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Why We Took Cocaine Out of Soda (theatlantic.com)
241 points by Libertatea on Jan 31, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 114 comments

Racism is behind many bans. I think that the goal is not so much to harm the minority group as it is a form a status signalling: showing that "we" disapprove of what "they" do.

Cocaine was banned in the US because of its use by blacks.

Marijuana was banned because of its use by hispanics.

The first gun bans were in the post Civil War south, where armed black citizens stood up to the KKK riders (the phrase "Saturday Night Special" is a contraction of "Niggertown Saturday Night Special" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturday_night_special#Origin_o...).

Tangentially, I strongly recommend the book _Albion's Seed_, which traces American culture to four different subcultures prominent in England in the 1500s - quite enlightening.

Relatedly, the KKK supported women's right to vote, but they did so mostly because the women were more likely to vote for prohibition, and prohibition gave them a chance to put the Catholic-Irish immigrants on the wrong side of the law.

Yup. Very few progressive measures are passed for reasons that we'd recognize as progressive today. I'm going to highlight a book that I haven't read:


I'd say that the Progressive movement of the early 20th century and the Progressive movement of the early 21st really aren't any more similar than you'd expect any two randomly selected political groups to be.

I didn't capitalize "progressive" very intentionally. And further, I am not talking about merely the 20th century, but also the 19th, the 18th, and the 17th.

Obligatory plug of Bootleggers and Baptists: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bootleggers_and_Baptists

Also worth seeing this http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2125653/ - in addition to lots of great observations on the state of the war on drugs, it makes a persuasive argument that heroin was made illegal because Chinese workers were threatening to undercut white workers in LA.

Do note that cocaine was banned all around the world at the same time. The <a href = "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Opium_Convention&... Opium Convention</a> in Hague in 1912 was the first drug control treaty which lead to anti-drug laws in many Western countries. There were many more conventions following that one that caused outlawing of many more narcotic substances. Even if Americans were very racist at the time, maybe they were at the same time sane enough to realize that putting cocaine in soft drinks wasn't a good idea?

Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South is also useful in tracing behavior and codified practice.

Stepan Company actually sells the cocaine to a pharmaceutical company, for use in medicine.

"The plant is the only commercial entity in the USA authorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration to import coca leaves, which come primarily from Peru. Approximately 100 metric tons of dried coca leaf are imported each year. The cocaine-free leaves are sold to The Coca Cola Company, while the cocaine is sold to Mallinckrodt, a pharmaceutical firm, for medicinal purposes." -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stepan_Company

> for use in medicine.

Ear-nose-throat guys still use it for contact anesthetic. I had a light shoved up my nose and then back into the throat while they examined the result of a punch to the throat. (Martial arts FTW.) I sat there amazed that I didn't really give a damn with a giant flextube ramming into my face.

I got some fryer grease splashed in my face many years ago. The pain in my left eye was intense. The doctor at the emergency room gave me a couple drops from an eye-dropper which immediately removed the pain, and I have to say, put me in a fairly chatty mood. I asked him what it was and he said "Liquid cocaine, my friend."

Ah, yes. Nose medicine.

Because of this legal medicinal use, cocaine is actually a Schedule II drug in the US. Marijuana is Schedule I. Weed is actually more illegal than cocaine.

> for use in medicine

The compound is cocaine hydrochloride.

Interesting article, but the comment about "dutch courage":

"Yes, even the Dutch were not spared from the racism."

isn't really correct. Dutch courage has been an expression for alcohol-induced courage for centuries. Even in the early 20th century it wasn't making a comment on the Dutch, just using a common expression. Is that expression still common in the US? It certainly is in the UK.

Rather nitpicky though...

There was a war between England and the Netherlands centuries ago that resulted in terms like "Dutch treat," "Dutch uncle," "Dutch courage," and so on. A personal website based in the Netherlands


helpfully collects many of those terms, but it seems that the author of the website hasn't read the same book about word and phrase origins I read many years ago (I'm sorry I don't remember which specific book it was, as I read many books on that topic) that explains that those terms entered the English language, along with many others that are now obsolete, during the war. I have a lot of Dutch friends (Dutch nationals in the United States on work-related visas) because of my children's involvement in soccer. The long-ago war between England and the Netherlands is now, er, water over the dam, and indeed one of my Dutch friends has an English wife. So the origin of these expressions is largely forgotten, but, yes, the phrases originated in a wartime contempt for Dutch people among the English.

