Cocaine is an alkaloid found in leaves of the South America
n shrub Erythroxylon coca. It is a powerfully reinforcing psychostimulant
. The drug induces a sense of exhilaration
in the user primarily by blocking the reuptake of the neurotransmitter dopamine
in the midbrain. If the predictions of The Hedonistic Imperative
are vindicated, then future millennia will witness what Robert Anton Wilson
once called "hedonic engineering".
Mature enhancements of currently drug-induced states of euphoria
will be transformed into a absolute presupposition of sentient
existence. Life-long happiness
will be genetically pre-programmed. "Peak experiences" will become a natural part of everyday mental health.
Cocaine, alas, offers only a tragically delusive short-cut.
In pre-Columbian times, the coca leaf was reserved for Inca royalty. The natives subsequently used it for mystical, religious, social, nutritional and medicinal purposes. They exploited its stimulant properties to ward off fatigue, hunger, enhance endurance in the cool and oxygen deficient Andean highlands, and to promote a benign sense of well-being.
It was initially banned by the Spanish. But the invaders discovered that without the Incan "gift of the gods", the natives could barely work the fields - or mine gold. So it came to be cultivated by the Catholic Church. Coca leaves were distributed three or four times a day to the workers during brief rest-breaks.
Returning Spanish conquistadores introduced it to Europe. Coca was touted as "an elixir of life". In 1814, an editorial in Gentleman's Magazine urged researchers to begin experimentation so that coca could be used as "a substitute for food, so that people could live a month, now and then, without eating..."
The active ingredient of the coca plant was first isolated in the West around 1860. Freud described cocaine as a magical drug. He wrote a song of praise in its honour. He also practised extensive self-experimentation. To Sherlock Holmes, cocaine was "so transcendentally stimulating and clarifying to the mind that its secondary action is a matter of small moment". Doctors dispensed cocaine as an antidote to morphine addiction. Unfortunately, some patients made a habit of combining both.
Cocaine was soon sold over-the-counter. Until 1916, one could buy it at Harrods. It was widely used in tonics, toothache cures and patent medicines; and in chocolate cocaine tablets. Prospective buyers were advised - in the words of pharmaceutical firm Parke-Davis - that cocaine "could make the coward brave, the silent eloquent, and render the sufferer insensitive to pain".
When combined with alcohol, the cocaine alkaloid yields a further potently reinforcing compound, now known to be cocaethylene. Thus cocaine was a popular ingredient in wines, notably Vin Mariani. Coca wine received endorsement from prime-ministers, royalty and even the Pope. Frédérick-Auguste Batholdi observed that if only he had used Vin Mariani earlier in his life, then he would have engineered the Statue of Liberty a few hundred meters higher.
Coca-cola was introduced in 1886 as as "a valuable brain-tonic and cure for all nervous afflictions". It was promoted as a temperance drink "offering the virtues of coca without the vices of alcohol". The new beverage was invigorating and popular. Until 1903, a typical serving contained around 60mg of cocaine. Sold today, it still contains an extract of coca-leaves. Coca Cola imports eight tons from South America each year. Nowadays the leaves are used only for flavouring since the drug has been removed.
A coca leaf typically contains contains between 0.1 and 0.9 percent cocaine. If chewed in such form, it rarely presents the user with any social or medical problems. When the leaves are soaked and mashed, however, cocaine is extracted as a coca-paste. The paste is 60 to 80 per cent pure. It is usually exported in the form of the salt, cocaine hydrochloride. This is the powdered cocaine most common, until recently, in the West.
Drug testing for cocaine aims to detect the presence of its major metabolite, the inactive benzoylecgonine. Benzoylecgonine can be detected for up to five days in casual users. In chronic users, urinary detection is possible for as long as three weeks.
Noded for posterity from the highly recommended
WWW.COCAINE.ORGThe original author, David Pearce, has given his blessing and explicit permission for the reproduction of his work on E2