The further history of cocaine is very curious. It was attended by one young Viennese doctor who needed some kind of discovery to gain recognition.
Although now Sigmund Freud is better known as a researcher of another problem, his first work was devoted to cocaine. Freud tried cocaine in 1884 and soon realized that he had discovered an amazing substance. In his first major publication, O Coke, he promoted cocaine as a local anesthetic and a cure for depression, indigestion, asthma, various neuroses, syphilis, drug addiction and alcoholism. He also believed that cocaine increased sexual arousal.
Of this list of possible medical indications of cocaine, only one was valuable – for local anesthesia. When cocaine molecules interact with neurons of the peripheral nervous system, the latter cannot be excited, which causes numbness in some part of the body. Cocaine acts on the central nervous system quite differently. Cocaine became the first local anesthetic, and this revolutionized surgery. Nowadays, of course, cocaine derivatives are more widely used, such as procaine or novocaine. But cocaine itself is still used in surgery, especially in face surgery, as it constricts blood vessels, reduces bleeding and reduces pain.
Freud’s early thoughts about cocaine were erroneous and led to a wave of abuse of this drug. It’s funny, but the first to demonstrate what people expect in the future was Freud’s friend Ernst von Fleischel. He suffered from chronic pain, and because of this he became a morphine. Freud undertook to cure him and prescribed cocaine. Fleischel began to consume it in more and more large quantities and, indeed, got rid of the addiction to morphine. But his daily dose of cocaine soon amounted to one gram. Fleishel became the first cocaine in Europe. He had strange symptoms, which, as we now know, are the result of cocaine overdose. Among them were paranoid hallucinations, which are often observed in paranoid schizophrenia, and itching of the skin, so-called “goosebumps”, in which a person feels as if insects or snakes crawl on his skin. These symptoms are the result of a cocaine overdose, and the first of many who experienced these sensations was Fleischel.
Freud was amazed at the devastating effect that cocaine had on Fleischel, and in the following articles he diminished his enthusiasm for cocaine. But the harm was already irreparable. It was a cocaine epidemic of the 80s, yes, yes, it was the 80s of the XIX century! Doctors prescribed cocaine; in pharmacies without someone’s prescription, patented drugs containing it were sold (for example, Mariani coca wine, a record holder in sales in Europe). And, of course, cocoa. Older advertisements say that this drink “contains tonic and stimulating substances from coca plants.” Cocaine took a place in music and literature: he gave Sherlock Holmes vivacity and improved deductive abilities; Stephenson apparently wrote a story about Dr. Jackel and Mr. Heide during his cocaine treatment for tuberculosis. Good recommendations cocaine gave Thomas Edison, Jules Bern, Emile Zola, Heinrich Ibsen and President Grant.
The Cocaine Metcalfe wine ad shows how cocaine became so popular: Speakers, singers and actors found that coca wine strengthened the vocal cords well. Athletes, runners and baseball players on their own experience were convinced that prolonged use of coca, both before and after the competition, gives strength and energy and reduces fatigue. Older people have learned that this is a reliable aphrodisiac, the best of all known.
With such an advertisement, cocaine was not difficult to become popular. With the increase in the number of people who use drugs, danger has become noticeable. Many discovered these dangers on themselves, and after cocaine psychosis, deaths from overdoses, and heavy drug addiction, public opinion came out against cocaine. One of the works that most impressed the public and changed the perception of cocaine was an article that dealt with the case of Annie Meyer, who was a successful business woman and a “balanced Christian” until she became a “friend of cocaine.” Meyer described well all the power of cocaine addiction. It was a period when she ran out of money. “I took the scissors and loosened my golden tooth. Then I pulled it out, flattened it and rushed to the nearest pawnshop (blood flowed down my face, the dress was wet with blood), where I sold the tooth for 80 cents.” After that, attitudes toward cocaine began to change. Reports of rape committed under the influence of cocaine were added to the dramatic descriptions of drug addiction, and public opinion exploded. The culmination of indignation was the adoption in 1914 of Garrison’s cocaine control law. Initially, the law was intended to control the spread of opiates,like morphine and heroin, but the inclusion of cocaine in the list of dangerous drugs was by no means accidental.