It's funny how there are a lot of expressions with the word 'dutch' in it with a negative connotation. I'm Dutch, and I can't think of any expression with the word 'Engels' in it, both with positive or negative connotation.

In Australia, we have the "dutch oven", which is a childish gag involving flatulence.

I have no idea how this is connected to the Dutch. Then again, in the 80s here everyone made racist Irish jokes, but now they all pretend to be part Irish as it's trendy. (Disclaimer: I actually am part Irish).

People are weird.

Sure, but that one stems from a cast iron pot called the Dutch oven (called so because the Dutch excelled at making them). They're cast iron puts that you put something into, and often seal under a layer of hot ash for cooking.

The childish gag involves sealing someone under to 'cook', just like you would with a Dutch oven.

It actually refers to English soldiers fighting in the Dutch republic and drinking Dutch Gin before the battle. Time-frame: 17th century.

There were also a large contingent of Scottish mercenaries serving in the Low Countries, see



It's not clear from the sources whether they also needed a stiff drink before going into battle ;)

> "racism" ... isn't really correct. Dutch courage has been an expression for alcohol-induced courage for centuries.

Right, it is centuries-old racism.

Only 3 centuries though. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglo-Dutch_Wars

But in the context, it wasn't actually racist. It is not racist to suggest that cocaine usage makes an individual more courageous, and given that the accepted (and still accepted) saying for inebriation-related courage is Dutch courage, it wasn't racist to say that cocaine gave shy individuals dutch courage. Perhaps the expression has its origins in racism, but centuries later and without that original context, I'd argue that its no longer a racist expression.

It was of course racist for Dr Ed to suggest that somehow the issue was only with black people, but that's unrelated to the use of the expression dutch courage.

That was the joke.

Just because certain expressions might still be used today and might not be on the fore-front of racism awareness does not make them any less racist.

But you are right, the article had it wrong:

> Originally the phrase 'Dutch courage' referred to the courage that results from indulgence in Dutch gin (jenever), but 'Dutch courage' can also refer to the gin itself. [...] Because of the effects of Dutch gin English soldiers fighting in the Dutch Republic in the 17th century apparently called the drink "Dutch Courage".

So it never actually referred to the people.

This presents an interesting point of consideration. If a saying has its roots in racism, is it still racist if its applied centures later to a completely different context? I'd argue that even if "Dutch courage" was originally in some way racist against the dutch, the racist intent has been stripped away by time. Dutch courage isn't a racist saying at this point, it's just a universally recognised expression for substance-induced courage.

A bit of googling reveals that there's quite a lot of expression with racist roots that we use all the time in different contexts.[1]

[1]: It is a cracked article, but it makes some valid points: http://www.cracked.com/article_16967_8-racist-words-you-use-...

Regardless of the origins, if an expression is applied to a different context, it might still cause subconscious associations to form in the human brain. If you hear "Dutch courage" often enough, you might subconsciously start to link the Dutch to cowardice. For a more modern example take the word "gay". It originally meant "happy". Then it meant "homosexual". As a result of that second meaning large numbers of people use the word as a synonym for "unlikable" or "bad". If somebody uses the word in a context like "that movie is gay", that reinforces the connection between the concept "bad" and the concept "homosexual".

Therefore what's important is not the origins of a word, but its current associations and effects: "my car was vandalized" is OK but "that movie is gay" is not.

>As a result of that second meaning large numbers of people use the word as a synonym for "unlikable" or "bad".

It is possible that this is kind like how the word bad itself was derived! (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=bad)

>a mystery word with no apparent relatives in other languages. Possibly from Old English derogatory term bæddel and its diminutive bædling "effeminate man, hermaphrodite, pederast"

That's fascinating. Goes to show that decontextualization is the ultimate disarming of a slur. Abstaining from the word completely leaves it loaded with hateful power.

