Cocaine History

coca leaf

Understanding the basis of cocaine addiction means knowing the history of cocaine. offers you a snapshot of cocaine history in the form of a timeline.

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3000 B.C.E. Coca: A Godly Plant
The Coca plant, which is the plant that cocaine is derived from is chewed throughout South America and is considered by South America's inhabitants to be a gift from God.
1400s: Inca Coca Expansion
The Inca, an advanced medieval Peruvian empire, expands coca production through the operation of countless coca plantations. It is these plantations which will later form the beginning of the production of the modern day coca crop and pure cocaine.
Early 1500s: The Europeans Get Hooked on Coca
Amerigo Vespucci brings back the coca plant to Europe.
Those who are privileged to be in possession of the coveted Spanish Land Grants take possession of the Incan coca plantations. The tax laws of Spain are changed to let land owners pay their taxes in coca leaves. The Bishop of Cuzco takes 1/10 of the value of each coca crop.
By the middle of the 16th Century coca production in Peru rapidly expands, overly producing the coca leaf, causing the price of the coca plant to drop.
1575: Coca Trade Attracts Europeans
82% of Europeans in Peru involve themselves in the Coca trade, making it the largest employer of European labor in South America.
1662: Coca Poetry
"The Legend of Coca" by Abraham Cowley becomes the first instance that coca is mentioned in English literature.
1708: Botany meets the Coca Plant
German botanist Herman Boerhaave mentions the coca plant in his paper "Institutions Medicae."
1835: Coca and Art
Sir William Hooker accurately portrays the coca plant in an artist’s rendering for the "Companion to the Botanical Magazine."
1850: Coca's Medicinal Side
During surgical procedures of the throat, doctors use tincture made from coca leaves as a local anesthetic.

Cocaine is born

1855: Cocaine is Born
The first extraction of cocaine from coca leaves takes place.
1862: Cocaine Production Increases Little by Little
A ¼ pound of cocaine is extracted from the coca plant by Merck, an established drug and chemical company.
1870: Want some Cocaine with Your Wine?
Vin Mariani, otherwise known as Coca Wine, goes on sale throughout France. It contains 6 mg of cocaine for every ounce of wine. The exported version of the wine contains 7.2 mg of cocaine due to the American competition containing a higher quantity.
Late 1800s: A Wonder Drug
English Race Walkers are known to chew coca leaves in order to increase their physical output. Sigmund Freud recommends it for non-addictive energy and vitality – a boon to mankind.
¾ of a pound of cocaine is extracted from coca leaves by Merck and by the end of the century this rises to almost 80 tons.
The popularization of cocaine as an anesthetic during surgical procedures on eyes takes place.
John Pemberton introduces Coca-Cola, which has syrup laced with cocaine and caffeine.
1901: Cola without Coca
Cocaine is removed from Coca-Cola's mix.
1905: Cocaine for the Nose
It becomes popular to snort cocaine. Five years later, the nasal damage this causes is seen in many hospitals and mentioned in medical journals.
1912: Obvious Dangers Emerge
5,000 fatalities were recorded by the U.S. Government as the result of cocaine use. Two years after this, cocaine is made illegal in the US, except by prescription.
Early 1930s: Cocaine Production Keeps Going
The leading cocaine producers during this time are Japan, US, Germany, UK, and France.
1976: A New Form of Cocaine Arises
The first development of freebase cocaine occurs. It soon grows in popularity, pushed both by dealers and Hollywood. This is a dangerous practice that involves dissolving the drug in ether, which is highly flammable.
1981: Cocaine Becomes a Money Maker
$55,000 is the going rate for 1 kg of cocaine. Three years later the price has fallen by half as production ramps up.
1980s: Freebasing Cocaine
Freebasing cocaine becomes cool. But a glut of low-priced powdered cocaine leads to the marketing of a new form – crack. Available by the mid-80s in many urban areas, crack cocaine doesn’t take off until after the mass media reports it as an epidemic, which served to popularize crack. The first crack babies are born in 1984.
By 1986, hospital emergency room visits for cocaine use have risen 110% over 1985. By 1987, crack is available nationwide. Columbian cartels begin to have major political and economic influence.
1990s: New Types, New Discoveries
Cocaine combined with heroin as an injectable or smokable mix – called a speed ball. Crack sales and arrests outnumber powdered cocaine. Federal law makes penalties for powdered cocaine possession less than for crack (by cocaine content) so dealers and users make their own crack from the powder.
The physical and brain chemistry of cocaine is further illuminated by brain imaging studies and the pharmacological effects are better understood. Methamphetamine begins to compete as “the poor man’s cocaine.”
Abuse of prescription narcotics and meth continue to compete with, and erode the cocaine market. Still, in 2007, more that 400 metric tons of cocaine are seized worldwide. It is unknown how much was not captured and made it onto the street.
Researchers continue to look for a medication that will help with addiction.
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