Have a coke and a big smile!

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In 1887, Asa Candler bought the recipe for Coca Cola from John Styth Pemberton another Atlanta pharmacy owner. Dr. Pemberton had been working on different flavors for drinks for awhile and he was determined to create one using coca leaf and cola nut.  At first he designed Coca Cola as a wine, but new anti-alcohol laws encouraged him to convert it to a non alcoholic drink by replacing the alcohol with sugar and citric acid. He used fresh coca leaves in his drink which released small amounts of cocaine into the beverage. Cocaine at that time was thought to be much less dangerous than alcohol, so it was permitted as an ingredient in many products.

Today, we know that cocaine is highly addictive and even short-term exposure has the potential to cause the following side effects: euphoria, increased heart rate, attentiveness, decreased appetite, constricted blood vessels and dilated pupils. The people purchasing Coca Cola at the time, likely did not find these side effects a problem, as they had more energy and could work longer by drinking this drink. Unfortunately, as time goes on, tolerance to cocaine develops, and the body requires larger amounts of cocaine to feel the same effects. Large amounts of cocaine in the body, can lead to hallucinations and life threatening medical complications such as seizures and strokes.

The amount of cocaine in Coca Cola was relatively small, therefore people did not experience the life threatening complications noted above. But, Southerners at the time, did notice strange effects after consuming this beverage and referred to coke  as “dope” and coke delivery trucks as “dope wagons”.  When, the New York Tribune posted an article in 1903, linking the consumption of coke to crime; Asa Candler immediately responded by changing the recipe.  At this time, the fresh coca leaves were replaced with spent ones which removed cocaine from the beverage altogether.

Thus, coke went from “have a coke and withdrawal!”

“To have a coke and a smile!”

Lucinda Choules

(1)   Adams , Cecil (June 14,1985) Is it true Coca Cola once contained cocaine? Retrieved August 5, 2012 from http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/384/is-it-true-coca-cola-once-contained-cocaine/

(2) WebMD (2012) Cocaine Use and Its Effects. Retrieved August 5,2012,

from http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/cocaine-use-and-its-effects




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2 responses to “Have a coke and a big smile!

  1. Coke was used all the time, back in the day, for medicinal purposes. It was even advertised to help with headaches/migranes. I lived in Atlanta, GA and visited the Coke Museum and it is a great place to go and see if you are ever in Atlanta. They have a place during the tour you can taste a multitude of different products of coke from all over the world!

  2. Although I’ve heard snit-bits about the history of coke in history classes, I never really paid any attention because I don’t drink the product. How ignorant of me! But in all honesty, I find that when something doesn’t pertain to me specifically, I ignore it; as I’m sure we all do at times. But reading this blog was very interesting. Though I still don’t drink coke, I have an appreciation for the history behind it. It actually sparked interest in making me want to visit the museum in Atlanta to learn even more.

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