Don't take that too far -- it's certainly absolutely never a defense for using a particular word. If there are people who'd prefer you not to use it, just don't frickin' use it.

"Abstaining from the word completely leaves it loaded with hateful power."

The persons in power can not do not and will not recontextualize racist terminology on their own.

What if it did? Associating the Dutch with courage is an awful thing?

We have lots of words that are racist/bigoted. Cad/Caddie. Villain. Vandal. We've forgotton what most of them mean; only the perjorative sense remains.

Your tone is of disagreement (?), but I wrote the same thing:

> Therefore what's important is not the origins of a word, but its current associations and effects: "my car was vandalized" is OK but "that movie is gay" is not.

On Dutch courage: the meaning is the courage you get when drunk, implying that a person is not courageous when not drunk. I don't think that on the scale of bad things this idiom is very bad at all, for one the Dutch are not often victims of discrimination, and neither is the association very strong nor the meaning very negative. I'm just pointing out that in general, what matters is not the origins of a word, but its current use and effect. So the fact that "Dutch" in "Dutch courage" originally referred to the drink and not to the Dutch does not automatically make it OK.

And neither sense of 'dutch' impacts our subconscious in any way that can be rationalized. At some point it becomes a single ideogram: dutchcourage, which is void of any PC baggage.

I disagree. It contains the word Dutch, which is still the common way to refer to, well, actual Dutch people. This is not the case for villains, vandals or paddy wagons.

It implies that they can't have courage without being drunk, and certainly that's not a very nice thing to say about someone, let alone a huge group of people who obviously don't all fit that stereotype.

That's just barbaric!

Also slave

Does that extend out to other human descriptors?

Off the top of my head: "We were just shy of our goal" -> "We met a shy girl", suggesting through the subconscious association that the shy girl is not quite good enough.

And if so, why is there no backlash to the usage of shy the way there is to gay and common racial terms, as examples, when used in similar contexts?

I thought that both these meanings of shy were already negative?

Note that in the association is between two meanings of a word: the association is between one meaning of shy and the other, not between shy and the girl. The latter are only associated because you used them together in a sentence. So the fact that you used "We were just shy of our goal" does not associate "girl" with something negative. It does associate "shy" with something negative. In contrast, if you use "that movie is gay", just by using that sentence on its own you are associating "gay", and hence a group of people, with "bad".

For why there is more backlash in one case than another you also have to keep in mind the direct effect. If you say "We were just shy of our goal", the potential to hurt a shy person who happens to listen in will likely not be large, but if you say "that movie is gay" and a gay person is listening in, it might very well hurt. Secondly, shy is already negative, so it would be a little strange to complain that using it as "almost but not quite" is damaging the status of shy people, since the other meaning of shy is already more negative.

There is nothing inherently negative about being shy by the dictionary definition of the word.

I tend to agree that we have attached negativity to the usage, but only in the the way that gay is used negatively. They are often both used to point out "flaws", for lack of a better term, in other people. (not that either is a real flaw; only in the eye of some beholders)

I find it interesting that you assume that shy is already negative. I was actually skeptical of your original comment at first, but perhaps this actually serves to reenforce it.

censoring of the subconcious?

Wait- the Dutch are their own race? It might be a cultural slur, akin to "paddy-wagon" but racism? I think not.

The whole concept of "race" is on pretty thin ice to begin with. Applying the word to the Dutch isn't necessarily any more or less meaningful than to, say, all Chinese -- it's something that's socially constructed.

Ah, you are correct, to my embarrassment. I immediately associated 'Caucasian' with 'Dutch'. But there may be non-Caucasian Dutch as well as non-Mongolian Chinese. Thank you.

And non-Dutch Caucasians, for that matter.

Not universal...

Random comment:

I went to the Bols brewing company tour in Amsterdam last week, which invented the first Geniever, which the English later turned into gin - oh my god is it something that takes some acclimatising to. Too much juniper berries!

