Other Names

Benzoylecgoninmethylester, cocain, cocaIn, cocaina,

d-cocain, erythroxylin, kokain, methylbenzoylecgonine,

methylbenzylekgonin, (±)-methyl- [3J3benzoyloxy-

2a( 1aH,5aH)-tropancarboxylate], 0benzoyl-

[(- )-ekgonin] -methylester, 3-benzoyloxy8-

methyl-8-azabicyclo [3.2.1] octan-2-carboxylicacidmethylester,

3J3 -benzoyloxy-2J3 -tropancarboxylicacid-


Street Names

Autobahn, blow, C, candy, charlie, coca, coca pura

(Spanish, "pure coca»), coco, coke, cousin, donuts,

doppelter espresso, flake, koks, la blanca, lady

snow, la rubiecita, line, linie, mama coca, nasenpuder,

nose candy, peach, perica, puro (Spanish,

"pure»), schnee, schneewittchen, schniefe, schnupfschnee,

sniff, snow, snowwhite, strasse, strasschen,

Ziggy's stardust

Empirical formula: C17H21N04

Substance type: coca alkaloid

The cocaine molecule is structurally related to

tropine and other tropane alkaloids (Roth and

Fenner 1988, 311*). Today, cocaine is the most

consumed psychoactive plant constituent in the

world. Pure cocaine (as a base) is not water soluble

but can be dissolved in alcohol, chloroform,

turpentine oil, olive oil, or acetone. Cocaine salts

are water soluble.


In 1860, the German chemist Albert Niemann first

isolated cocaine from the leaves of the Peruvian

coca bush (Erythroxylum coca). The German

pharmacist Friedrich Gaedeke (1855) may have

represented the alkaloid before this. By around

1870, cocaine was being used as an agent of

pleasure, and it was employed at this time to treat

alcohol and morphine withdrawal as well as

melancholy. The ophthalmologist Karl Koller, a

friend of Sigmund Freud, introduced cocaine as a

local anesthetic for eye surgery in 1884. Hermann

Goring's use of cocaine was famous, and Adolf

Hitler, who also used other stimulants (cf. strychnine),

is thought to have consumed cocaine as well

(Phillips and Wynne 1980, 112).

Later, other substances derived from cocaine,

including eucaine, procaine (= Novocaine), tetracaine

(= Pantocaine) (1930), lidocaine (= Xylocaine)

(1944), mepivacaine (= Scandicaine) (1957),

prilocain (= Xylonest) (1960), bupivacaine (1963),

and etidocain (= Duranest) (1972), were also used

as local anesthetics (Busch and Rummel 1990;

Schneider 1993, 19*). Holocaine was also regarded

as a substitute.

The goal of chemists and pharmacologists to

carve out the effective core of the cocaine

molecule and retain the desirable and remove

the undesirable effects was achieved in an

exemplary manner with the synthesis of procaine

(1905). (Busch and Rummel 1990, 490)

In 1923, Willstadter and his coworkers worked

out the complete synthesis of cocaine. The precursors

are succindialdehyde, methylamine, and

mono-methyl-J3-keto-glutarate. However, this synthesis

has never achieved pharmaceutical importance.

Practically speaking, all of the cocaine used

in the pharmaceutical industry is derived from the

coca plant. In 1976,410 kg of cocaine were legally

extracted for this purpose (Taschner and Richtberg


Production and Use

An analysis of thirteen South American Erythroxylum

species found that cocaine is present only

in Erythroxylum coca and Erythroxylum novogranatense

(Holmstedt et al. 1977). Hair analysis of

Egyptian mummies has revealed the presence of

ecgonin, the first metabolite of cocaine, which indicates

that the ancient Egyptians either consumed

cocaine or an unknown African plant that metabolizes

to ecgonin (Balabanova et al. 1992*).

The coca plantations that are the source of

cocaine are known as cocales. Bolivian huanaco

leaves (Erythroxylum coca var. coca) are preferred for

cocaine production because they are the highest

yielding. With good chemicals and chemists, it is

possible to produce 1 kg of pure cocaine from 100

kg of coca leaves. In the early 1980s, some 100 tons

ofpure cocaine were exported from Colombia alone.

The entire process of cocaine production, as

well as the smuggling routes, the cartels, and everything

from the connections between politicians

and the cartels to the consumption of cocaine

even by politicians in the White House, has been

documented in countless reports on the radio and

television and in magazines and well-researched

books (Morales 1989). It is difficult to escape the

impression that the cocaine saga is one of the bestknown

stories of our times but one that is officially

ignored. Our leaders still act as though the

Mafia is using the white powder to corrupt and

dominate the world. In reality, the chief benefactors

of the billion-dollar business are the banks

and the countless politicians and law-enforcement

personnel involved in the trade (Sauloy and Le

Bonniec 1994).

