When you reach into the refrigerator for a Coca-Cola, do you ever wonder where it got its name? You might be surprised to find out! When coke was created 120 years ago, it contained cocaine (Bayer 27). At the time scientists did not realize that cocaine was addictive and dangerous. Scientists today know that cocaine is among the strongest stimulants known, and trying the drug even one time can cause heart attack, stroke, and even death. Even the most in shape athlete could die from one use (Bayer 26).
The history of coca leaves began hundreds of years ago in South America. The Indians of Peru and Bolivia chewed coca leaves so that they could work hard in high altitudes and need little food. It was not until the late 1700’s that the coca plant was brought to Europe, and cocaine was not actually created until 1855 when a German chemist named Albert Niemann extracted a compound from coca leaves and named it cocaine. It was not long after cocaine was discovered that it became a common household item (Woods 32).
In the 19th century in The United States, cocaine was included in many different over the counter medicines and tonics (Woods 33). Also a wine named Vin Mariani, which contained cocaine as one of its ingredients, was widely marketed. Among the famous people to indorse the wine were Pope Leo III, author Jules Vern, and inventor Thomas Edison (Woods 33).
One of the first doctors to prescribe cocaine to his patients was Sigmund Freud. Freud thought that cocaine could be
used to cure opium addiction and alcoholism. In reality, though, he was only substituting one addiction for another. Freud wrote a paper on the affects cocaine had on himself. He found that the only really safe and proper medical use was as a painkiller (Woods 33).
Most of the coca plants in the world are grown in Peru and Bolivia by Indians that have learned to make coca paste (when coca leaves are mixed with kerosene) from the plant (McFarland 31). The paste that is made is then shipped to Columbia where it is made into a powdered substance. After the cocaine is made into powder it is shipped to the United States and other parts world (McFarland 32).
Drug families in Columbia control most of the cocaine trafficking. They use special planes and boats to carry cocaine from Columbia to Caribbean Islands and southern Florida. They send some on land, by truck through Mexico into the United States (McFarland 32).
Most of the cocaine brought into the U.S. goes through Los Angelas, Houston, New York, and Miami (Cocaine Use 3). From these locations trafficking gangs connect with street gangs to distribute most of the cocaine. Gangs including the Crips, Bloods, and Dominican, Cuban, Haitian, Mexican, and Puerto Rican groups control most of the sales. Cocaine is only about percent 80 pure when it reaches the gangs, and only 60 percent pure when it hits the street. This is because gangs cut’ it with other substances such as sugar, PCP, speed, corn starch, and talcum powder to save money (Cocaine Use 3).
Between 1981 and 1996 the U.S. Government has spent more than $80 billion fighting the drug war. Government agents continuously patrol our southern border, from Florida to California, in an effort to ward off large scale drug smuggling. Thus far, their efforts appear futile (Bayer 33).
Cocaine is a strong central nervous stimulant. It speeds up the body’s work, and affects the part of the brain that produces strong feelings of pleasure. It makes the user feel powerful and full of energy, and they no longer feel tired. In experiments, monkeys that were allowed to have all the cocaine they wanted, took it until they died.
Cocaine has stronger physical affects on the body and brain than almost any other drug. After cocaine is taken, the heart beats 30 to 50 percent faster and the body temperature rises. The strongest physical affects cocaine has, though, are on the brain. The human brain has 30 million nerve cells, which are separated from each other by tiny gaps called synapses. When messages are ready to be sent, chemicals flow into the synapses between one brain cell and another. Cocaine causes these chemicals to remain in the synapses longer, causing the brain’s messages to be sent quicker. This then makes the body react to things much quicker and sometimes over react.
Another part of the brain that cocaine affects, is the reward pathway. Behaviors that are necessary to survival like eating, drinking, and sleeping activate this pathway, and are rewarded so that the person continues to do them. An addictive drug like cocaine activates this same passageway, and that is why the person continues to use the drug.
Cocaine also has very strong affects on the minds of its users. There is a feeling of well being when high on cocaine, but when the high goes down, the mood can change quickly to depression. Cocaine users think that they are invulnerable, and that they do everything right. In reality, although they may do some things better, they can not do anything that requires thought. Many users talk a lot when they are high, and most of what they are saying makes no sense.
Many users of cocaine repeat the same tasks over and over without realizing it. Some users become angry, wild, or out of control, and hurt other people. Other users become paranoid and feel everyone is against them, so they stay away from people. Longtime users begin to see, feel, and taste things that are not actually there (Bayer 18).
Addiction is the side affect to worry about the most. There is no cure or quick fix for addiction; stopping the use of the drug completely can only control it. Staying off of drugs is very hard, and cocaine is one of the most addicting, but it can be done with the right help.
Testing for the presence of cocaine, and other drugs, in the human body, is big business these days. As a prerequisite for employment, and to keep the workplace drug free, many government agencies, and private corporations, spend millions of dollars, each year, in order to test new, and current employees, for signs of cocaine usage.
My dad, Gregory Brulz SR., is a Technical Service Representative, employed by Roche Diagnostics Corporation. Roche is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, and supplier of biomedical testing instrumentation, to many of the clinical laboratories, and hospitals, that perform drug testing. Aside from testing prospective employees for casual cocaine use, these laboratories also perform clinical testing, to aid in the treatment of cocaine addicts, and abusers.
My dad’s job is to set up the test instrument operating parameters, perform testing to ensure that the instrument, and tests, meet federal (FDA), and laboratory regulatory guidelines, and train the instrument operators.
On most diagnostic analyzers, human urine is the medium tested, in determining the quantity of cocaine present in a human body. The concentration of cocaine present in the urine, can also be used to interpret the frequency of usage by the individual, and assist in the clinical treatment process.
On the analyzer, the urine is mixed with chemical aggregates, called reagents. A high intensity light is projected through a clear plastic cup, containing the urine- chemical mixture. When the mixture contains the drug in question, the reaction created by the drug-chemical reaction absorbs the amount of light projected through the mixture, in proportion to the amount of drug present. The quantity of light absorbed’ is converted to a specific concentration, presented in nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of urine. The presence of cocaine is considered negative up to 300 ng/ml (Roche 22).
These analyzers can process several hundred individual urine samples per hour. Even at this rate, many laboratories strain to keep up with the demand for cocaine testing.
Hundreds of years ago, Indians in South America discovered the coca plant. In 1855 cocaine was first extracted from the plant. Cocaine became a household item in the 19th century until a man named Sigmund Freud tested the drug on himself and realized that it was dangerous. Today, all over the country, cocaine destroys young lives every day. It is a dangerous, addictive drug, and using it once can kill you. It damages the brain, and messes with the mind. Knowing the facts about cocaine can help people stay healthy and drug free, and may even save lives.