Feedback from Socialist Register mailing-list on Coca-Cola and coaine

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Aug 10 14:27:54 MDT 1999

As an aside to LP's excellent articles on Columbia, the 3rd of which
mentioned the inclusion of cocaine in Coca-Cola earlier this century. A few
thoughts about Coca-Cola and the invisible hand.

It is well known that after cocaine was removed from the formula for
Coca-Cola the company continued to purchase raw Coca leaf in huge quantities
and is still the single largest legal buyer in the world. The reason given
is that they still use other extracts of the plant for "flavouring" the

Two issues come of out of this:

1. What are these substances?

Coca-Cola say they are a trade secret. It is said that just three people
know the precise formula/process. Only the US parent company makes up the
concentrate of the drink which is then distributed under high security to
all bottling/canning franchises world-wide. (Just add water!)

In any associated set of plant alkaloids from which active drug compounds
are derived there are other substances of similar chemistry. Often these are
of different potency but have a similar or related action.

My feeling is that they would not use the stuff unless it was addictive
enough to be worthwhile. When you think about it, to the uneducated palette
Coca-Cola does not taste very nice, (fizzy, soapy water with sugar?). It is
an acquired taste. Mind you, once you have acquired the taste.....  Ever met
"Coke" addicts? - I have.

My intuition (nasty suspicious leftwing socialist mind) tells me that in
addition to kola (which is high in caffeine) and "flavours" there are some
cocaine related substances that although not as potent are very commercially
useful in creating and sustaining the Coke drinking habit.

Come to think of it ... what are "flavourings"? Are they nuroactive
compounds that stimulate the taste and smell receptors of the CNS? Do
certain flavours become things of habit? Do we get conditioned to certain
"flavours"? Tobacco companies put "flavourings" like chocolate in cigarettes
to create brand loyalty. Chocolate is another nuroactive substance which
mimics some of the nurochemistry of the human sexual orgasm.

2. What do Coca-Cola do with the (now unwanted) cocaine, which has to be
extracted from the leaf and separated from the "flavourings"?

Since modern drugs have been invented to replace it in clinical use the
legitimate world market for pure pharmaceutical grade cocaine is very small
(a few kilos per year). It is used in some research activities for
calibrating other synthetic compounds and surgically for a few people who
have allergies to the synthetics.

So we have the dubious prospect that we could choose to believe what
Coca-Cola say they do about this.

Coca-Cola say that they "destroy it".

Is that plausible? Has capitalism ever been able to resist such stupendous

Would the surplus (destroyed) Cocaine be worth a significant percentage of
Coca-Cola sales world-wide, or as much, or much more?

I also wonder about the role of Coca-Cola in the supply and demand regime
for the leaf during this century. They may be more pivotal than we can
appreciate but it goes deeper than one company.

After all, who would have thought that the CIA was so closely connected to
all the global drug trades. Churning a countries politics though
manipulating the drug trade is one thing. Interdicting drugs is another
thing, making a mess of a control program is another, criminal corruption or
even high political corruption is another. Right wing elements directing
drugs into radical politicised communities is another but control of the
thing... now there is a thought.

>From an unprincipled capitalist geopolitical point of view, it is much
better to control it or at least be the biggest player whilst being
perceived to be struggling with it. We are not just talking megabucks we are
talking gigabucks.

Surely this is the equivalent of Dark Matter in astronomy. This is the
source of dark money. This is the invisible hand of the "free market".

A few books on related issues.

Whiteout: The CIA, Drugs and the Press; Alexander Cockburn, et al
Dark Alliance : The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion; Gary
Cocaine Politics : Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America  Peter Dale
Scott, Jonathan Marshall
The Politics of Heroin : CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade; Alfred W.

Tim Murphy

Louis Proyect


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