The snuffing of crystallized cocaine appears to

have been discovered in North America at the

beginning of the twentieth century and spread

from there. Shortly after 1900, pure cocaine was

being ingested together with betel and lime in

India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and Java. The use of

cocaine as an athletic doping agent began in the

1940s (Fiihner 1943, 195*). Little has changed

since that time. Cocaine dealers still find some of

their best customers in the soccer stars of the

German first league and sports heroes in the

United States.

Basuko is dried cocaine base (an intermediate

step in the production of the pure alkaloid).

Sucito, or joints made of basuko, have been

smoked in Colombia since about 1930 (Siegel

1982b, 274). Cocaine is usually produced as a

hydrochloride but sometimes also as an oxalate or

hypochloride (HCL). Street cocaine is almost

exclusively cocaine HCL. Most of the illicit cocaine

available in Europe is only about 30% pure, as the

expensive pure drug is usually "cut:' The substances

that are most commonly used to "cut"

cocaine are:

• Inactive additives: milk sugar (lactose), grape

sugar (glucose), baking powder, talc (talcum),

borax, cornstarch, innositol, mannitol

• Active additives: speed (amphetamine, fenetyllin,

ritalin) and "freeze" (novocaine, benzocaine),

PCP ("angel dust"), methedrine,

pemoline, yohimbine, lidocaine, procaine,

tetracaine, caffeine, quinine, heroin (Taschner

and Richtberg 1982,65; Voigt 1982,84)


A «line" of cocaine typically contains between 20

and 100 mg of cocaine, depending on the purity of

the substance and the consumer's preference.

Many users consume between 2 and 3 g in a day or

night. It is said that «the first line of the day is the


Ritual Use

Cocaine has been called the champagne of drugs,

the drug of high society, the drug of the rich, et

cetera, and. it is certainly most often associated

with the wealthier classes. As a result, consumption

of the drug has taken on a strong social

character. Cocaine is rarely used by one person

alone. When it is taken with others, the consumption

follows a rather well-defined ritual. The person

providing the costly substance lays out several

lines (preferably on a mirror), then takes a

currency note (often of high value) and rolls it up.

One end of the rolled bill is placed in a nostril and

held with one hand, while the other hand is used

to press the other nostril closed. Half of one line,

or a small line, is then snuffed into the nostril. The

person then switches nostrils and snuffs the

remaining powder, after which the mirror is

passed to the next person. This circle may be

repeated several time, and it is customary for each

of several participants to prepare lines from their

own supply.


The cultural significance of cocaine in the modern

world cannot be overlooked. Artists, musicians,

and writers use it as a stimulant, while highly paid

computer experts, software engineers, and programmers

would hardly be able to keep up with

the demands of their jobs without their «coke."

Stockbrokers, financial gurus, and election staffers

may use cocaine until they are ready to collapse.

Even some of the soccer stars who jog into the

stadium sporting T-shirts with such incongruous

imprints as «Keine Macht den Drogen" C(No

Power to Drugs") are high as a kite on cocaine.

According to several estimates, the highest per

capita consumption of cocaine is found in Silicon

Valley and on Wall Street.

The first literary treatment of cocaine is found

in the Sherlock Holmes novel A Scandal in

Bohemia, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, published

only two years after Koller's discovery (Phillips

and Wynne 1980, 45). In this book, the astonishing

abilities of this brilliant detective are attributed in

part to his use of cocaine. By the time of the following

novel, The Sign of the Four, Sherlock

Holmes is injecting the pure alkaloid intravenously

(Voigt 1982,38).

The most famous novel of the British writer

Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,

was written in only four or six days and nightswith

the assistance of the magic powder, of course

(Springer 1989,8; Voigt 1982,38).

The novellas of the expressionist poet Walter

Rheiner (1895-1925), in which he referred to the

drug as «the eternal poison" and «the loved and

hated poison," played a great role in shaping the

image of demonic seduction by pharmaceutical

cocaine (Rheiner 1979).

