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coca

coca (kō´kə), common name for shrubs of the genus Erythroxylum, particularly E. coca, of the family Erythroxylaceae, and found abundantly in upland regions and on mountain slopes of South America, as well as in Australia, India, and Africa. Certain South American peoples chew the leaves of one of several species mixed with an alkali, lime, which acts with saliva to release the drug cocaine from the leaves. In the low doses obtained in this way, the drug acts as a stimulant and an appetite depressant with physiological effects similar to those of tobacco. Coca leaves have been used for at least 8,000 years. Until the time of the Spanish conquest, only the Inca aristocracy was privileged to chew the coca leaves, but afterward, the Spanish encouraged the enslaved Native Americans all to use coca in order to get them to endure long periods of heavy labor and physical hardships. A cocaine-free extract of coca leaves is used in some soft drinks. Coca, a different plant than the cocoa plant cacao, is grown commercially in the N and central Andean countries and in Sri Lanka, Java, and Taiwan. Much coca is also grown in Andean countries for the illegal international drug trade. Coca is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Linales, family Erythroxylaceae.

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Coca

Coca

Coca plants are the only natural source of the alkaloid cocaine and related compounds. For several thousand years, the leaves of the coca plant have been used by South American Indians as a mild stimulant, a remedy for medical problems, and for ritualistic or religious purposes. Coca chewing reduces hunger and increases endurance. It also eases the nausea, dizziness, and headaches associated with altitude sickness and relieves the symptoms of various stomach ailments. From pre-Columbian times coca has been an integral part of Andean cultures, and the commerce of coca leaves is still a legal and accepted practice in Peru and Bolivia.

The extraction and purification of cocaine hydrochloride from coca leaves, first accomplished in the mid-1800s, yields a drug with very different pharmacological effects than those associated with traditional coca chewing. Recreational use of cocaine produces a quick sense of euphoria and heightened awareness. Its use became widespread in the United States and elsewhere in the 1970s. It has since resulted in profound economic and sociological impacts both in the South American countries where it is grown and refined as well as in countries worldwide where it is consumed.

Coca leaves can be harvested several times a year from two shrubby species of the genus Erythroxylum. Erythroxylum coca has two varieties, the main one occurring along the lower slopes of the Andes in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, and a lesser-known variety called ipadu in the lowlands of the upper Amazon basin. This is the species grown most intensively for cocaine extraction. Erythroxylum novogranatense is a related species that differs slightly in its chemical composition and leaf and floral features. This species, which grows naturally from northern Peru to Colombia, is part of the original formula of Coca-Cola® and is still used today as a flavoring in the popular soft drink (but only after the cocaine is first extracted from the leaves).

In traditional use, coca leaves are dried before they are chewed, and to increase the release of alkaloids, small amounts of lime are added to the quid of masticated leaves. In lowland Amazonia, where the alkaloid content is generally lower, a fine powder is made from the leaves and mixed with leaf ashes before being made into a quid. To extract cocaine from coca leaves, a large volume of leaves is required, and they are first soaked and mashed in a series of solvents such as kerosene and sulfuric acid and neutralizers like lime, which results in the precipitation of a crude cocaine paste. To produce purified cocaine hydrochloride from the paste, more controlled laboratory conditions are required, using reagents such as acetone, ether, and hydrochloric acid.

Cocaine is most often inhaled through the nostrils, but it can also be smoked as a paste or as crack cocaine, or even freebased using an organic solvent. All of these chemically concentrated forms of cocaine have proven to be highly addictive. From the local growers to the paste producers to the clandestine laboratories, then through the international and local drug distribution networks, cocaine demands a high street price and forms the basis of a multibillion-dollar illicit economy.

see also Alkaloids; Medicinal Plants; Psychoactive Plants.

Paul E. Berry

Plowman, T. "Botanical Perspectives on Coca." Journal of Psychedelic Drugs 11 (1979): 103-117.

. "The Ethnobotany of Coca (Erythroxylum spp., Erythroxylaceae)." Advances in Economic Botany 1 (1984): 62-111.

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coca

coca Shrub native to Colombia and Peru which contains the alkaloid drug cocaine. Native Americans chew the leaves for pleasure, to quell hunger and to stimulate the nervous system. The plant has yellow-white flowers growing in clusters, and red berries. Height: c.2.4m (8ft). Family Erythroxylaceae; species Erythroxylon coca.

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"coca." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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coca

co·ca / ˈkōkə/ • n. a tropical American shrub (Erythroxylum coca, family Erythroxylaceae) that is widely grown for its leaves, which is a source of cocaine. ∎  the dried leaves of this shrub, chewed as a stimulant by the native people of western South America.

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"coca." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 26 Apr. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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coca

coca shrub, Erythroxylon coca, of which the dried leaves are used as a masticatory, etc. XVI. — Sp. — Quechua cuca.
Hence cocaine alkaloid occurring in the leaves of the coca; see -INE 5.

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coca

cocabalalaika, biker, duiker, Formica, hiker, mica, pica, pika, piker, striker •blocker, chocker, docker, Fokker, interlocker, knocker, locker, mocha, mocker, ocker, quokka, rocker, saltimbocca, shocker, soccer, stocker •vodka • polka •concha, conker, conquer, Dzongkha, plonker, stonker •Oscar • Kotka • Knickerbocker •footlocker •caulker (US calker), corker, hawker, Lorca, Majorca, Minorca, orca, porker, squawker, stalker, talker, walker, yorker •deerstalker • jaywalker • sleepwalker •streetwalker • hillwalker •shopwalker •Asoka, broker, carioca, choker, coca, croaker, evoker, invoker, joker, mediocre, ochre (US ocher), poker, provoker, revoker, Rioja, smoker, soaker, soca, Stoker, tapioca •judoka • shipbroker • stockbroker •pawnbroker • troika

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COCA

COCA (USA) consent order and compliance agreement

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