Monday, September 13

Cocaine 2.0 - Coca Cola to Crack

Back Across the Pond

Cocaine had a far larger impact on the U.S. than it did in Europe. From
Coca-cola was introduced in 1886 as "a valuable brain-tonic and cure for all nervous afflictions". Coca-cola was promoted as a temperance drink "offering the virtues of coca without the vices of alcohol". The new beverage was invigorating and popular. Until 1903, a typical serving contained around 60mg of cocaine. Sold today, it still contains an extract of coca-leaves. The Coca-Cola Company imports eight tons from South America each year. Nowadays the leaves are used only for flavouring since the drug has been removed., the Urban Legends Reference Pages, clarifies the relationship between cocaine and Coke
in 1885 it was far from uncommon to use cocaine in patent medicines (which is what Coca-Cola was originally marketed as) and other medical potions. When it first became general knowledge that cocaine could be harmful, the backroom chemists who comprised Coca-Cola at the time (long before it became the huge company we now know) did everything they could with the technology they had available at the time to remove every trace of cocaine from the beverage. What was left behind (until the technology improved enough for it all to be removed) wasn't enough to give a fly a buzz.

(b)y 1902 it was as little as 1/400 of a grain of cocaine per ounce of syrup. Coca-Cola didn't become completely cocaine-free until 1929, but there was scarcely any of the drug left in the drink by then
Of course, cocaine seeped into American culture despite its removal from Coca-Cola - for example, back in the Roaring Twenties the noted song writer Cole Porter penned the lyrics
"I get no kick from champagne,
Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all,
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you?
Some get a kick from cocaine.
I'm sure that if I took even one sniff.
That would bore me terrific'ly too.
Yet I get a kick out of you."
The drug was an open secret among the rich and some artists despite government efforts that are documented at
At the dawn of the twentieth century however, anti-cocaine legislation grew considerably. People began to see the rise of violence among abusers of the drug in the lower socioeconomic stratum and a rise in the awareness of cocaine’s harmful physical effects. The first Federal Legislation regarding cocaine was with the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act that required products precisely label the content therein. And in 1914, US Congress passed the Harrison Act that imposed taxes on products containing cocaine. Soon, Drug Enforcement Officials quickly transformed the law to prohibit all recreational use of cocaine.

As legislation and enforcement thereof stiffened so the general use of the drug decreased, and by 1930 synthetic stimulants like amphetamine became available and replaced much of the black market for cocaine. The drug began to be used almost strictly by artists and entertainers and as an occasional alternative for heroin addicts. However, in the 1960’s we saw an increase in the use of all drugs, including cocaine and through the 1970’s and 1980’s cocaine use increased steadily among the younger populations. And as medically prescribed amphetamine became less available, and the prices of other drugs like marijuana increased cocaine enjoyed a steep rise in popularity.
Now for more history by pop culture. Back in 1972 during the era of Blaxploitation movies Ron O'Neal's Superfly was a drug dealer who wore a coke spoon around his neck and most viewers were outraged. However, in 1984 the TV show Miami Vice was purportedly based on the standard cops and robbers format but treated the then violent cocaine infused criminal subculture of Southern Florida with a romantic eye and something approaching reverence. In the popular imagination, the twisted 'romance' with the drug may have actually begun with the 1983 coke epic Scarface.

Cocaine for the Masses

There is an old saying that when 'America catches a cold, Black America catches pneumonia'. The story of cocaine at this point becomes to a tragic degree a story of suffering in Black and Hispanic America. This is reflected in the transformation of that popular fascination into that violent offshoot of hip hop culture - Gangsta Rap. Its thuggish racial caricatures, violence, misogyny and crass worship of money, however acquired, quite clearly reflect the dead end nihilistic worldview of Al Pacino's Tony Montanna in Scarface.

The most destructive aspects of life that Gangsta Rap celebrates and the criminal life it glorifies were a direct result of the coming of cocaine for the masses in the form of crack. Human life that cocaine had previously damaged on a limited basis because of cost was then destroyed on a veritable assembly line of mass violence - all at affordable prices. By the early 1990s odes to cocaine had changed from Cole Porter's style to a norm of lyrics such as these from the 'Chronic' by Dr. Dre.
"Rat tat tat tat,
Cause I never hesitate to put a n****r on his back."
Let us go back to
By the early 80’s the use of freebase cocaine became popular among those searching for the “highest” high. Freebase is a form of cocaine produced when the user takes cocaine hydrochloride and mixes it with a liquid base such as baking soda or ammonia to remove the hydrochloric acid and then dissolving the resultant alkaloidal cocaine in a solvent, such as ether and heating it to evaporate the liquid. The result is pure smokable cocaine.

Although this seemed to be a way of getting the most out of cocaine, users were uncomfortable with the volatile process of cooking down the solvent mixture. Around 1985 the drug dealers got wise to the idea of a more potent form of cocaine. The conversion process in freebasing was dangerous and time consuming and was not suitable for mass production.

This was when Crack became the option. In the conversion process of Crack, the drug is similarly cooked down to a smokeable substance, but the risky process of removing the impurities and hydrochloric acid is taken out. So all that is required is baking soda, water and a heat source, often a home oven.
The movie Menace II Society has a scene with this process shown in stunning detail. Wikepedia has this to say about crack cocaine and its origins.
Sometime in the early 1980s, probably in the Bahamas, it was discovered that expensive reverse–engineering was not necessary to make a smokable paste, and in fact one could process cocaine with ammonia or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water, and then heating it to remove the hydrochloride; thus producing a form of cocaine that can be smoked — what has been since the mid–1980s been known as "rock" or "crack" cocaine. (The term "crack" refers to the crackling sound which is made when the mixture is heated, while "rock" refers to the physical appearance of the compound.)

