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The History of Cocaine - Essay Example

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Cocaine is a crystalline tropane alkaloid that is obtained from the leaves of the coca plant.
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The History of Cocaine
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Download file to see previous pages It is an important source of nutrition and energy in a region that is lacking in other food sources and oxygen; the vitamins and protein present in the leaves, as well as the cocaine alkaloid, helps provide the energy and strength necessary for steep walks in this mountainous area and days without eating (Winger 45-47).

Although the stimulant and hunger-suppressant properties of coca had been known for many centuries, the isolation of the cocaine alkaloid was not achieved until 1855. Although many scientists had attempted to isolate cocaine, no one had been successful for two reasons: the knowledge of chemistry required was insufficient at the time, and coca does not grow in Europe and is easily ruined during travel.

The cocaine alkaloid was first isolated by the German chemist Friedrich Gaedcke. Gaedcke named the alkaloid "erythroxyline", and published a description in the journal Archives de Pharmacie. In 1856 Friederich Wohler asked Dr. Carl Scherzer, a scientist aboard the Novara (an Austrian frigate sent by Emperor Franz Joseph to circle the globe), to bring him a large amount of coca leaves from South America. In 1859 the ship finished its travels and Wohler received a trunk full of coca. Wohler passed on the leaves to Albert Niemann, a Ph.D. student at the University of Gottingen in Germany, who then developed an improved purification process.
Niemann described every step he took to isolate cocaine in his dissertation entitled On a New Organic Base in the Coca Leaves, which was published in 1860 — it also earned him his Ph.D. and is now in the British Library. ...
He wrote of the alkaloid's "colorless transparent prisms" and said that, "Its solutions have an alkaline reaction, a bitter taste, promote the flow of saliva and leave a peculiar numbness, followed by a sense of cold when applied to the tongue." Niemann named the alkaloid "cocaine" - as with other alkaloids its name carried the "-ine" suffix (from Latin -ina).
In 1879 cocaine began to be used to treat morphine addiction. Cocaine was introduced into clinical use as a local anaesthetic in Germany in 1884, about the same time as Sigmund Freud published his work Uber Coca, in which he wrote that cocaine causes:

...exhilaration and lasting euphoria, which in no way differs from the normal euphoria of the healthy person...You perceive an increase of self-control and possess more vitality and capacity for work....In other words, you are simply normal, and it is soon hard to believe you are under the influence of any drug....Long intensive physical work is performed without any fatigue...This result is enjoyed without any of the unpleasant after-effects that follow exhilaration brought about by alcohol....Absolutely no craving for the further use of cocaine appears after the first, or even after repeated taking of the drug...

In 1885 the U.S. manufacturer Parke-Davis sold cocaine in various forms, including cigarettes, powder, and even a cocaine mixture that could be injected directly into the user's veins with the included needle. The company promised that its cocaine products would "supply the place of food, make the coward brave, the silent eloquent and ... render the sufferer insensitive to pain." By late Victorian era cocaine use had appeared as a vice in literature, for example as the cocaine injected by Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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