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the

physician Gottfried Benn (1886-1956) wrote and

published numerous poems about cocaine (of

which he was very fond) that at the time were

deemed rather shocking (Benn 1982; vom Scheidt

1981, 401). Many other authors have also been

inspired by cocaine, including Georg Trakl,

Thomas Zweifel, Josef Maria Frank Fritz von

Ostini, Klaus Mann, and Jean Cocteau (Springer


Cocaine is also the subject of many novels. The

classic cocaine novel, Cocaine, was written by

Pitigrilli (= Dino Serge, 1927). The drug has often

been treated within its current criminal context

(Badekerl 1983; Fauser 1983), while other novels

have been written from a futuristic perspective (Boye 1986). The "coke scene" has also provided a

rich source of literary inspiration (McInerney

1984; Ellis 1986).

The composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949)

wrote his opera Arabella while under the influence

of cocaine (Springer 1989,8; Timmerberg 1996).494

Countless compositions have had cocaine as their

subject, including Cocaine IiI, for a mezzosoprano

and four female jazz singers, by the

contemporary composer Nancy van de Vate (CD

Ensemble Belcanto, Koch, 1994). From the 1920s

to the 1940s, the white powder fueled the work of

especially jazz and blues musicians, and Chick

Webb, Luke Jordan, and Dick Justice even gave it a

musical treatment ("Cocaine Blues").

Veritable blizzards of cocaine have passed

through the brains of many of rock music's greats,

who then set their experiences with the "fuel" to

music. A few examples are Country Joe McDonald

("Cocaine"), Black Sabbath ("Snowblind"), Little

Feat C'Sailin' Shoes"), the Rolling Stones ("Let It

Bleed"), Jackson Browne ("Cocaine"), and David

Bowie ("Ziggy Stardust").

The "hippie" band known as the Grateful Dead

sang about the white powder in their song

"Truckin'," one of their few hits to make it onto the

charts. Eric Clapton's interpretation of J. J. Cale's

song "Cocaine" became a worldwide success and

has been played millions of times over. The reggae

artist Dillinger released an album named Cocaine.

The drug also left its mark on the German music

scene, influencing or even appearing in the music

of Hannes Wader, Konstantin Wecker, Abi Ofarim,

and T'MA a.k.a. Falco ("Mutter, der Mann mit

dem Koks ist da" ["Mother, the Man with the Coke

Is Here"]; BMG Records 1995).

Cocaine has been the subject of at least one

theater work: The American playwright Pendleton

King wrote a piece entitled Cocaine that was

produced for the stage in 1917 (Phillips and

Wynne 1980,93 ff.).

Medicinal Use

The medicinal applications of cocaine were

discovered only a short time after the isolation of

the molecule itself. Cocaine was initially used for

local anesthesia495 in ophthalmology and dentistry,

and infiltration anesthesia was developed just

a few years later (Custer 1898). Because analogs

(e.g., procaine) were developed that produce

specific effects with no psychoactive side effects,

cocaine is rarely used as an anesthetic today.
Pharmacology and Effects

Cocaine stimulates the central nervous system,

especially the autonomic (sympathetic) system,

where it inhibits the reuptake of the neurotransmitters

noradrenaline, dopamineA neurotransmitter associated with movement, attention, learning, and the brain’s pleasure and reward system., and

serotoninA monoamine neurotransmitter, biochemically derived from tryptophan, that is primarily found in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, platelets, and central nervous system (CNS) of humans and animals. It is a well-known contributor to feelings of well-being. and increases the time in which they

remain in the synaptic cleft. Cocaine has a powerful effect upon the peripheral nervous

system, which explains its efficaciousness as a local

anesthetic. It has strong stimulant and vasoconstricting

properties. Very high dosages of cocaine

are said to be able to induce hallucinations, an

effect that is frequently noted in the neurological

literature (Pulvirenti and Koob 1996,49) as well as

in prose and poetry (Rheiner 1979, 27).

Hallucinations (of nonexistent people, images,

flickering lights) often occur during nights in

which dosages of 2 to 3 g have been taken. For

many people, cocaine also dispels fear. It stimu1ates

a need for alcoholic beverages at the same

time that it strongly suppresses the effects of

alcohol. A similar dynamic applies to nicotine.

In a certain sense, there is something unsatisfying

about the effects of cocaine. A person may

sense that satisfaction could be achieved if the

effects could possibly be increased. However, using

more cocaine does not produce an enhancement

of its effects.