Very much an acquired taste

Of course racism was prevalent at the time, but does that discredit all arguments against putting cocaine in soda? Can we say that the social ill-effects are completely imaginary just because at the time concern was focused on blacks? The article seems to be suggesting this, but stops short of saying "let's start drinking cocaine again". Is the journalist ultimately unconvinced by his own arguments?

"all arguments against putting cocaine in soda"

What other arguments have been given? Alcohol is the only major drug to have been re-legalized after being banned in America.

"Can we say that the social ill-effects are completely imaginary"

What social ill-effects can you cite in the case of cocaine-infused soda?

"The article seems to be suggesting this, but stops short of saying "let's start drinking cocaine again". Is the journalist ultimately unconvinced by his own arguments?"

It is politically incorrect to argue against the war on drugs, regardless of the damage it has caused to society (much greater than any damage the drugs themselves cause). We are trained from an early age to assume that drugs are bad, and to assume without question that drugs should be illegal (naturally, "medicine" is in a different category). It makes no difference whether or not the war on drugs has been productive, effective at solving any constructive goal, or in any way beneficial when everyone is fed DARE-style propaganda from age 5.

The reality is that in today's world, we should be more afraid of the DEA than of the drugs they "regulate," since their form of "regulation" involves assault rifles, grenades, and tanks (yes, really, surplus military vehicles including tanks and helicopters are routinely transferred to law enforcement agencies). The DEA, like the FBI, has amassed so much signals intelligence power that they are considered to be part of the US intelligence community. The DEA can and does recycle the proceeds from seized property into its own budget -- a practice that was authorized in the 1980s. The DEA can declare drugs to be illegal, without congressional action, for a year -- and prosecute people for possessing or distributing those drugs. The DEA can override congressional recommendations on drug regulation, as they infamously did with MDMA (ecstasy).

Meanwhile, with only two major exceptions, we are getting no tax revenue from recreational drug sales, there is no regulation on the purity or safety of recreational drugs, doctors have no idea what drugs their patients actually ingested, there is no age limit that drug merchants respect (high schoolers can buy cocaine just as easily as working adults), and criminals have access to a massive, steady, and enormous market. There is no time that would be "too soon" to end the war on drugs, develop useful regulations on recreational drugs, and restore our democracy.

> What social ill-effects can you cite in the case of cocaine-infused soda?

What social ill effects can you cite for not distributing bath salts with every hot meal lunch to grade schoolers? I don't believe that specific combination has been done recently (or ever) so we have no evidence it's bad. Let's do it! </sarcasm>

Constructively speaking, perhaps we should do the research first, and put cocaine in soda after.

Well, the closest thing to a data point that we have are the people in South America who regularly drink coca tea. To the best of my knowledge, they have no social problems that are worse than societies where people regularly drink coffee.

The entire point of the article was that we did put cocaine in soda at one time, and that did not stop because of the social problems that ensued. Just like the people of Andes have not stopped drinking their coca tea because of some hypothetical social problems it causes. A coca-infused soft drink need not have enough cocaine to cause any sort of "high," any more than a caffeine-infused software drink has enough caffeine to cause a high or a therapeutic amphetamine dose has enough amphetamine to cause a high.

Don't let US government propaganda sway you when it comes to drugs. Cocaine is not the cause of social problems, not in the United States and not in countries where it is widely used. Cocaine prohibition causes more social problems than the drug itself (not that the DEA or ONDCP people would ever admit it).

Here, here!

It's hear, hear from rowdy parliamentary question times & debates. "Hear, hear" as in "listen to what they are saying, you lot" :-)

And the phrase commonly to thought to be "hear ye, hear ye, hear ye" is actually "Oyez, oyez, oyez": http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyez

Normally I despise pedants, but that was really informative. Thanks!

"Can we say that the social ill-effects are completely imaginary just because at the time concern was focused on blacks?"

Cocaine isn't any worse than caffeine, which is to say that it's not bad at all. It's actually better in many ways, e.g. it's much less harmful to unborn children. As far as I know there aren't any health or social harms from cocaine, at least at the dosage and ingestion method we're talking about here.

Do you have sources for this? My impression is that cocaine is significantly more addictive than caffeine, which seems like a very large negative. This page (which I believe is meant to be sympathetic to legalization) seems to imply cocaine is 'worse' on every metric: http://drugwarfacts.org/cms/?q=node/28

"Do you have sources for this?"

The two best sources would be

- The Consumer Union's Guide To Licit and Illicit Substances: http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/library/studies/cu/cumen... (Written by the same non-profit that writes consumer reports)

- The WHO report on cocaine: http://transform-drugs.blogspot.com/2009/06/report-they-didn...

"My impression is that cocaine is significantly more addictive than caffeine, which seems like a very large negative."

It's not, the addictive potential is almost identical to that of caffeine. The page you're linking to is wrong, they're comparing people snorting (or smoking) cocaine with people drinking caffeine. They're also not comparing the harms caused by the drugs, but rather the harms caused to users. This might sound pedantic, but it's actually really important because the most hardcore drug addicts are drawn to the drugs that have the reputations of being the most hardcore. Which means that cocaine users on average have more health problems that caffeine users, but that doesn't mean that cocaine is any more dangerous.

Thanks for following up, this is very interesting reading.

If you are interested in these kinds of things, you might find David Nutt's book interesting: http://www.amazon.com/Drugs-Without-Hot-David-Nutt/dp/190686...

It's perhaps a little UK-centric, but I found it well argued and the author is eminently credible.

FWIW the analysis that I'm criticizing as propaganda is straight out of Nutt's research. (Or else is very similar to Nutt's research, I didn't look at the source.)

If a story lead us to better understand the world then it doesn't necessarily have to come with a neat morals. I'm sure that there were social ill-effects from old-style Coca-Cola, but the people who had experience with both it and liquor being available judged that alcohol was the more dangerous. But it looks like crack is a much more dangerous form of cocaine, so maybe we ought to keep that banned? Maybe an ideal drug control regime, by some metric, would be to allow beer and wine and old-style Coca-Cola but ban gin and crack? I won't claim to know, but debates on this ought to be based on historical evidence as much as possible.

Racism is behind gun bans too -- "take careful note of the racist California legislature aimed at keeping the black people disarmed and powerless. Black people have begged, prayed, petitioned, demonstrated, and everything else to get the racist power structure of America to right the wrongs which have historically been perpetuated against black people. The time has come for black people to arm themselves against this terror before it is too late."


American gun politics underwent a weird switcheroo at some point between the 1970's and 1990's. You'd think that as a constitutionally guaranteed civil right, owning guns would be a civil liberties issue championed by the left, but for some reason it isn't today. Yet as you point out, it used to be the far-left Black Panthers who championed the right to keep and bear arms the most, and for exactly the same radical reasons that libertarian gun nuts today talk about.

I love the link you posted. This is my favorite part--no doubt it required immense courage then, but it would be absolutely insane today to do what Huey Newton did:


In February of 1967, Oakland police officers stopped a car carrying Newton, Seale, and several other Panthers with rifles and handguns. When one officer asked to see one of the guns, Newton refused. “I don’t have to give you anything but my identification, name, and address,” he insisted. This, too, he had learned in law school.

“Who in the hell do you think you are?” an officer responded.

“Who in the hell do you think you are?,” Newton replied indignantly. He told the officer that he and his friends had a legal right to have their firearms.

Newton got out of the car, still holding his rifle.

“What are you going to do with that gun?” asked one of the stunned policemen.

“What are you going to do with your gun?,” Newton replied.

By this time, the scene had drawn a crowd of onlookers. An officer told the bystanders to move on, but Newton shouted at them to stay. California law, he yelled, gave civilians a right to observe a police officer making an arrest, so long as they didn’t interfere. Newton played it up for the crowd. In a loud voice, he told the police officers, “If you try to shoot at me or if you try to take this gun, I’m going to shoot back at you, swine.” Although normally a black man with Newton’s attitude would quickly find himself handcuffed in the back of a police car, enough people had gathered on the street to discourage the officers from doing anything rash. Because they hadn’t committed any crime, the Panthers were allowed to go on their way.

