In this short passage from “The History of Coca” by Dr. William Golden Mortimer, MD (1901), we have a compelling summary of what was known at the time by physicians in the US and Europe regarding the use of Coca Leaf as a remedy/cure for a range of diseases and conditions. Although only mentioned briefly here, the use of Coca Leaf infusion (tea) as an effective support for addicts withdrawing from both alcohol and the opiates (opium, morphine and heroin) make me wonder this treatment is not available. With the deputy director of the DEA announcing a “crackdown” on prescription painkillers and intoning the terrible toll of 120 people a day being killed by these opiate-analogues as well as by good old heroin itself (a gift of the Chinese as part of their drug warfare against America), I have to think that there is a serious disconnect between those who want to treat the suffering and those who want to punish the sufferers.
And as an aside, I don’t see the DEA “cracking down” on the cigarette industry which is killing over 1000 people a day – do you? Now that’s not an epidemic – it’s an atrocity. But a few thousand deaths a year is termed an “epidemic” as a way to justify a bloated, out-of-control drug bureaucracy and make scary headlines designed to herd parents of young children further into the “Just Say No” world of fantasy terrors. Here is what the Washington Post had to say about this “epidemic”: ” State and federal officials have pressed their campaign against prescription drug abuse with urgency, trying to contain a scourge that kills more than 16,000 people each year. The crackdown has helped reduce the illegal use of some medications and raised awareness of their dangers. But at the same time that some pain medications have become less available on the street and pricier, many users have switched to cheaper heroin, since prescription pills and heroin are in the same class of drugs and provide a comparable, euphoric high.”
16,000 people a year? Of course every life has value, but numbers matter too. Is all the suffering and disruption that the DEA is causing doctors and their patients really justified by these numbers, compared with other preventable deaths caused by industrial criminals?
People who are part of the community that wants to see effective treatment in support of addicts ought to be rising up and demanding that Bolivia be allowed to export her Coca Leaf medications to the US where they should be freely allowed for use in the treatment of addictions of all kinds.
Here is what Dr. Mortimer had to say – over a hundred years ago.
“Perhaps one of the most valuable as well as wonderful properties of Coca is the facility with which it meets and extinguishes the craving for opium in the victims to that fearful habit. Professor Palmer, of the University of Louisville, Kentucky, has an article upon this subject in the Louisville Medical Journal, for 1880, and he therein narrates three cases in which he found the Coca a complete and easy substitute for the opium or morphine which had been habitually taken. One sufferer had been in the habit of taking thirty grains of morphine daily, and yet abandoned that drug wholly, and at once, and without the slightest difficulty, by resorting to the fluid extract of Coca whenever the craving attacked him. Nor can this be considered simply an exchange of masters, since the uniform testimony of even those who have used Coca for a long time, and continuously, is that abstention from its employment is perfectly easy, and is not accompanied by any feelings of distress or uneasiness whatever. Were Coca of no other use than this it would be a boon to afflicted humanity such as no one who has not been bound hand and foot in the slavery of opium can appreciate.”
“Dr. Bauduy, of St. Louis, early called the attention of the American Neurological Association to the efficiency of Coca in the treatment of melancholia, and the benefit of Coca in a long list of nervous or nerveless conditions has been extolled by a host of physicians. Shoemaker, of Philadelphia, has advocated the external use of Coca in eczema, dermatitis, herpes, rosacea, urticaria and allied conditions where an application of the Fluid Extract of Coca one part to four of water lends a sedative action to the skin.”
“The influence of Coca on the pulse and temperature has suggested its employment in collapse and weak heart as recommended by Da Costa, and it has been favorably employed to relieve dropsy depending on debility of the heart, and for uraemia and scanty secretion of urine. In seasickness Coca acts as a prophylactic as well as a remedy. Vomiting of pregnancy may be arrested by cocaine administered either by the mouth or rectum. In the debility of fevers Coca has been found especially serviceable, and in this connection Dr. A. R. Booth, of the Marine Hospital Service, at Shreveport, Louisiana, has written me that he considers cocaine one of the most valuable aids in the treatment of yellow fever.”
“By controlling nausea and vomiting, as a cardiac stimulant, as a haemostatic when indicated, to hold in abeyance hunger, which at times would be intolerable but for the effect of cocaine. One who has seen a yellow fever stomach, especially from a subject who has died from “black vomit,” must have been impressed with the absolute impossibility of such an organ performing its physiological functions. Dr. Booth makes it an inflexible rule, never to allow a yellow fever patient food by the mouth until convalescence is well established. In cases of fine physique he has kept the patient without food for ten or twelve days, and in two cases fourteen and fifteen days respectively, solely by the judicious administration of cocaine in tablets by the mouth. Of two hundred and six cases of yellow fever treated in this manner there was not one relapse. A similar use is made of cocaine to abate the canine hunger of certain cases of epilepsy and insanity, as well as to appease thirst in diabetes.”
“The Peruvian Indians employ Coca to stimulate uterine contractions and regard it as a powerful aphrodisiac. Leopold Casper, of Berlin, considers Coca one of the best of genital tonics, and many modem observers concur in this opinion. Vecki says that cocaine internally to a man aged fifty-six invariably occasioned sexual excitement and cheerfulness. The Homoeopaths who have long regarded Coca as a valuable remedy, employ Coca in sexual excesses, especially when dependent on onanism. Allen has given a “proving” of Coca that covers twelve pages, and Bering’s Materia Medica gives provings by twenty-four persons, and recommends Coca in troubles coming with a low state of the barometer. Hempel says: “I have found a remarkable aversion to exertion of any kind in consequence of nervous exhaustion frequently relieved with great promptness by Coca.””
“But it is not my intention to here enumerate the various symptoms for which Coca is regarded as a specific. I have only space to briefly suggest its possible application as a remedy. A resume of the various conditions in which Coca has commonly been found serviceable, and its relative employment as classified from the experience of several hundred physicians, correspondents in this research, will be found tabulated in the appendix. Coca may be given in doses equivalent to one or two drachms of the leaves three or four times a day, either as an infusion or as a fluid extract or wine; the latter especially being serviceable for support in acute disease as well as an adjunct indicated in those conditions where its use may tend to maintain the balance of health.”
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