Coca is one of the oldest, most potent and most dangerous stimulants of natural origin. Three thousand years before the birth of Christ, ancient Incas and Mayans in the Andes chewed coca leaves to get their heart racing and speed their breathing to counter the effect of living in thin, mountain air. In Peru, Indians chewed coca leaves during religious ceremonies, while tribal medicine men ensured the drug was never used for any other purpose.
This taboo was broken during the 16th century, when Spanish soldiers invaded Peru in 1532 and encouraged the Indians to chew coca leaves because it made them easier to control and thus exploit. Those who chewed the leaves became listless, lost the ability to concentrate and died younger. Forced laborers in Spanish silver mines were kept supplied with coca leaves.
Cocaine was first synthesized in 1855 but it was not until 1880 that its effects were recognized in the medical community. Psychologist Sigmund Freud, who used the drug himself, was the first to broadly promote cocaine as a tonic that could be used to cure depression and sexual impotence.
In 1886, the drug got a further boost when John Pemberton included cocaine as an ingredient in his new soft drink, Coca Cola. The euphoric and energizing effects of cocaine on the consumer helped to skyrocket Coca Cola into its place as the most popular soft drink by the turn of the century.
From the 1850’s to the early 1900’s, cocaine and opium laced elixirs, tonics and wines were broadly used by people of all social classes. Notable figures promoted the “miraculous” effects of cocaine tonics and elixirs, including inventor Thomas Edison and actress Sarah Bernhardt, among others. The drug became a mainstay in the silent film industry and the pro-cocaine messages coming out of Hollywood at that time influenced millions.
Cocaine use in society increased and the dangers of the drug gradually became more evident. By 1905, it had become popular to snort cocaine and within five years, hospitals and medical literature were reporting cases of nasal damage resulting from drug use.
“As with many top models, I started with cocaine on the week-end to lose weight. Soon after I was addicted. Then I met my boyfriend and I started smoking crack. We were obsessed by it. We couldn’t stop. When we first started taking the drug, everything sparkled. Life seemed like a game without limits. Then all we could think about was taking the next hit. All we thought about was crack. The fall was tough. We have had to start a detoxification programme. Now I have to rebuild my life and find new reasons for living.”
As the severity of the problem became even more apparent, concern escalated, eventually resulting in a public demand for a ban on the social use of cocaine. Such pressure forced Pemberton to remove cocaine from Coca Cola in 1903. But in 1912, the United States government still reported 5,000 cocaine related fatalities in one year and by 1920, the drug was officially banned.
Freud and the “magic” of cocaine.
In recent years, cocaine again became a drug-of-choice among entertainers, businessmen in the world of high pressure finance and others chasing a fast-paced, exciting lifestyle — the so-called “good” life. Cocaine was the perfect companion for a trip into the fast lane. It “provided energy,” and helped one to stay “up.”
The drug gained that reputation partially thanks to Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. In 1884, Freud published an article entitled ▄ber Koka (About Coke) which extolled the benefits of cocaine, calling it a “magical” substance.
Freud was not an objective observer. He used cocaine regularly, prescribed it to his girl friend, his best friend and recommended it for general use. But he did not understand why the drug affected people the way it did and thought the drug had “magic powers.”
He confirmed that cocaine affected the nerve centers of the body, but could not determine how or why.
Cocaine: A short history of its use.
Freud praised cocaine and criticized those who disagreed with his opinions and observations about the drugs.
He refuted tests done with animals which showed negative results from cocaine use.
He ignored the pharmacological studies of the time which showed cocaine adversely affected the brain and other vital organs.
He based his opinions on unverifiable stories rather than observed fact.
Freud drew two completely false conclusions:
1. “...cocaine probably does not produce any disorder in the body, even if one consumes it for a long time in ‘moderate’ amounts.”
2. “...after having taken coke, for the first time or in a regular way, one doesn’t feel the need anymore; after a long time, one feels a certain loathing in regards to the product.
However, today we know that:
Cocaine dependence generates physical and psychological disorders.
Cocaine is highly addictive; and
Cocaine users never start “loathing” the drug.
Telling the truth about cocaine.
Cocaine affects the mind, like all drugs do. How does it work?
When a person thinks of something he gets a picture of it in his mind. These mental pictures are easy to see for yourself. Close your eyes and think of a cat and you will get a picture of a cat. The mind takes many pictures every second and files them away to solve problems in life.
Normally, when a person remembers something, the mind is very fast and information comes to him quickly from the pictures in the mind. But drugs blur the pictures in the mind, causing blank spots. When a person tries to get information through this cloudy mess, he can not do it. Drugs make a person feel slow or stupid and cause him to have failures in life. And as he has more failures and life gets harder, he wants more drugs to help him deal with the problem.
Drugs destroy creativity.
One lie told about cocaine is that it helps a person become more creative. The truth is quite different.
There is a scale of emotions from enthusiasm to apathy that people move up and down on as they go through life.
Someone who is sad might use drugs to give themselves a false sense of happiness, but it does not work. Cocaine lifts a person into a fake kind of cheerfulness, but when the drug wears off, he or she crashes even lower than before. But each time the emotional plunge is lower and lower. Eventually, drugs will completely destroy all the creativity a person may have had.