Coca Leaves / Cocaine
Coca leaves have been used for thousands of years by the original inhabitants of South America. Coca leaf chewing or drinking coca tea continues to be of importance for social, nutritional and medicinal purposes. One of the reasons for this is that coca leaves include more iron and calcium than many of the food crops grown in the Andes.
Coca leaves contain 13 alkaloids one of which is cocaine. This substance was isolated for the first time in 1863 in a German laboratory. It was used for its anesthesic properties and in psychiatric treatments.
Reports on therapeutic use
Use of coca leaves is reported to have antibacterial and parasital effects in the treatment of stomach pains, infections and diarrhea, it reduces fever, has anestesic effects during childbirth, in case of head- tooth- and muscle aches, as well as irritations to skin and eye. Likewise, use of coca leaves has a regulatory effect on blood circulation, heartbeat, lung diseases such as asthma, altitude sickness and emboly, a stimulating effect in case of impotence and other forms of fatigue, and a calming and analgesic effect in case of central nervous disorders.
The therapeutical use of cocaine is limited to a local anaesthetic for surgery.
Coca leaves and cocaine were both put on the List of Controlled Substances added to the UN Single Convention of 1961. Legal cocaine is being manufactured by several enterprises (a number of countries has the possibility to import coca leaves for this puroposes) whilst the only legal use of coca leaves outside Peru and Bolivia is limited to the Coca Cola company that makes a flavouring agent out of it for its famous beverage.
Peru and Bolivia have obtained a permission to grow for the domestic market, but the UN International Narcotics Control Board continues to condemn traditional use – which it sees as a way of cocainism.
In Peru and Bolivia, coca leaves can be obtained legally, but export is prohibited. However, various websites offer coca tea and other products. In Bolivia in 2009, the government declared the coca leaf “national patrimony”.
There has never been reported any adverse health effect of the use of coca leaves. The therapeutic effect of coca leaves has been recognised in a report of the WHO that was published in 1995, and subsequently retracted under American pressure.
Chronic cocaine use can make the user selfish, arrogant, delusional and aggressive. Cocaine can also take a physical toll. Prolonged chronic use can cause loss of appetite, serious weight loss and reduced resistance against infections. Combining this with sleeping disorders (a well-known problem in cocaine use) and the yearlong assault on the body results in exhaustion which may be accompanied by disturbances of the heart rhythm.
On coca leaves: