Cocaine, a crystalline tropane alkaloid, was first isolated by German chemist Albert Niemann in 1860, and has a chemical formula too long to include here, but is simply, C17H21NO4. The powder is commonly snorted, that is, inhaled through the nose. It can be dissolved in water and injected, and smoked as crack. The drug has been used by South American Indians for 5000 years. Mama Coca was considered to be a benevolent goddess, and chewing the coca leaf provided contact with the spiritual world, while maintaining endurance. In pre-Columbian times, coca was reserved for Inca royalty. The Spanish conquistadors initially banned it, so, it is said, the Catholic Church took on the cultivation. In recent times, during the 1980’s, the American CIA teamed with drug dealers to fight communism.
South America (Columbia, Peru and Bolivia) produces most of the world cocaine, but cultivation has dropped from 221,200 hectares in 2000 to 159,600 in 2005. Cocaine production has remained relatively constant, as efficiency has improved. Columbia is the largest producer of cocaine, but it is reported that Bolivia has almost doubled its production since current president Evo Morales took office and is already the second largest producer to Columbia. Almost all the cocaine produced in South America finds its way to the U.S. Cocaine is valued at $1,762/kg.
I’m writing this, but not quite believing it. You surely have seen those tiny black poppy seeds on cakes and rolls. Well, eating two rolls or a slice of poppy seed cake will, for 24 hours, produce a positive drug test from your urine sample. There is some exaggeration here, for the official test was raised in 1998 to a higher level, but, yes, that innocuous bakery additive comes from that same poppy flower from which heroin is produced.
Cannabis (marijuana and hashish) is grown in 176 countries, and even in Hawaii, where Maui Wowee and Kona Gold are noteworthy. There is paleontological evidence that this plant was smoked as far back as the Neolithic Age. Three thousand year old mummies from China showed such evidence, too, and are mentioned in Greek and Roman bacchanalias. Certainly, cannabis was used by Hindus in India and Nepal, and as a religious sacrament by ancient Jews and early Christians.
It is tetrahydrocannabinol, normally 10-15% of hashish, that creates intoxication. Hashish is the dried resin from the flowering tops only of female hemp, Cannabis sativa. Marijuana is a concoction of various parts of the plant, and has one-eighth the potency.
While the prevailing sociological and medical politics are that cannabis is addictive, causes psychosis, augments cancer and heart ailments, and can affect perception, memory and coordination, there is countervailing evidence to the contrary, or, at best, only little evidence of medical support. An important point is that anything to excess can be dangerous. All in all, marijuana and hashish appear to be less harmful to the individual and society than any illicit drug, or, even, tobacco and alcohol. But there is bio-development progress, as breeders have created a strengthened indoor-produced sinsemilla, a highly potent form, obtained from unpollinated female plants.
How significant is marijuana? Well, it has been reported that, at $35 billion/year, pot boasts the largest farmed crop, bigger than corn or wheat.
There are amphetamines, or a-methylphenthylamine, a synthetic drug that is used as pep pills and called Bennies. Then came methamphetamine, a slight chemical variation, with a stronger effect and more addictive properties, known as speed. A particularly dangerous variant is crystal methamphetamine, a colorless and odorless form of d-methamphetamine or methamphetamine hydrochloride, which is inhaled or smoked, although it can also be injected. It resembles shiny blue-white rocks and is, therefore, called ice. The cheapest form is a smelly yellow ice called crank. Up to 5% of high school seniors have used ice at least once.
These non-biological, amphetamine-type stimulants were once mostly produced in Europe, but the danger is that with a few accessible chemicals, they can be churned out in any home, and are. Use causes violent behavior, paranoia, anxiety, confusion and insomnia. Psychotic symptoms can last for years.
There was a period when crystal methamphetamine (ice) began to replace cocaine, until 2006, when enforcement success hiked the price of ice from $2,000/ounce to $3,500/ounce. Cocaine held below $2,000/ounce. In any case, both drugs are truly bad.