Users originally began mixing cocaine with ammonia to test the purity of their product. This process removes any impurities from the cocaine and allows the user to determine the amount of pure cocaine remaining. No longer dependent on high–quality cocaine or an expensive chemical process, users now had an extremely cheap form of smokable cocaine. This new process became popular soon after a coup in Bolivia flooded the world market with cheap cocaine.

Crack cocaine, is often sold in small, inexpensive dosage units frequently known as "nickels" or "nickel rocks" (referring to the price of $5.00), and also "dimes" or "dime rocks" ($10.00). The quantity provided by a "nickel" or "dime" rock varies depending upon many factors, such as geographic location or availability.
Again back to
As this process allowed a person to essentially get more bang out of their buck, by delivering the drug more efficiently, we saw cocaine become available to the lower socioeconomic stratum. This gave rise to the “Crack epidemic” and all classes from low to high became affected by the scourge of cocaine use spreading across the US.
The sudden intense high cost relatively little and did not last long making all the more addictive - there are no casual users of crack. Quite soon users needed crack to get high but to feel even barely normal as their level of functioning plummets. Unlike the usual somnelence that follows abuse of heroin, use of crack can lead to such high levels of hyperactivity and violence in the pursuit of more money and more highs that has made some inner city areas nostalgic for the relatively peaceful days of king heroin. From The National Institute of Drug Abuse
The duration of cocaine's immediate euphoric effects, which include hyper-stimulation, reduced fatigue, and mental clarity, depends on the route of administration. The faster the absorption, the more intense the high. On the other hand, the faster the absorption, the shorter the duration of action. The high from snorting may last 15 to 30 minutes, while that from smoking may last 5 to 10 minutes. Increased use can reduce the period of stimulation.

Some users of cocaine report feelings of restlessness, irritability, and anxiety. An appreciable tolerance to the high may be developed, and many addicts report that they seek but fail to achieve as much pleasure as they did from their first exposure. Scientific evidence suggests that the powerful neuropsychologic reinforcing property of cocaine is responsible for an individual's continued use, despite harmful physical and social consequences.

High doses of cocaine and/or prolonged use can trigger paranoia. Smoking crack cocaine can produce a particularly aggressive paranoid behavior in users. When addicted individuals stop using cocaine, they often become depressed. This also may lead to further cocaine use to alleviate depression.
From a Neurobiology Department paper at Berkeley
Annual crime rate provided by FBI was based on number of crimes per 100,000 residents within that area. Although there's considerable variation in crime rates by the FBI, central cities are more crime-ridden than the suburbs. For this particular manuscript, it is better to observed the crime rates in central cities before and after the introduction of crack cocaine. For most of the offenses in the crime categories, results seem to suggest that the emergence of crack had a significant influence in the rise of these particular crimes. For example, the effect on murder indicates that crack cocaine caused murder rates to rise by 4.4 per 100,000 population, an amount equal to 18.7 percent (+/- 2.7) of the before-crack murder rate in the central cities. The statistics for robbery (up 27%) and aggravate assault (up ~50%) provide ample evidence for crack cocaine causing crime rates to increase substantially.

Although there are multiple ways that this technological innovation (crack) of the mid 1980s' have affect(ed) the community, the three main consequence discussed in this manuscript are : (1) destruction of a strong nuclear family household (2) driving out middle and working- class Americans from their crack infested communities (3) disintegration of the education system.

Crack cocaine's most significant influence in leading to social erosion in urban cities is in the destruction of the nuclear family household. Attacking at the heart of the community (the family), this drug gave young, poor kids new heroes and role models to look up to. Notorious crack dealers were given legendary status on the streets by supplanting fathers as the new authoritative figures. Flashing gold watches and driving nice cars, it wasn't too easy for these "new-age businessmen" to induced young and impressionable teenagers to join their new family. The phenomenon occurred at a time when the family household of these communities could least afford it.

In the 1980s', ghetto communities saw a mass exodus of middle and working-class citizens. This mass migration seem to have occurred at about the same time as the introduction of crack cocaine in these cities. It is still debatable as to whether it was the crack cocaine that led to the migration or vice versa. Which ever the case may be, the emergence of crack did not seem to have help(ed to) halt the mass exodus of hard working professionals from cities that were depriving of social and economic constants. It was these same citizens that were keeping the community together by reinforcing societal norms and values.

They provided their cities with a stable and moral environment which soon were displaced by depravity and violence of the crack age. Joblessness caused by the lack of investment of businessmen into these communities skyrocketed further by the crack cocaine explosion of the mid 1980s'. Armies of crack dealers implanted themselves securely into these societies while driving away investors and hard working citizens.
In recent years the crack epidemic has abated from its previous nightmare levels but it remains a serious danger. It is possible that many users burned themselves out, were jailed or died that the drug became less attractive to potential users. The general decrease in crime levels nationwide may have some influence in this that is not clear because both the variables of drug use and crime fall changed at the same time. It is probable that like many cultural phenomena cocaine and crack flow through time and human lives in waves.

America maybe in a relative trough now - that super-cocaine may help to end.

Cocaine 3.0 will follow the cocaine story to Colombia and view the further tragedies it has caused there. Cocaine 4.0 will discuss some of the implications of the coming of super cocaine.

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