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Snows Up The Nose: A History Of Cocaine

Snows Up The Nose: A History Of Cocaine image Snows Up The Nose: A History Of Cocaine image
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By Michael Castleman

About 100 years ago, a young and unknown Austrian medical student, ambitious to launch his career by publishing papers in the professional journals, heard rumors of a supposed "wonder drug". The drug was a derivative of a shrub native to the Andean Mountain regions of Peru and Bolivia, available through a small circle of devotees in Paris. His published papers on the effects of this drug caused an immediate sensation among Austrian physicians. Today, these same papers are avidly read and gleefully enjoyed by drug connoisseurs of every stamp. The unknown medical student was Sigmund Freud; the wonder drug, cocaine.

Freud whiffed cocaine reverently and regularly for the rest of his Life. His monumental work, the development of psychoanalysis, and his prodigious writings on dreams, sex, the unconscious, and the repression of the individual through the socializing forces of culture have revolutionized the course of contemporary Western Civilization. In the context of the stringent penalties--up to life imprisonment--inflicted today for the possession of cocaine, it is both ironic and astonishing to realize that the creative fires which burned in this singular mind were fueled with fabulous flake.

Freud popularized cocaine as one of the first local anesthetics. It is still used medically as an external anesthetic and is very effective, as anyone who has rubbed it on his/her lips can readily attest.

Like an Owsley of the late Victorian Age, Freud wrote devoutly of "giving an offering" of coke to his patients, as opposed to the more customary jargon, administrating a dose. He rhapsodized its virtues to his fiancee: "You perceive an increase in self-control, and a heightened capacity for work. Soon you feel simply normal, and it is hard to believe that you are under the influence of a drug."

In his correspondence with his fiancee, Freud (who has recently come under strenuous attack from the women's movement for his paternalism) cited cocaine as an exciting aphrodisiac: "You shall see who is the stronger, a gentle girl who doesn't eat enough, or a big wild man who has cocaine in his body."



Cocaine is the undisputed champagne of illicit drugs. Largely confined to jet setters, rock and jazz musicians, and a handful of legitimate researchers until the 1970's, today coke has emerged as the drug of choice among the bored aristocracy of hip culture. $50 million worth of "heavenly blow" was seized by the Forces of Evil in 1972, a threefold increase over 1971. Seizures have snowballed, as it were, 700% from 1969-1974. The New York Times estimates that by 1972 over 10% of US college students had snorted coke at least once, despite street prices of up to $100 per gram. Nonetheless, coke remains a cult drug. If government estimates can be believed, only about 15% of people who have smoked marijuana have tried cocaine.

Coke's cult popularity derives from the initial, almost immediate rush of euphoria, the reassuring sense of personal power, strength, and well-being it produces. You feel like you can do anything: conversation becomes oration, writing blossoms into poetry, concentration is enhanced, and making love feels like a joyous and everlasting experience. Cocaine's mythic aphrodisiac properties are well known, and inherent to its mystique, as are the forbidding price and the necessity of being priveleged to superlative connections to score some blow. Whiffing a few lines enables most men, though not all, to sustain their erections for what feels like ages. Another popular method for enhanced and prolonged intercourse is to rub a bit of coke on the sensitive head of the penis and/or clitoris, which anesthitizes these organs and forestalls orgasm.

Happily, unlike the opiates and LSD, the body builds no tolerance to frequent use of cocaine. the same amount will blow you away first time, every time, assuming, of course, the coke is of comparable quality and has not been stepped on with adulterants.

Cocaine is not physically addictive like the opiates. No physical craving develops. However. frequent users often develop a deep and very expensive emotional attachment to the drug. If coke is around, it's hard to save any for later, and inhalation of $1000 per month is not unheard of among tv personalities, Wall St. brokers and the reigning upper echelons of rock 'n roll.

"Living on reds, vitamin C and cocaine--All a friend can say is: 'Ain’t it a shame."
The Grateful Dead, "Truckin’ ”

The well publicized fact that cocaine has been enjoyed by many of the world's most creative and "glamorous" people does not in any way imply that all people who toot are either creative or glamourous. Glamour is usually most appealing and compelling among people whose lives lack meaning, fulfillment, and sustaining purpose. Jane Fonda's disgusted repudiation of the deadening, predatory, phony glamour of her former incarnation as a Hollywood sex object is particularly illustrative of the seamier side of glamour. So cocaine is the bewitching glamour drug--in every sense of the word. Used intelligently, which means carefully and infrequently, it can supplement creative and constructive work. However, people who delve deep into the white crystaline wonderland often make a fundamental error: they come to believe erroneously that cocaine creates energy. It does not; it simply releases the body's energy more quickly. The increase in self-confidence may enhance creative endeavors, however, long term coke jags all too often delude the user into believing he/she is Something he/she is definitely not. Cocaine is the self-indulgent Emperor of the ego drugs. Ego energy incorporates both positive and negative attributes. Cocaine can complement a life which is already sustaining, or it can lead to a mindless megalomania where the steady user becomes so intoxicated with his/her profundity, potency, and charisma that the rest of the world simply evaporates. It is usually quite apparent who the immature coke freaks are at a party-they're usually the most obnoxious people there. They yammer on as though their words were golden, but to the listener who soon becomes fed up, they ring tinny and painfully pathetic.

Cocaine should be respected and appreciated as one of Nature's tastiest desserts, like a fine brandy, or like champagne. The problem arises when people substitute dessert for supper, both literally and figuratively: literally in that some people purchase appetite-suppressing cocaine instead of real/nourishing food, and figuratively in that cocaine should occassionally supplement a full and meaningful life, and not become the focus of an empty and largely cocaine-defined existence.



Cocaine has enjoyed a popularity befitting its powers ever since it was introduced to Europe. Robert Louis Stevenson is believed to have conceived of and written his classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when he switched from morphine to coke. His use of cocaine probably accounts for "the demonical pace at which the bedridden Stevenson wrote then completely rewrote the 60,000 word novel in six days." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, also indulged in the drug, and passed the practice along to the famous sleuth. In order to fight boredom and to keep his legendary brain in top shape between capers, Sherlock Holmes injected "a 7% solution of Numbolia compound," much to the chagrin of the straight-laced Dr. Watson. Hitler and several of his satanic cronies also blew coke.

Cocaine was introduced to the US via Europe in the 1880's by the surgeon, Dr. William Halstead as a local anesthetic. He and all his assistants soon realized that there were other stimulating uses to which it could be put. Pure USP Cocaine is used today by U-Hospital anesthesiologists and other medical researchers in their work. They obtain it legally for the incredible price of $20 per ounce, a mere 1/100 of the usual street price of $2000 per ounce, and rumor has it that its use is not solely confined to bona fide research among harried doctors....

The tonic properties of cocaine were incorporated into Coca-cola by its inventor, Atlanta druggist John S. Pemberton in 1886. The Food and Drug Administration forced the substitution of caffeine for cocaine in the soft drink in 1906. However, any of the estimated 5 million cocaine tooters can verify that coke is, indeed, the real thing.

Aleister Crowley, noted mountain climber, satanist, and writer during the 1920's recounts his cocaine experiences in a book titled Diary of a Dope Fiend: "One sniff gives a sensation of the most exquisitely delicious wickedness....I had never been particularly keen on women, but with cocaine things are absolutely different. One becomes positively reckless...."



Cocaine is distilled from the coca bush of the Andes Mountains, and should not be confused with the cacao plant, the source of chocolate. The coca shrub grows three to eight feet tall. has rust colored branches, tea-like leaves, and small yellow flowers. Cocaine is derived by baking the leaves, crushing the toasted leaves into a greenish powder, then washing the powder through unslaked lime. In 1898, before the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914 outlawed cocaine (and misclassed it as an opiate), the Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Co. obtained yields of coke of approximately 3/4 of 1% by weight from coca leaves. This is slightly better than the yield obtained by underground chemists today, albeit under more difficult conditions. One source claims that 1/2 ton of coca leaves are required to obtain one kilo of cocaine.

The Inca Civilization named coca "Khoka." The name means simply The Tree, which is the spiritual equivalent of our biblical Tree of Life. The Incas regarded the coca plant as a divine gift, and representations of the plant are a frequent and elaborate subject of Inca religious art. Among the early Incas, the use of coca was confined to members of the royal family. "The sovereign could show no higher mark of esteem than to bestow this precious leaf upon those he wished to endow with the mark of Imperial favor." Later, however, the divine plant became daily fare among all the Incas. No important venture began unaccompanied with an offering of coca to the gods.

The Incas chewed the bitter coca leaves. It numbed the mouth, throat, and stomach, which diminished hunger pangs substantially and eased the burden of working at oxygen-poor Andean altitudes. It was viewed as an all-around body builder, much like Asians view ginseng. The Incas typically began each day with a few leaves of "breakfast coca," just as we might drink orange juice, coffee, or tea.

The Incas were unexcelled road builders. Many of their roads, cut through Andes rock, are still in use today. These roads served military and imperial purposes, tying together the far-flung Inca Empire like the roadways of the Roman Empire. The Incas dispatched information by runner, and similar to the Pony Express, erected periodic road houses as rest stops. But instead of mounting a new horse, the runner refueled by picking up a fresh batch of coca leaves.

When the Spanish conquistador Pizarro led his small and disheveled, but technologically superior army in the conquest and enslavement of the Incas, the object of his pillage was gold. What little gold the Incas possessed was usually beaten into representations of the coca plant to adorn their temples.

At first the Spaniards ignored coca. Cieza de Leon, who chronicled the customs of the Incas as the Spanish disemboweled their unique civilization, notes almost parenthetically: "They always seem to carry a small leaf of some sort in their mouths."

Later, the Church instigated attempts to prohibit the cultivation and use of the plant. This proved impossible, as have latter day crusades to eradicate marijuana cultivation. But the Spanish had no maps, no satellite stationed camera equipment, no Vietnam-perfected, airplane-sprayed defoliants, and only a handful of dedicated coca exterminators at a time when 40% of the population of Peru, and an estimated 6 million Andean Indians munched the plant daily. Furthermore, as the colonialists forced their Inca slaves to mine silver at altitudes over 17,000 feet, they soon discovered that their workforce could not physically survive without their coca.

So the Spanish altered their strategy. They "legalized" coca, slapped a tax on it in the coastal cities they controlled, and served it up as a daily ration to the slaves who worked the mines. Today, the Andean silver, tin, and copper mines are owned by U.S. firms like Anaconda Copper or Kennecott Corp., but the miners are still fed coca to ease somewhat the rigors of their work. Thus coca became the first drug to run the cycle from a plentiful and free weed, through outlawed and hunted plant, to a legally available, Government taxed commodity used primarily to pacify a potentially unruly population. Marijuana, now at stage two, might easily evolve from its present status as a potentially liberating herb whose very illegality challenges the authority of the State, to a tool of the State to inure the disaffected to continued oppressive domination. Some drugs, like heroin, are inherently reactionary. They debilitate and degrade the user. No drug is inherently revolutionary. The politics of a given drug are always linked to its specific social and political context.

The Incas were somewhat nonplussed by the coca tax. Who could imagine a tax on God's own favorite plant, which had been tree for the picking since Pachacamac, the founder of the world, descended from the heavens? The Spanish raised $2 1/2 million in coca tax from 1785-1795. The Incas, who had barely resisted the Spanish conquest, were prepared to die tor their holy plant. They rebelled, but were crushed. W.G. Mortimer, author of The History of Coca (1901 & 1974) comments that the metamorphosis of coca from a divine gift to a commodity of servitude "marked the downfall of one of the most profound examples of socialism ever recorded."

Word of the coca plant spread to Europe and the plant became the object of extensive study. In 1838, Swiss naturalist Von Tschudi concluded: "I am clearly of the opinion that moderate use of coca is not merely innocuous, but that it may even be conducive to good health. I refer to numerous examples of longevity (Ed.: of up to 100 years) among Indians who from childhood chew coca three times per day, and who in the course of a lifetime consume no less than 2700 pounds, or one ounce per day, and yet enjoy perfect health."

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Gibbs traveled through the Andes in 1875, and subsequently recommended that the Navy incorporate coca leaves into the Service's rations because of its remarkable power to sustain people under the most dire and physically taxing experiences.

The German Dr. Albert Neimann extracted cocaine from coca in 1859.



Cocaine differs from its parent coca like vitamin C differs from oranges. Cocaine is merely one of several alkaloids found in the coca leaf. Coca leaves produce few "head effects" compared to cocaine, though coke also dulls the appetite. In 1897 W.G. Mortimer mailed a survey on the effects of coca to 5000 doctors throughout the U.S. The 1200 respondents saluted coca as a beneficial tonic, and compared it to coffee and tea. Mortimer concluded: "As to its utter harmlessness, there can be no question. Even cocaine, against which there are cries of perniciousness, is an ally to the physician of inestimable value..."

By 1865 ten million people worldwide were using coca or cocaine regularly. In Paris, a man named Mariani developed a Coca-cola like tonic laced with cocaine, called Vin Mariani, or Mariani's Wine. Mariani became "the greatest exponent of the virtues of coke," and like the subsequent prophets of psychedelia "came closer to turning on the world than anyone who ever lived." Among otiose who swore by the beneficial effects of Vin Mariani were Queen Victoria, Pope Leo XIII, and Thomas Edison.

"Went to bed last night singing a song, Woke up this morning and my nose was gone – Imagine my embarrassment! Now my mucous membrane is just a memory, Sometimes I think cocaine is bad for me – Then I stop thinking.... "

Dave Van Ronk, "Cocaine."

Cocaine is a relatively benign drug when used moderately, infrequently, and intelligently. And with street prices of $70-100 per gram (15-1800 per ounce, and $20,000 per pound), it's a good idea a know what to look for when you're sampling some unidentified white powder.

There are three standard, simple tests which can aid the discerning coke shopper in the quest for pure flake. The knife test: pure coke will evaporate quickly and completely off a heated knife; poof, and it's gone. Anything left on the knife that's runny or gunky is adulterant. The water test: pure coke will dissolve instantly in water. Anything that sinks or is insoluble is adulterant. The freeze test: pure coke rubbed on the lips or gums will cause immediate numbing and a freezing sensation. Numbing without freezing usually indicates procaine, not cocaine.

Cocaine is buffed, or diluted, with any white powder, though mannitol, a pharmaceutical buffer, and lactose, milk sugar, are popular.

The Word around Ann Arbor is that the flake available now is more expensive and generally of poorer quality (more "walked over," "stepped on") than the wondrous whiffs of yesteryear.

Cocaine is a unique drug in that it is not a narcotic, amphetamine, no psychedelic. Some people find it hallucinogenic; others do not. In the early 1970's, when coke first flooded Ann Arbor by the nose-full, there was bitter debate concerning its acceptability by the advocates of what was then known as Life Culture. Some dealers bad-rapped it as a hard drug, while others defended it. Eventually, certainly by 1972, coke folk won out. "Some dealers may not deal it, often because of the armed ripoffs." commented one connoisseur, "but no one calls it a hard drug anymore, and I’ve yet to see anyone refuse a blow."

There are two methods used to ingest cocaine: sniffing it up the nose or injecting it.

THE INJECTION METHOD SHOULD NEVER BE USED, because of a condition known as "acute cocaine poisoning." While the lethal dose of coke is generally set at 1200 milligrams (1.2 grams), toxic effects have been reported at doses as low as 20 mg. According to Goodman and Gilman's The Pharmacological Basis of Therapeutics, the bible of drug information, "Acute cocaine poisoning runs a very rapid course. Indeed there is a form of acute poisoning that results in almost immediate death, the patient often collapsing and dying before the physician realizes what has occurred." If you have shot cocaine, you may owe your life to its buffers.

The nasal method is the intelligent way to do your lines. Popular implements for snorting include crisp bills, silver coke spoons, modified crucifixes, and Tiffany's, the ruling class jeweler of New York, has been selling quite a few silver straws, originally in tended for sipping crème de menthe.

Apart from the spiritual and debilitating drawbacks of prolonged coke binges, the only physical hazard of a frequent nasal ingestion is rotting of the nasal septum, the membrane that separates one nostril from the other. Advanced perforation makes you look like you have a pinched nose. (It is amusing to scan album photos of rock stars who have been around since the mid '60's, and compare their old noses in more recent photos. Many have shrunken or pinched noses now.) You may shrug: who cares about the septum anyway? Besides a visibly pinched nose, without the septum intact, you cannot submerge in water without holding your nose shut. The septum helps keep water from rushing up your nose.

The Word around town on preservation of the septum is: clean out your nostrils with a moistened cue-tip after whiffing. Vitamin E is also supposed to help. This advice is folk wisdom, though, and carries no septum back guarantee.



For the vast majority who cannot afford cocaine, a drug worth hunting is MDA, methyl-dioxy-amphetamine, popularly known as the "love drug." Not love in the sexual, aphrodisiac sense, but in the warmth friendship, and empathy sense. MDA is technically a speed, but it doesn't feel at all like one, except at times for the late teeth-gritting crash period. You feel similar sensations of power, well being, and exhilaration, but at a fraction of the cost. MDA is more of a hallucinogen than cocaine. When available, an 85-100 mg. dose of MDA, a 4-8 hour buzz, usually goes for $1-5.00. MDA was available in Ann Arbor in 1970 and 1972-3. One MDA initiate stated: "Coke is too expensive, and too individualistic. You don't enjoy people and open up to them as much as you do on MDA. Without a doubt, MDA is the finest drug I’ve ever done." Unfortunately, The Word is there's no MDA in Ann Arbor, but it's one drug the connoisseur should keep in mind. Prominent in the limited lore of MDA is this tale: The original synthesizer of the drug is reputed to have said: "After I developed MDA and tasted it. I was delighted to have gone into organic chemistry."



Since cocaine is so expensive. and since it is still misclassed as a hard drug, it has become a convenient tool of the galloping police state. A briefcase full might be worth upwards of $100,000, and if planted on a radical dissident, it can look as though he/she is a big dealer, with implied connections to the Mafia. This is basically what happened to former Yippie Abbie Hoffman. A memo pilfered from Government sources stated that the best way to neutralize the troublesome Hoffman would be to set him up on a "hard drug" bust. A few years later, Abbie gets popped with a weight of coke in New York, a State which, conveniently enough, carries a life sentence for possession of cocaine. Never mind organized crime, the CIA, or the police, the real sociopaths are the drug-crazed leaders of the New Left who support themselves by pushing cocaine on kindergarten kids, right? So now Abbie is out of action, and in hiding at great peril lo himself and anyone who has contact with him, and meanwhile the police can crow in the willing pages of the mass press about the moral bankruptcy of the Left.

A cursory reading of the establishment press reveals that the Government is cracking down in cocaine. The Drug Enforcement Agency has tried to muscle Peru into eradicating the coca plant like the conquistador of old but the Peruvians have refused on the grounds that such action would be like "banning beer in Germany." The real question is: since coke is relatively harmless drug that may, in fact possess beneficial properties, since it is non-addicting, and since no detoxification or treatment centers are needed to treat its users, why is it illegal at all?

If cocaine were available at the legitimate price of $20 per ounce, there might be a higher incidence of nose-bleeds, but it is doubtful that there would be any increase in crime. In fact, a persuasive case can be argued that the very fact of cocaine's illegality guarantees more crime. Armed robberies of coke inventories, and gangland wars between big dealers are by no means rare, here in the shadow of Murder City.

On a simplistic level, the Super Fly story represents the victorious struggle of a slick and cunning black operator over the ruling white police. The hero, Priest, escapes The Man by having the foresight to take out a fat contract (with white killers, no less) on The Man's entire suburban family if any hair of Priest's gorgeous coiffure is ever disturbed.

On the other hand, however, the politics of cocaine and other illegal drugs are far more subtle and insidious. The State outlaws harmless plants, thus creating a class of criminals who traffic in them. The illegality of coke drives the price sky high since the dealers assume significant risk to deliver their products. The police also pump up the inflated price through their total and institutionalized corruption. Any documentation here of bribe-taking and wholesale corruption among cops would be trite. Because of this artificial price inflation, drug consumers are often driven to theft to support their inclinations. More than bussing or anything else, crime fans the flames of racism, as uptight middle class whites are themselves against the hordes of drug-deranged blacks who, as they read daily in the mass media, lurk under every bush. These whites in turn scream for more police "protection." The cops, who control all crime statistics, further exacerbate people's fears by harping on the ever increasing crime rate, another case of the fox guarding the chicken coop. So the police get fat off their sordid bribes, and as a direct result of the drug traffic which they actively condone, more money pours into police arsenals. They sure don't use these weapons against organized crime. No, they use them to increase Government social control, and to terrorize dissidents and innocent people. Meanwhile creative energy which might be put to much more constructive use combatting social ills is frittered away in purse-snatching and robbery for money for more drugs.

The fact that cocaine remains illegal with street prices inflated 100 times the legitimate pharmaceutical price does not benefit the great majority of society. It does benefit the forces of organized crime, the gangsters who masquerade as our police, and the Government in whose interests it is to keep people divided with racism, and to terrify people with the largely manufactured, ever accelerating specter of crime.