Just as coca was and is employed in South

America as an aphrodisiac, cocaine has a similar

use in the West. Cocaine's reputation as an aphrodisiac

can be traced back to Sigmund Freud (1884)

and has been repeatedly confirmed in the

pharmacological literature:

At a high level of intoxication, central

excitation sets in with characteristic shivering,

an initial state of euphoria that turns into

delirium and hallucinations. For women, the

stimulation ... not infrequently has an erotic

character and has resulted in later accusations

of sexual misconduct against the operating

physician. (Fiihner 1943, 196*)

Some psychiatrists believe that cocaine stimulates

the "sexual center" of the brain (Siegel

1982a). For many users, cocaine is inevitably

associated with sexuality (MacDonald et al. 1988;

Phillips and Wynne 1980,221).

Cocaine relaxes and opens the sphincter

muscles, which makes anal penetration easier as

well as substantially more pleasurable. However,

cocaine (much like ephedrine) often has an

adverse effect on erectile function and consequently

leads to temporary impotence (cf. Siegel


The addictive potential of cocaine has been the

subject of much debate. This issue does not appear

to be oriented toward the user as much as it

reflects the current legal situation. In recent years,

there have been efforts to develop a vaccination

against "cocaine addiction." Of course, the

research in this area is conducted on rats (Hellwig

1996). The effect of cocaine on the brain is also an

object of much research, since studies that

confirm the adverse effects of cocaine are likely to

receive financial support from the government. Studies that do not have a political agenda are the

exception rather than the rule (Volkow and Swann


People who use cocaine frequently suffer from

a runny nose ("coke sniffles") the following day.

Users may counteract this undesirable and

unpleasant aftereffect by rinsing their nose with a

saline solution (e.g., with medicinal salts). Many

users rub vitamin E oil in their nose, a practice

said to regenerate the highly irritated mucous

membranes in the nose (Voigt 1982,72). Although

cocaine can be very helpful in dealing with an

acute attack of hay fever, chronic use can actually

contribute to the condition.

Crack or Free-Base Cocaine

In the German press, crack has been portrayed as

"death for a few dollars," "the devil's drug from the

U.S.A.;' et cetera. The general idea seems to be that

"cocaine was a miracle, but crack, crack was better

than sex" or "cocaine was purgatory-but crack is

hell" (in Wiener 6 [1986]: 65,66).

Crack, which is also known as base, free base,

baseball, rocks, Roxanne, and supercoke, is

nothing more than smokeable free-base cocaine

(Siegel 1982b). In other words, crack is cocaine in

the form of a free base (Pulvirenti and Koob 1996,

48). It can be obtained from an aqueous solution

of cocaine hydrochloride to which an alkaline

substance (such as sodium carbonate) is added.

The cocaine salt is transformed into the pure base,

or, in other words, the pure substance. It can then

be purified with ether, causing the cocaine to

crystallize out. Crack is usually "smoked" (i.e.,

vaporized and inhaled) in glass pipes. A typical

dosage ranges from 0.05 to 0.1 g. The effect is very

similar to that of snuffed cocaine but is much

more intense:

Although crack is a derivative of cocaine, there

is little comparison between the mild and

mostly stimulating cocaine inebriation and

the effects of the short-term crack high, which

can literally bowl one over. Whereas cocaine

produces a euphoric sensation of great concentration

and razor-sharp intelligence for

about 20 to 60 minutes, crack lasts for only

three to five minutes while giving the consumer

an incredibly strong kick with regard to

physical sensations as well as the euphoria of

absolute omnipotence. Of course, this has

resulted in many myths, including one that

crack is particularly pure. (Sahihi 1995,37*)

Ethnologists have begun using the field

methods typical of the discipline to study the

"crack phenomenon;' which appears to be a

typically American product (Holden 1989).

"Crack life" is a reflection of the problems in

American society and reveals deep social fissures and cultural anomalies. For users, the "crack way"

is an important form of identity formation. Crack

is frequently found together with prostitution, as

"addicts" may accept it as a form of payment for

sexual services (Carlson and Siegal 1991).

On the street, the following substances may be

used as substitutes for cocaine or crack in times of

shortage: procaine, caffeine, benzocaine, phenylpropanolamine,

lidocaine, and ephedrine (Siegel


Commercial Forms and Regulations

Cocaine hydrochloride is available through the

pharmacy trade. The German Drug Law lists

cocaine as a "narcotic drug in which trafficking is

allowed but which may not be prescribed"

(Korner 1994, 42). In the United States, the Controlled

Substances Act classifies cocaine as a

Schedule II substance.


See also the entries for Erythroxylum coca,

Erythroxylum novogranatense, atropine, and

tropane alkaloids.

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effects. New York: St. Martin's Press.

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Wirkung des CocaYn. Archiv fur Physiologie


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Taschner and Richtberg 1982,206-31 (see


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