Did Coca-Cola Used to Have Cocaine in it? Did Coke Have coke in it?
Coca-Cola (Coke) had cocaine in it, in varying amounts, from 1886 – 1929. At the time cocaine was legal and treated as a medicine. Coca-Cola didn’t invent using the coca plant in drinkable products (coca wine was also popular), it’s just the one product with its history and name firmly rooted in it. In short, Coke used to have coke in it.
From 1900 – 1929 opinion turned against cocaine, but Coke continued to use trace amounts of cocaine and “spent” coca leaves to maintain its flavor and trademark. Today Coca-Cola uses caffeine rather than cocaine.
A video about how cocaine was once an important part of Coca-Cola, and much else in America at the time.
FACT: Despite its abuse potential and dangers, cocaine is still considered to have medicinal purposes today (i.e. it’s a schedule II, not I, drug).
Where does the name Coca-Cola Come From? Coca-Cola refers to two original ingredients found in Coke 1. kola nuts (a source of caffeine), and 2. coca leaves.
Does Coke Still Have Cocaine in it? The current formula of Coca-Cola remains a trade secret, but we can confirm that a 1988 New York Times article reported the following: In a telephone interview from Coca-Cola’s Atlanta headquarters, Randy Donaldson, a company spokesman, said, “Ingredients from the coca leaf are used, but there is no cocaine in it and it is all tightly overseen by regulatory authorities.” Besides producing the coca flavoring agent for Coca-Cola, Stepan extracts cocaine from the coca leaves, which it sells to Mallinckrodt Inc., a St. Louis pharmaceutical manufacturer that is the only company in the United States licensed to purify the product for medicinal use. Thus, we can confirm cocaine can be used for medicine and the Coca plant has a long history with Coca Cola. With that in mind, Coke is a brand, and we don’t want to confirm or deny if they currently use “spent” Coca Leaves without an official source to cite.
The Origin of Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola was actually invented by Civil War pharmacist John “Doc” Pemberton. Doc was looking to find opportunity after the war, and he found it in soda and the coca leaf.
Soda fountain gatherings were on the rise as new social spots as Temperance (a religious movement against alcohol) was keeping folks out of the bars. Out of the new soda trend, Doc’s knowledge of medicine, and that addicting and social affects of stimulants, Coca-Cola was born.
New Ownership and the Marketing of Coke
Sadly, Doc died in 1888 only two years after Coke was created. A man named Asa Griggs Candler rescued the then fledgling business. Candler was responsible for many of the marketing techniques that made Coke famous, including passing out Coke to people and giving them “their first taste for free”. He also sold the Coca-Cola syrup as a medicine claiming it would get rid of fatigue and headaches.
Putting things in perspective: In the late 1800’s drugs were legal and opiates and cocaine were commonly used as medicine. It was = common to give children cocaine when they were sick. Like how we think little of the caffeine in our soda today, people in the 1800’s didn’t think much about cocaine in their soda.
Remember, Coke called the product Coca-Cola, they were trying to advertise it, not hide it!
Drug Laws, Taxation, Drug Culture, and Patents
The 1890’s were good for Coca Cola, but by 1898 a tax to help recoup costs of the Spanish-American war meant that medicine was being taxed. Coca Cola got out of the medicine business, but retained cocaine in their product.
As drug culture changed America started to realize the negative effects of drugs. Throughout the next 30 years new drug laws cracked down on cocaine including the 1875 law in San Francisco which outlawed opium dens, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 which gave the FDA power to regulate drugs, and the Harrison Narcotics Tax Act of 1914 which allowed the taxation of drugs (and indirectly made them illegal for non-medical use via a “tax violation”).
Coca-Cola retained trace amounts of the drug in their product up until 1929. This was primarily due to patent reasons (they had to keep coke as an ingredient in order to keep the patent).
Cocaine and Opiates are Still Used as Medicine, and Stimulants are Still Used in Soda
The story of cocaine in soft drinks may sound almost comical today, but consider the fact that we still use cocaine as a medicine today (it’s only illegal on the street).
Cocaine is a schedule II drug (meaning despite abuse potential we admit it has medicinal uses). Most opiates are also schedule II, meanwhile other non-opioid drugs like Xanax and Ambien are schedule III.
- Today Adderall, Morphine, Oxycontin, and many other drugs we use as medicines are plant-based, stimulants, and/or have addictive properties.
- Today Coke has replaced Cocaine with Caffeine, but notably Caffeine is also a stimulant.
We drink double shots of expresso with our morning cigarette, and end the day with a drink. We aren’t giving cocaine to children, but they may receive Adderall prescriptions and caffeine. How does a society balance drugs, addiction, marketing, freedom, taxes, and regulation? That is perhaps the deeper question under the surface of a rather fun story.
Truth About Coke, Coffee & Caffeine Facts, Corrina Rachel, Weight Gain.
Have a drug problem (including caffeine)? Get help at drugabuse.gov.