Like heroin, cocaine is a modern drug of high purity, isolated from a plant with a long history of traditional consumption. For millennia, the inhabitants of the mountainous wet forests of South America have stored cultural values that contribute to the ritual and religious consumption of food and stimulant – coca.
The locals in the areas where coca has traditionally been cultivated and consumed will certainly tell you: “Coca no es un droga ,, es comida” (“Coca is not a drug, it is food”). And pretty much it is. Self-consumed doses of ground coca contain a significant percentage of the daily required vitamins and minerals. Coca is also a powerful appetite suppressant. It is impossible to appreciate the importance of these factors without understanding the situation regarding the presence of proteins in the forests of the Amazon and in the highlands of the Andes. An occasional traveler may suggest that the lush vegetation of the rainforest means an abundance of fruits, edible seeds and roots. However, it is not. The competition for available protein resources is so cruel among the thousands of species of life in the jungle flora and fauna that almost all usable organic materials are actually already embedded in the interconnection of living systems. And a plant that suppresses appetite will help a person to penetrate such an environment.
Of course, appetite suppression is just one characteristic feature of coca consumption. Another characteristic is stimulation. The tropical rainforest environment is a difficult habitat. Collecting food and building shelter often requires transporting large quantities of material over considerable distances. And often machete is the only tool suitable for somehow breaking through impassable thickets.
For the culture of the ancient Incas in Peru, and later for the local population and the colonists-metises, coca was a goddess, a kind of echo in the New World of the white goddess Graves Levkotei. It is significant that the goddess Mama Coca in the form of a girl offering a saving coca branch to the Spanish conqueror is embossed on the front list of the classic “History of coca – the divine Inca plant” by W. Golden Mortimer.
Cocaine was first isolated in 1859. Pharmacology was undergoing a kind of renaissance, and cocaine research continued for several more decades. At this stage of our discussion, it is probably hardly necessary to mention that cocaine was initially praised as an excellent remedy against morphine. The young Sigmund Freud was also among the medical researchers attracted by the new tool.
Today it is impossible to say with certainty to what extent coca can increase a person’s psychic abilities. I get the impression that its long-term consumption can lead to a lasting improvement if the inhibitions manifested before it were taken were the result of only physical causes or exhaustion. Of course, the immediate effect of a dose of coca cannot be compared with the effect of morphine injection; but, on the other hand, there is no danger of general harm to the body, as in the case of chronic consumption of morphine.
Freud’s discoveries, which he subsequently refused, were neither too widely known nor well accepted in the circles where they were known. But already his Viennese follower Karl Koller took a further step in the medical use of cocaine – opened the possibility of its use as a local anesthetic. Koller’s discovery made a real revolution in surgery; in 1885, this property of cocaine was hailed as a terrific medical breakthrough. However, with the widespread use of this drug, its effect as an addictive stimulant was also noted. Cocaine was an inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson, who describes in his story “The Strange History of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” some means that causes a sudden personality change. A fact that has contributed to the rapidly growing reputation of cocaine as a dangerous new vice for the rich and libertines.