White Mischief: A Cultural History of Cocaine
Praised as a wonder drug by doctors throughout Europe and the United States upon its discovery nearly 150 years ago, perceptions of cocaine have now come full circle. A prime target of narcotics agencies and governments across the globe, coke has become the crown jewel of the drug trade. Despite the widespread panic surrounding its effects and highly addictive quality, as well as massive campaigns by the U.S. government to stop its importation, coke is still readily available and maintains its street credibility as a champagne drug, associated with high-living, high-rolling lifestyles. Millions of South Americans have, for centuries, chewed coca leaves (the raw product from which cocaine is derived), in order to produce a mild high, not unlike caffeine. The plant was so revered by the Incas that they referred to it as the “food of the gods;” and in modern societies, the coca plant has long been used in the recipe for popular soft drinks like Coca-Cola. So what has led to the modern fervor over the plant’s by-product cocaine? Tracing a history that goes back hundreds of years, author Tim Madge examines the long, complicated, and controversial history of cocaine, and its parent—the coca plant.
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