History of Cocaine Use and Abuse

courtesy erowid.org

  c. 3000 B.C.   Coca chewing is practiced throughout South America. Coca is believed to be a gift from God. 1 

1400s   Coca plantations are operated by Incas in Peru.   

1505   First hand accounts of coca use made their way back to Europe. Amerigo Vespucci (1505), G Frenandez de Oviedo (1535), and Nicholas Monardes (1565). 2 

Early 1500s   Incan Coca plantations are taken over by holders of Spanish land grants. Spanish tax laws are revised to allow land owners to make their tax payments in coca leaves. 2 

1539   The Bishop of Cuzco tithes coca, taking 110 of the value of each crop in taxes.
Mid 1500s   Coca production in Peru expands quickly causing a glut of leaf on the market which in turn precipitated a drop in the price of coca. 2 

1574   Monardes’ text on Coca is first translated into other European languages from Spanish; Latin (1574), Italian (1576), English (1577). 2 

c. 1575   Forced laborors working in the Spanish silver mines were kept well supplied with Coca leaves. Roughly 82% of the Europeans living in Peru were involved in the Coca trade. 2 

1662   Abraham Cowley writes a poem titled “A Legend of Coca”. This is the first independent mention of coca in English literature.

1708   Coca is first mentioned in a materia medica, Institutiones Medicae, written by German physician and botanist Herman Boerhaave.

1835   First accurate drawing of Coca appears in popular English press. The illustration by Sir William Hooker, director of the Kew gardens, was published in Companion to the Botanical Magazine. 2 

c. 1850   Coca tinctures used in throat surgery. 2 

c. 1855   Cocaine first extracted from Coca leaves. 2 

1862   Merck produces 14 pound of cocaine. 3 

1869   Seeds from the commercial variety of Coca arrived at Kew Gardens.

1870   Vin Mariani (Coca wine) is for sale throughout France, containing 6 mg cocaine per ounce of wine. Exported Vin Mariani contained 7.2 mg per ounce to compete with the higher cocaine content of American competitors. 2 

1870s   Parke,Davis manufactures a fluid extract of coca. 2 

1876 - 1885   Race walkers in England chew Coca leaves to improve their performance. 2 

1883   Merck produces 34 pound of Cocaine. 3 

1884   Cocaine’s use as a local anesthetic in eye surgery is popularized. 2 

1884   Freud publishes On Coca in which he recommends the use of cocaine to treat a variety of conditions including morphine addiction. 2 

1884   Merck produces 3,179 pounds of Cocaine. 3 

1886   Merck produces 158,352 pounds of Cocaine. 3 

1886   Coca-Cola is first introduced by John Pemberton, containing cocaine laced syrup and caffeine. 

Late 1880s   Parke,Davis starts to manufacture refined cocaine. 2 

c. 1901   Coca-Cola removed Coca from their formula. 2 

c. 1905   Snorting cocaine becomes popular. 2 

1910   First cases of nasal damage from Cocaine snorting are written of in medical literature. 3 

1910   First cases of nasal damage from Cocaine snorting are seen in hospitals. 2 

1912   U.S. government reports 5,000 Cocaine related fatalities in one year. 3 

1914   Cocaine banned in United States. 4 

Early 1930s   Japan is the world’s leading cocaine producer (23.3%) followed by the United States (21.3%), Germany (15%), U.K. (9.9%), France (8.3%). 3 

c. 1976   Freebase cocaine first developed (probably in California). It woud soon be popularized by dealers and glamorized by Hollywood media.

1981   Wholesale cost of 1 kg of cocaine is $55,000. 5 

1984   Wholesale cost of 1 kg cocaine is $25,000. 1 

Mid 1980’s   Freebase cocaine becomes popular.


  1. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs: Cocaine, A New Epidemic, by Chris-Ellyn Johanson.
  2. A Brief History of Cocaine, by Steven B. Karch
  3. A Brief History of Cocaine, by Steven B. Karch.
  4. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs: Cocaine, A New Epidemic, by Chris-Ellyn Johanson.
  5. The Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Drugs: Cocaine: A New Epidemic, by Chris-Ellyn Johanson.

Related Article:

Cocaine Today

Cocaine substance abuse information presented by Narconon International. See also: Cocaine Addiction | Cocaine Drug Info | Crack Cocaine | History of Cocaine

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