Cocaine, Cocaine, Cocaine

by languageformulatingbrain

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Cocaine is a stimulant drug derived from coca leaves. For many centuries, coca leaves were chewed for their stimulating effect, often having been viewed as aiding manual labor. By growing the coca plant and using chemical extraction techniques, one can extract cocaine from the leaves into a hydrochloride salt that can be powdered and then insufflated or injected. The drug is illegal in virtually every place on Earth, although in some places it is decriminalized. Trafficking in the drug is a highly dangerous occupation, but at the same time, many are willing to take the risk due to the very high amount of money that can be made from doing so.

There was a "renaissance" of cocaine use in the late 1970's and early 80's in the United States in which the situation was, as claimed by many people who lived through it, that "everybody was doing cocaine". Due to governmental instability in the South American country Colombia, it became known as the source of the majority of the cocaine that was smuggled into the United States. The trade was bloody, being tied up in an ongoing civil war and presided over by ruthless criminals such as Pablo Escobar, who left a trail of dead bodies in their wake.

Cocaine was smuggled by land, sea, and plane, and led to the expansion of the United States of America's War on Drugs, which was started by President Nixon, and you didn't hear it from me, but I hear that the reason for this government crackdown on drugs was so it would be easier to pin some kind of crime on individuals in anti-war and black power movements, and so the approach that the government took to deal with drugs was from this point very punitive, having had an ulterior motivation from the start.

Political power oftens rests in making someone afraid of something, so while there are many things to fear about cocaine, the government built an entire bureaucracy with many workers, political allies, and other useful people installed in it whose livelihoods depended on there being drugs to fight against. In the 1980s, the thing to fight against became crack cocaine.

Crack cocaine was known as a drug that impoverished people (usually imagined as being black) partook of. It is a smokable form of cocaine that is easily produced with baking soda. Unlike the glamorous image of cocaine--that it was used among successful white urban professionals--crack was promoted as a drug that was used by the derelicts of society, homeless people, prostitutes, and other such individuals, but I have known many people of all backgrounds who lived through the "crack epidemic" of the 1980s, and there were plenty who partook of said substance who were neither poor nor black.

This image of blackness, of gangs murdering each other over territory to sell crack cocaine (which to be fair, did happen and still happens) was scary to suburban and small town conservative white people, who were easy enough to convince to get on board for Nancy Reagan's anti-drug propaganda campaign: "Just Say No!".

Now, it very well may be wise to "Just Say No" to crack cocaine, but this simple and ineffective method of social control ignores any and all research into sensible drug policy for a country and instead allows the campaign of simplistic thinking that vilifies minorities to continue. There were plenty of white people involved in the preparation, use, and selling of crack cocaine, but they did not receive the attention, and so the trope of the black street corner gangster who wanted to get your kids hooked on crack by giving out free samples to white kids continued, this image of some absolute crack-rock-spewing monster who was out to addict everyone on the planet was taught in schools by "D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officers" who in my experience just flat out lied to kids about the real nature of drugs in the world.

Cocaine, however, does have a way of cheapening life. It's an expensive thrill, but it makes everything else seem less thrilling without it. Imagine for a moment that one can do something thrilling, like ride a roller coaster, but then there's this thing one can take a hit of that is more thrilling than riding a roller coaster and doesn't require you to stand in line (usually). Doesn't this cheapen life, sort of by being too good to be true? It makes non-cocaine-saturated life seem positively dull, doesn't it? This, of course, is one of the aspects of cocaine that makes it so addictive: while expensive, it's a cheap thrill.

Crack cocaine, however, isn't that expensive. But it doesn't last that long, so if you want to be high all night you have to buy more of it. In the end, crack cocaine is as expensive as powder cocaine. The allure of cocaine was like the allure of all of the fake, plastic entertainment that inundated everyone in the 80's; it was expensive to whatever may pass for a soul, and those in charge of the world had long sold theirs over to money and control. For all of those involved in money and control, cocaine and crack cocaine were the perfect fit.

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