The people who’d witnessed the scene were dumbstruck. Not even Bobby Seale could believe it. Right then, he said, he knew that Newton was the “baddest motherfucker in the world.” Newton’s message was clear: “The gun is where it’s at and about and in.” After the February incident, the Panthers began a regular practice of policing the police. Thanks to an army of new recruits inspired to join up when they heard about Newton’s bravado, groups of armed Panthers would drive around following police cars. When the police stopped a black person, the Panthers would stand off to the side and shout out legal advice.

"In 2003, Stepan imported 175,000 kilograms of coca for Coca-Cola. That's enough to make more than $200 million worth of cocaine."

Coca-cola allegedly sells 350 million Cokes a day in North America. They've managed to make more off coca than they would if they sold straight cocaine (um, a lot more). Now that's just good business.

Wow, I'd heard before that the "Coca" in Coca-Cola used to be cocaine, but I dismissed it as an urban legend, not even worthy of a google search. This is so worth being wrong.

You'll have an aneurysm when you read about how heroin used to be sold in pharmacies. The drug war is a very recent phenomenon with a lot of dirty politics driving it.

That's crazy! Maybe the most ridiculous drug-related story of all has to be the Opium Wars the British fought in China so they could continue to sell opium to the Chinese masses. True story. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Opium_War

(Ever see the portrayal of Marijuana's illegalization at the beginning of Pineapple Express?)

Not as crazy as the drama currently unfolding in Afghanistan with the opium trade (spoiler: the US has an incentive to condone growth of opiates, since it reduces local economic dependence on terrorist forces like the Taliban).

It's almost fun to watch a government battling two bogeymen against each other, like a child playing with toy action figures.

There is an interesting docu-drama-reality thing called 1900 house about a family who gets to live and work in a recreated victorian house, exactly like they would have lived in 1900.

When one of them gets a cold, they have to give up -- all the home-remidies would have been super-effective, but they are all based on heroin/cocain/opiom.

Yeah. Meth is actually still sold in pharmacies for ADHD and obesity in the US.

Do you mean Ritalin (Methylphenidate) or Dextroamphetamine? (Both prescribed for ADHD). Either way, that statement is not strictly correct. Dextroamphetamine does get metabolised into Methamphetamine, but it isn't Methamphetamine when it is sold & Methylphenidate is something different.

Dextromethamphetamine (Desoxyn). It's the exact same thing as illegal methamphetamine (minus any adulterants of course), but street meth can also be a racemic mixture.

No, the statement is correct. They definitely do have prescription methamphetamine: http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/DrugSafety/ucm088582.pdf

Plus, pharmaceutically manufactured speed is a much safer drug than crystal meth even if the underlying active ingredient is effectively the same.

heroin is in fact a genericized trademark.

Did not know this. Apparently Bayer lost the trademark after WW1.

What is more interesting are the arguments made for making cocaine, heroin, and marijuana illegal. Those are worth a Google search and many hours of reading (by today's standards, the arguments are shocking).

I never realised racism was behind it, I thought it was just regulated out. Although, based off the time frame it doesn't come as too much of a surprise.

I've actually heard some interesting arguments about bringing cocaine back in sodas as a legal way to do it, but whilst the physiological addiction of cocaine is low, the mental addiction is high. You see enough coders twitching for a Red Bull fix, so who knows what we'd be like with the good stuff.

Racism has permeated the war on drugs since its inception: cocaine turned black men into monsters, heroin was made illegal to punish Germans and Filipinos (I still scratch my head about that one), marijuana was said to fuel black Jazz and drive white women into the beds of black men, etc. Even today there is racism evident in the drug war: black men are arrested on drug offenses at a rate of 1-in-4 in some communities (yes, a quarter of the men in some American black communities are incarcerated or have been incarcerated).

"You see enough coders twitching for a Red Bull fix, so who knows what we'd be like with the good stuff."

