a preparation containing cocain as an active constituent, is to be generally recommended for use without any caution as to the harm that may come from forming a habit for cocain. They further say:
"A small portion chewed occasionally acts as a powerful tonic to the muscular and nervous system, enabling the chewer to perform additional labor, and also relieves fatigue and exhaustion without evil after effects. It contains no injurious ingredients and is perfectly harmless."

So we might quote from the circular which is sent out by a man who claims to be a physician, urging, as it were, on the people the use of a product of this kind, which, as has clearly been shown, must in the end result in the formation of the cocain habit, if not in the complete demoralization and degradation of the individual himself.

The laws of North Dakota prohibit the sale of any compound or product in the state which contains cocaine in any form. It further prohibits the refilling of a physician’s prescription that contains cocain, and yet a product of this kind, it would seem from information that has been gathered, is sold directly to the customer, although it is true that the proprietor of the product maintains that it is now sold only to physicians.

In a letter under date of Aug. 19, 1909, signed by Charles L. Mitchell, M.D., he says:
September 13, 1909
E.F. Ladd, North Dakota Agriculture College, N.D.

Dear Sir;

Your favor of September 7th duly received for which please accept my thanks. Owing to the “crank’ legislation of many states we have discontinued the manufacturer of all coca and cocaine preparations.

Any “fool” druggist of your state who gets or sells an old package of our coca-bola does so at his own risk, as necessarily, having been put out some time ago, there is no guarantee, and we will not protect him.

The people are getting a little sense into their heads, however, gradually, and they will sometime realize that preparations of both coca and cocain have an honest and legitimate use by the medical profession. Your state law is silly and on par with the 9-foot bed sheet laws of Texas and Oklahoma. Of course, your duty is to enforce the law, not to criticize it. I can do that.

I am, ours very truly
Charles L. Mitchell, M.D.

A letter of this kind needs no comment, and a product of this kind, in the judgment of the writer, can only be sent out for malicious purposes and its sale is illegal in North Dakota. We warn the public against either handling the same or using the same, if they would avoid the formation of a serious drug-habit and one that must result in positive injury to our people.

This product, put in the form of a gum, would easily take the place – for one who had formed the habit for cocain – of tobacco; and it might be made to take the place of chewing gum with young people who would be entirely innocent of the intentional use of any such preparation, not knowing the evil effects that would come from its continued use.

In the judgment of the writer, no man who will allow his name to be connected with a scheme of this kind should be permitted to disgrace the profession of medicine by using the title M.D.
L.D. Ladd’s above closing words are perversely ironic given this ‘fear’ over Coca’s displacement of Tobacco, with its basis upon confusing the abuse of concentrated cocaine sniffing powders and injections with Coca leaf and extracts of comparable low potency and how this would completely disregard these two different plant commodities’ relative health effects.

Coca Come Back


humansunil said...

an excellent post
you know, this experiment could theoretically be done today.

Unknown said...

I have not yet tried and think about coca, but i have listened from many people that coca could also be use for medicine.
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