From Coca-Cola® To Crack. Coca has been used for the elevation of mood, to stimulate tired workers, and to produce euphoria for thousands of years in Central and South America. In the mid-nineteenth century the US and Europe took note of it’s seemingly beneficial properties and began to extract it’s principal active ingredient and made cocaine available as a water-soluble powder. It was discovered by physicians that the drug had potential use as an antidepressant, an asthma remedy and as a local anesthetic.
At the same time, many companies emerged extolling the virtues of several new tonics that used cocaine hydrochloride, the active ingredient in the coca leaf, as an additive. These patented tonics could be bought without prescription for the relief of many common ailments, including, of course, chronic fatigue.
The first recognized authority and advocate for this drug was world famous psychologist, Sigmund Freud. Early in his career, Freud broadly promoted cocaine as a safe and useful tonic that could cure depression and sexual impotence. Cocaine got a further boost in acceptability when in 1886 John Pemberton included cocaine as the main ingredient in his new soft drink, Coca-Cola. It was cocaine's euphoric and energizing effects on the consumer that was mostly responsible for skyrocketing Coca-Cola into its place as the most popular soft drink in history.
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. This is a fact that is for the most part hidden in American history. The truth is that at this time there was a large drug culture affecting a broad sector of American society. Other famous people that promoted the "miraculous" effects of cocaine elixirs were Thomas Edison and actress Sarah Bernhart. Because there were no restrictions placed on acquiring these drugs in the early 1900's, narcotics were an acceptable way of life for a large number of people, many of whom were people of stature. Cocaine was a main stay in the silent film industry. The pro-drug messages coming out of Hollywood at this time were receiving international attention which influenced the attitudes of millions of people about cocaine.
At the dawn of the twentieth century however, anti-cocaine legislation grew considerably. People began to see the rise of violence among abusers of the drug in the lower socioeconomic stratum and a rise in the awareness of cocaine’s harmful physical effects. The first Federal Legislation regarding cocaine was with the 1906 Pure Food and therein. And in 1914, US Congress passed the Harrison Act that imposed taxes on transformed the law to prohibit all recreational use of cocaine.
As legislation and enforcement thereof stiffened so the general use of the drug decreased, and by 1930 synthetic stimulants like amphetamine became available and replaced much of the black market for cocaine. The drug began to be used almost strictly by artists and entertainers and as an occasional alternative for heroin addicts. However, in the 1960’s we saw an increase in the use of all drugs, including cocaine and through the 1970’s and 1980’s cocaine use increased steadily among the younger populations. And as medically prescribed amphetamine became less available, and the prices of other drugs like marijuana increased cocaine enjoyed a steep rise in popularity.
Although this seemed to be a way of getting the most out of cocaine, users were uncomfortable with the volatile process of cooking down the solvent mixture. Around 1985 the drug dealers got wise to the idea of a more potent form of cocaine. The conversion process in freebasing was dangerous and time consuming and was not suitable for mass production. This was when Crack became the option. In the conversion process of Crack, the drug is similarly cooked down to a smokeable substance, but the risky process of removing the impurities and hydrochloric acid is taken out. So all that is required is baking soda, water and a heat source, often a home oven. As this process allowed a person to essentially get more bang out of their buck, by delivering the drug more efficiently, we saw cocaine become available to the lower socioeconomic stratum. This gave rise to the “Crack epidemic” and all classes from low to high became affected by the scourge of cocaine use spreading across the US.
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