Twitching is hardly the issue; I would be more concerned about psychosis, which can happen with any stimulant. There are stories of coders who use too much caffeine and wind up in a psych ward. Low, therapeutic doses of stimulants can potentially help people get through difficult mental tasks; continued uses of high doses is risky to physical and mental health. Cocaine is not some kind of exceptional drug in that regard -- you see that pattern with amphetamines, caffeine, cathinones, etc.

True enough, the problem is too much of a good thing is always risky, although the long term over use of caffeine seems to have as many health risks as cocaine. The biggest downside is cocaines current production cycle involves people who work for little money to avoid being killed in the fields.

As long as cocaine is sensibly used I don't see the big problem with it, it's just encouraging people to use it sensibly.

>cocaines current production cycle involves people who work for little money to avoid being killed in the fields.

Legalization of coca agriculture in Bolivia has significantly reduced this. Part of Evo Morales' nationalist/socialist platform is the renormalization of coca production and consumption. So individual coca farmers now grow their product in the open, without fear of persecution from the police. This means they don't rely on the cartels bribing police for their protection.

Life in Bolivia isn't exactly peachy for most of its people, but it's certainly better for its coca farmers than it used to be.

wait a sec. The article totally leaps to that conclusion without evidence. It presents two facts - There were strong racist elements to the anti-cocaine movement, and that Coke removed cocaine. But you can't show from those two facts that Coke removed the cocaine for racist reasons. Maybe the removal was racist, but there wasn't any evidence of it in that article. And there was regulation happening at the same time which is even pointed out in the quotation he includes from the NY Times.

Jews were also the targets of racism around cocaine; I believe it was the NY Times that said every "jew peddler in the South" sold it.

Does anyone know what the actual physiological effects of cocaine delivered in a syrupy soda are? I have to guess it was very small amounts to begin with, and maybe not all that bioavailable orally to begin with.

Whenever there are these stories about cocaine in original Coca Cola, I'm curious about how much the trace cocaine actually did in the original version of the soda.

Cocaine can indeed be ingested with some notable effects - in parts of South America, they drink coca tea with effects similar to caffeinated tea. In fact, there's evidence to suggest that cocaine is safer as as stimulant than caffeine is - the main difference as we perceive it is the means of ingestion (we're used to thinking of caffeine as something you drink - very few people snort caffeine pills, which is very dangerous).

Also, chewing on cocaine leaves is used as a symptomatic treatment for altitude sickness in South America.

As for the actual bioavailability, take a look at this Bluelight thread: http://www.bluelight.ru/vb/threads/394593-Bioavailability-of...

While in South America for a year I drank tons of Coca tea and chewed on the leaves a lot too.

For me, the effect was something like a red bull, but less instant. Kind of like that "second wind" you get sometimes late in the day where you have all kinds of energy you were not expecting.

I feel it genuinely did help with hiking at high elevations (above say 3500 meters, 12k ft) which I did a lot.

Which is kind of fun because I never noticed any effects from drinking caffeine beverages. So I just drink them for taste. Would that mean I'll not notice cocaine either?

> Would that mean I'll not notice cocaine either?

Not necessarily, because the two drugs are metabolized through completely different channels and, other than the fact that both are stimulants, have very different effects (ie, the mechanisms by which they take their effect is very different).

You may just have an abnormally high tolerance to caffeine, but there's no reason to suspect that that would carry over to cocaine, as cocaine targets both the D1 and D2 receptors, and caffeine provides cross-tolerance only to drugs which target one XOR (exclusive or) the other[0].

[0] http://examine.com/supplements/Caffeine/#summary14-3

"Does anyone know what the actual physiological effects of cocaine delivered in a syrupy soda are?"

Exactly the same as caffeine, except for probably less likely to cause developmental problems if consumed by pregnant women.

The article seems to have some factual inconsistencies. He cites the NY Times saying anti-cocaine legislation had started to appear in 1903, "By 1903, [then-manager of Coca-Cola Asa Griggs] Candler had bowed to white fears (and a wave of anti-narcotics legislation), removing the cocaine and adding more sugar and caffeine."

