The natives of this region used the coca leaves as a stimulant. The effect of intake was increased breathing, which led to higher intake of oxygen. Given the tough environmental conditions, namely thin air at high altitudes, the laborers were able to carry out their physical activities with more stamina. Gradually, the powerful stimulating effects of the coca leaf were duly noticed by the scientific world. Cocaine was first synthesized in 1855. The coca leaves were chemically synthesized, leaving the white crystalline powder, which is now known as cocaine. Hence, the hitherto mild stimulating effects of the coca leaves were maximized in the form of this potent drug. By the early 1900’s, it was to become the main stimulant in numerous cure-all tonics and elixirs. With the passage of time, more novel methods to intensify the ecstatic effects of cocaine were invented. These efforts led to the invention of ‘crack’, the most dangerous and potent form of cocaine.
The famous psychologist Sigmund Freud was the first to promote the drug as a cure for depression and sexual impotence. In 1886, John Pemberton, the inventor of the new soft drink Coca-Cola used it as the chief ingredient. This gave an added boost to the popularity of the drug. Coca-Cola’s status as the most popular soft drink in history can be attributed to the powerful energizing effects of cocaine.
In the second half of the 19th century, opium, heroin and cocaine were freely used in making tonics and elixirs that were broadly advocated as cures for a wide range of diseases. There was a prominent and socially approved drug culture in the American society at the time. Other famous promoters of this drug were Thomas Edison and actress Sarah Bernhart. It was widely used in Hollywood too. Such staunch support coming from role models of the time, powerfully catapulted cocaine to a cult-like status.