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The Many Faces of Cocaine

Cocaine is one of the many drugs that have stayed prevalent throughout the years in its abuse and misuse worldwide. Cocaine has been around for many years and was once considered a wonder drug in the 1800s by some of the greatest minds in the history of medicine. But fast forward centuries later, and cocaine became a different kind of wonder drug- the kind that made people feel energy and enhance nights out partying until the wee hours with no thoughts of it ever causing cocaine addiction.  

Cocaine, whose name is derived from the coca plant, was first used by natives in South America who chewed on the leaves to feel the effects of the plant. By 1880, many companies produced cocaine hydrochloride, which was a concentrated version of the plant leaves. This version was ten times stronger than just chewing on the coca plant leaves.

During this time, there was medical literature written that consisted of various case reports, including doctors who wrote about the effects of their trial and error with individual patients who ingested this drug. There was also a paper called the Therapeutic Gazette, owned by cocaine’s largest manufacturer Parke-Davis that many of these case reports on cocaine were published in.

One specific report was created by Sigmund Freud, who was a young physician in Vienna that discovered what he thought was a miracle drug. In 1884, Freud wrote a 70 page tribute to cocaine called “Uber Coca.” Freud went into depth about how this white powder could prove to be used for drug addiction treatment with morphine addiction. Surprisingly, he also mentioned how cocaine could assist as a topical painkiller for which it is still currently used today, in very minimal amounts.

When other doctors would read these reports, it would give them ideas as well. One such doctor was surgeon William Halsted who resided in New York. He was intrigued by the idea of cocaine as a painkiller and decided to try using it on himself and others. Halsted started injecting cocaine first into his own body and then moved on to injecting friends, students and those he worked with to see how it would affect everyone. The only thing Halsted ultimately discovered was the valuable prospects of deadening nerve endings but of course this discovery came with more than just knowledge.

After using for a while, the surgeon became completely dependent on cocaine and could not even perform surgeries anymore. Even though many others in society were also suffering from the effects of cocaine addiction, it was still publicly seen as positive. People were told it would help them with a stomach ache, nervousness or even help with energy and productivity.

During these times, cocaine was not something sold in a pharmacy. It was easily available in various products such as drinks, ointments and even margarine. One of the most popular products was a wine created by a French chemist. The wine was replicated by a Civil War veteran named John Syth Pemberton. Pemberton had become a morphine addict due to war wounds and he became interested in the prospect of cocaine as form of drug treatment for morphine addiction. When his hometown of Atlanta banned the sale of alcohol, he created a sweet, non-alcoholic version of his wine called Coca-Cola.

By the early 1890s, reports were surfacing of people who had taken too much cocaine and now had a cocaine addiction. By 1903, there was no longer cocaine in Coca-Cola due to the overwhelming affects on society, and by 1914 cocaine was no longer looked at in a positive light.  

At that time, Congress passed a law banning the non-medical use of cocaine, as well as other drugs, like marijuana. Once it became banned, cocaine was no longer something everyone wanted until the 1970’s when the drug again popped up as something that was now for the elite and wealthy. People began abusing it more and the government decided it was time to put more control on society by creating mandatory jail sentence for those caught with cocaine.

While the fear of jail sentence kept some people from using cocaine, it was not that way for everyone and many needed the assistance of treatment centers to conquer their cocaine drug addiction. Luckily, since cocaine’s peak in the 1980’s, the number of users has dropped by more than half. The only cocaine use now is usually by those who are addicts and need the help of a treatment center.

Unfortunately, there are still many cocaine addicts out there who will deny that they are in danger of anything by abusing the drug. But denial is often the key to knowing someone has an addiction. There is help out there for those willing to get assistance in leading a drug-free life. Vista Taos Drug Treatment Center provides the care needed to conquer cocaine addiction and live a long healthy and happy life. If you or a loved one is suffering from substance abuse, contact Vista Taos to find out more about how you can get the help needed for a brighter future.

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COVID-19 update: The health and safety of our clients at Vista Taos Renewal Center continues to be our highest priority. Due to the national rise in cases of COVID-19, all potential clients entering the Vista Taos program shall be tested for the virus and must receive their results prior to admission. Vista Taos continues to work closely with the New Mexico Department of Health, adhering to the highest standards of care for our clients, and will provide subsequent testing after admission as needed. For assistance in finding the most efficient testing sites, please contact our Director of Community Relations, Jeremy Lihte, at (575) 425-1913
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