Then in the next sentence he says cocaine wasn't illegal until 1914, "Hale's account of the role of racism and social injustice in Coca-Cola's removal of coca is corroborated by the attitudes that the shaped subsequent U.S. cocaine regulation movement. Cocaine wasn't even illegal until 1914 -- 11 years after Coca-Cola's change"

Maybe the federal legislation was 1914, but as the NY TImes states, local and state legislation predates that. For example, California banned non-prescription sales of cocaine 1907. It is a bit slimy on the author's part to conflate the racism of the anti-cocaine movement with Coke's removal of cocaine without some substantiation.

> It is a bit slimy on the author's part to conflate the racism of the anti-cocaine movement with Coke's removal of cocaine without some substantiation.

Not really. It's a plausible claim and roughly the best that can be done without actual documents or a time traveling mind reader.

The gap between plausible claim, and substantiated claim used to be the realm journalism. Especially if you are going to start tagging people as racist, you should be able back it up. Plausible claims are ok for rumors about the next iPhone, but not cool for attacking reputations.

They refer to the coca leaf extract simply as "Merchandise No. 5."

Awesome; did a quick check to see whether there was any connection to the perfume Chanel N°5, alas there was none.

Would it be considered anal to note that the Dutch aren't a race, therefore "Dutch courage" can't be a racist term? Nationalist maybe, but not racist.

So how exactly do you define "race"?

From Merriam-Webster Race: "a category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits." Nationality: "a people having a common origin, tradition, and language and capable of forming or actually constituting a nation-state." Dutch: "of or relating to the Netherlands or its inhabitants."

That may be the dictionary definition, but my point was that 'race' is mostly a social construct. Go back a couple of centuries and it was normal for (Europeans) to talk about the 'Irish' race, the 'Spanish' race, the 'German' race and even the 'Dutch' race.

Yes, but that is not what people mean when they say 'race' today.

Can't speak for the original Coca-Cola, but coca is not cocaine. Drank a whole bunch of coca tea in Peru to cope with the altitude sickness.

Hate to break it to you, but the tea you drank in Peru was infused with cocaine. Not terribly much cocaine -- a coca leaf doesn't have a high concentration of the drug -- but cocaine nonetheless. Cocaine has been used in South America for centuries; it was not until the 19th century that anyone realized you could concentrate and extract the drug, and use a hypodermic needle to get a rapid and extreme effect (this is how Freud used cocaine, as well as the character Sherlock Holmes).

A cup of coca tea contains about 1/5th of a line of cocaine, apparently: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca_tea

EDIT: This drink sounds kind of interesting.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca_Colla

But since drinking tea is considerably less efficient at getting the cocaine into your system, you'd really struggle to replicate a cocaine high from drinking Mate de Coca. It's more like drinking weak tea.

Good answer here: http://www.quora.com/Tea/Is-coca-tea-addictive/answer/David-...

I didn't realise Freud went down the route of injecting with it, I did know he was a big fan of cocaine though. Wrote a reasonably long essay about why it was such a pillar of the modern industrial world.

Oh yes, he got his whole family addicted to it and suggested other families do the same.

But cocaine is extracted from coca leaves. Even a trivial amount in soda would be a problem in the USA.

Wikipedia: " . . . the alkaloid content of coca leaves is low: between .25% and .77%, and production of cocaine from coca requires complex chemical processes.[2] This means that chewing the leaves or drinking coca tea does not produce the high people experience with cocaine.


What do you mean? Coca is most certainly the plant that contains cocaine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca

The process for producing pure cocaine(the powdery stuff) is really just an elaborate extraction process. I think it's fair to say that coca-cola originally contained cocaine prior to the invention of the process to remove the alkaloid.

Yes Coca-Cola used to have cocaine in it. Everybody learns that in middle school. Why is this on HN? Honestly. This would be a bad repost on reddit. Disappointed to see it so highly upvoted here.

It is an article in the Atlantic, which uses Reddit reposts as it's primary source of research and was banned from Reddit for spamming. HN upvoters haven't noticed that Atlantic jumped the shark and has been coasting on its brand name for a couple of years now.

The Atlantic has definitely jumped the shark. It used to be one of my favorite magazines.

You'd think that whole Scientology thing would have convinced them...

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