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!”
(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,