Cocaine Medical Uses
Today cocaine is known as an addictive drug, but there are cocaine medical uses. Cocaine first emerged as a mild stimulant used by native South Americans. They held a bundle of cocaine leaves in their cheeks, using it to get a “boost” -- similar to how we use coffee today. This effect was reported in the European scientific community, but real interest in cocaine didn’t happen until the active ingredient was isolated.
In the mid 1800s, chemistry had advanced enough that many plant substances were able to be purified. Once the active chemical became available, cocaine medical uses emerged. Even today, this path is common for plant derived chemicals. Getting a single compound from the mix allows experiments by varying dosage and application. The idea is to –hopefully- find a legitimate use.
For cocaine medical uses, the experiments revolved around the numbing action cocaine causes when applied to the thin, moist membranes of the mouth, nose and eye. One well documented experiment was done by Sigmund Freud. He applied a cocaine solution to his eye, numbing it, and then stuck pins in to see how the drug blocked the sensation. How exactly the famous psychiatrist came up with this idea isn’t mentioned. But it did work, and one of the current cocaine medical uses is in ophthalmology for eye surgery.
As a topical anesthetic, cocaine has some useful properties. It has a fast onset of action and lasts long enough for quick procedures without extending its effects deep into underlying tissues. Partially, this is because it also tends to constrict blood vessels where it is applied. This helps reduce bleeding in that area. For a quick numbing action on these tissues, it doesn’t require injection.
Cocaine medical uses in the US are still sold for use in eye surgery, nasal procedures and can be used to numb the throat when inserting tubes. Although still available, cocaine medical uses falls into an odd category in the regulations. There are a group of drugs, cocaine among them, that are not approved by the FDA, but are “grandfathered in” and doctors can use them based on their own medical judgment. So, while unapproved, cocaine solution is still legally sold.
It is also highly regulated by the DEA. As you might expect, cocaine is highly addictive and all forms sold to the medical community come with the warning: Do not dispense to patients. This means they can be used in a medical setting, but cannot be given to the public through a prescription.
Currently, the stimulant effects of cocaine are not used medically.