A Brief History of Cocaine

Cocaine isn’t just one of the most commonly abused illicit substances in the world – it’s also one of the oldest substances of abuse. Cocaine is derived from the young leaves of the coca plant, which have powerful central nervous system stimulant effects. Native to the Andean Mountain Range in South America, people have been using the drug for surgical, recreational, spiritual and other purposes. But while some of these uses may be benign in the hands of indigenous people, when people use cocaine in most of the developed world it can quickly lead to dependence and active addiction. Understanding the history of cocaine is essential to create lasting education, intervention and treatment programs to help those who become addicted to this powerful drug.,The coca plant has been held in a revered status by indigenous South American peoples for centuries. Thousands of years ago the ancient Incan Empire was flourishing in the Andes and the coca plant plated a central role in their lives. Archaeologists have unearthed evidence that suggests the coca plant was used as an analgesic compound by early battlefield surgeons and as a source of spiritual ecstasy by powerful spiritual leaders.,When the Spanish arrived in South America in the 15th century they recorded their observations of the daily lives of the Incan and other native peoples. One of the most striking observations was the constant use of the coca plant. Not only did people use it for medical and spiritual purposes, but many seemed to chew on the leaves of the plant constantly throughout the day, reporting that it kept them alert and in a heightened state of awareness. However, the Catholic Church at the time frowned on the practice and set about assimilating the native peoples of South America.,In 1855 cocaine was synthesized from the coca plant and quickly became one of the most commonly used therapeutic substances ever known. In addition to uses in psychotherapy, surgery, pain management and other uses, cocaine also became popularized by the early Hollywood industry. Thomas Edison is said to have advocated the use of cocaine, and Sigmund Freud wrote about his daily use of the drug to manage depression and simple aches and pains. However, few people at the time realized how addictive the substance really was, and in many cases cocaine could be found in everything from cough elixirs to beverages.,In 1915 the Harrison Tax Act was passed and placed the control of cocaine in the hands of the U.S. government. However, this did little to stop the supply and illicit use of cocaine, and more than a half century later further action was needed. In 1970 cocaine use and addiction was becoming enough of a public health concern that the federal government again stepped in and passed the CDAPC Act, which outlawed the use, possession, transfer, sale or manufacture of the drug.,Despite significant efforts in the War on Drugs to eradicate the coca plant and intercept shipments of the drug from South America to the US and other parts of the world, cocaine remain the second most widely used substance on the planet – second only to marijuana. If you or someone you love is suffering from a cocaine addiction, use one of the links below to get help right now: