American Soft Drink History: Coca-Cola, "The Drink That Gives You A Lift!" Contained Trace Cocaine
Early Coca Cola Slogans
One of the original Coca-Cola® advertising slogans was "The Drink That Gives You A Lift", owing to a small amount of cocaine (some execs call it 'coca essense') included in the beverage from a coca leaf in the recipe. As narcotics and a range of legal and illegal drugs became controlled substances under government scrutiny, it would not have been possible to legally continue to include the coca leaf. Why was it removed from the formula and when?
Cocaine was popular hot topic in a variety of entertainment genres in the 1920s when Coke® was first sold. It was pop culture in the Roaring Twenties and the Depression Thirties. For instance, this substance was mentioned in a famous Cab Calloway number with lyrics stating that a particular individual was "coke-y." During the early 1980s, a child's prize, a small record, in a burger chain's kids meal was accidentally replaced with a recording of the popular current song of the era: "Cocaine." In addition, literary characters have used cocaine as well. In the late 1800s, it was used as a medication or tonic.
Cocaine has been a popular topic lately as well, with new attention brought by the documentaries shown by CNBC TV. These films involve the food industry and highlight a number of popular food and beverage brands, including Coca-Cola® in one interesting evening broadcast. In current and recent past entertainment news, Internet forums rehash Kirstie Ally's alleged treatment with cocaine as a child for tonsillectomy pain (allegedly contributing to adult addiction). Other forums remember John Belushi and his death as a result of receiving a SpeedBall of mixed cocaine and heroin. in 100 years, cocaine went from popular and medicinal to deadly.
Suffering an allergy to all narcotics and most anesthetics at any dilution rate, I would not have been able to enjoy Coca-Cola® in its early form. One '5-Cent Coke' later, and I would have been overcome by hives, rashes, bleeding skin (a little later), constricted throat, and low blood pressure; passed out on the floor. This was my reaction to codeine medication at age 6 and morphine once as an adult - not at all the refreshing reaction the soft drink manufacturer intended for Coca-Cola® the Drink That Refreshes.
Untill 1903, Coke Syrup
...contained 1/2 oz. coca leaf per gallon, a little over 1/100 of a grain. Very small.
Today's Coke® contains no cocaine or coca; however, in concentrate form it is an official biohazard, so labeled for its caustic action.It can clean industrial floors!
Even in beverage form, the drink can eat away a linoleum floor and other solid matter. With or without cocaine, the soft drink's contents can be dangerous to health if used in excess or long-term.
A visit to the company website and viewing the related CNBC documentary show that the original drink was made of a combination of some tincture or detoction of coca leaves, with the addition of kola nuts for caffeine.
I suppose the coca and caffeine formulated a 'double lift' of sorts; but only the caffeine remains today.
Coca + kola became the Coca Cola® trademark. Supposedly the amount of coca was reduced along the way from 1886 to a very small proportion by 1902 or-3 and was nonexistent by 1929, just in time for The Great Depression.
Why was the cocaine removed?
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Advisory: This does NOT contain cocaine. The name is a pun meant to attract purchasers.
Percentages and Dates of Coca Reduction
America's First Cocaine Epidemic, The Wilson Quarterly, 1989:Vol 13, #3.
by David F. Musto
Published by: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars http://www.jstor.org/stable/40257908 retrieved January 27, 2011 (Database access required).
Psychiatrist Sigmund Freud wrote in his On Coca about the positive uplifting effects of coca in 1884 - appetite increase, energy lift, etc. He called it magical. A hundred years later, Mr. David F. Musto was reminding us how many celebrities and regular people were killed by cocaine overdoses in the 1980s alone.
However, Coca Cola could never have led to this result. In 1900, the cocaine content of the beverage was only 0.0025%. This is negligible and some sources feel that this slight amount preserved the original recipe and sustained the trademark. One process used was to reuse used coca leaves, like reusing an old tea bag, so very little coca essence was extracted into the beverage.
Cocaine was seen by 1900 to be addictive and dangerous, so it had to come out of the drink; but it took unto 1929 to remove it completely and still preserve the trademark. Different blogs and opinion pages on the Internet quote dates of 1902, 1903, and 1906 for the beginning of the coca reduction in the recipe; but this article is the most well documented for dates and quantities.
The coca content was a bit larger back in 1886, but not by much. A drinker of the beverage of would need to be highly sensitive or allergic to coca to become affected noticeably from that concentration. In another substance situation, a very small amount of the sugar-substitute Splenda® can harm those allergic to it. Interestingly, the chemical formulas for cocaine and sugar are similar (see below).
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