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American Soft Drink History: Coca-Cola, "The Drink That Gives You A Lift!" Contained Trace Cocaine

Updated on April 26, 2013

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.

Coca Leaves

Erythroxylum coca - coca leaves
Erythroxylum coca - coca leaves | Source

Major Coca Growing Countries

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B markerColumbia -
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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?

*New Drink - Strength of 3 Cans of 'Red Bull'

Cocaine Energy Drink - 8.4oz 6 Pack
Cocaine Energy Drink - 8.4oz 6 Pack

Advisory: This does NOT contain cocaine. The name is a pun meant to attract purchasers.



5 stars for The History of Coca Cola

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 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).

Glucose vs. Cocaine

Glucose | Source


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    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Awesome hub, i stopped drinking soda many years ago but my favorite two were Coca Cola and Royal Crown Cola .

      Thumbs up !!!

    • viewerchoice profile image

      viewerchoice 6 years ago from Kolkata

      Thanks you for giving us these useful information. Very nice buddy keep it up.

    • TinaTango profile image

      TinaTango 6 years ago

      Excellent hub. This has been a highly discussed topic throughout the years. I am unfortunately "addicted" to coke...the caffeine withdraw headaches are so unbearable!

      Anyways, thumbs up!

    • Sunnyglitter profile image

      Sunnyglitter 6 years ago from Cyberspace

      I always wondered if it was true that they put cocaine in Coca Cola. Great hub.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 6 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      This is marvelous information, Patty. I stopped drinking coke, when I learned it would clean my toilet bowl like new. I tried it - it worked! That was enough information for me. Great history of this product! My hope would be that plenty of folks read this!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      No wonder it became a favourite drink but somebody in the higher ranks must have known about it. why wasn't anything done about it? Straightaway.

    • Rehma Jamshed profile image

      Sabina Jamshed 6 years ago

      Great hub! I stopped using coca cola a year ago. After reading this hub I am glad I did. Thanks.

    • surale profile image

      surale 6 years ago from pakistan

      your hub is soooooooo great and very informative . it give a health tip to those who uses the coca cola

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 6 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      earnesthub - That's about right.

      susannah42 - Can we still buy Coke syrup for stomach upset at the drug store? Maybe so, But a can of coke will do it for some of us.

      Thanks for all the rest of the comments!

    • susannah42 profile image

      susannah42 6 years ago from Florida

      Coca Cola is also a good medication when you have an upset stomach.

    • earnestshub profile image

      earnestshub 6 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      An interesting and informative hub. The major ingredient in Coke was always their bulldust advertising in my view.

    • profile image

      Sir slave 6 years ago

      I always wondered why people in old photos looked so perky and peppy!!

    • Silver Poet profile image

      Silver Poet 6 years ago from the computer of a midwestern American writer

      I had heard that Coca Cola can be used as a drain cleaner when necessary. I hadn't heard the info about linoleum! Good hub.

    • J.S.Matthew profile image

      JS Matthew 6 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Very interesting Hub. I heard about this before...thanks for filling in the details!

    • SUSIE42 profile image

      SUSIE42 6 years ago

      Interesting information. No wonder I like coca cola.

    • primpo profile image

      Primpo 6 years ago from Brooklyn, New York

      my husband loves coke, I always didn't like the taste, but I stopped drinking soda some time ago. This was a useful article. Nice hub.