‘The health benefits of cocaine’ is not an article we thought we would ever write at HomeRemedyHacks. It would have been much easier to write about the destructive power of the drug – a trail of complete carnage from the production regions of South America to the end-user markets of western cities. Whether it is murder, trafficking, addiction, broken families, financial ruin, or the many well-documented and very real health hazards of cocaine, it seems somewhat bizarre that a site that promotes natural health remedies should even touch the topic.
However, we always strive to be objective and when researching the health benefits of marijuana, it was clear for this drug at least, that there were very real health benefits that should not be dismissed, and it was proper that these benefits should be documented.
So what is cocaine good for? Is there ever any circumstances where cocaine is good for you? Are there really any health benefits of cocaine? Let’s see.
A brief history of cocaine
Cocaine is made from the leaves of the coca plant (Erythroxylum coca). Indigenous South Americans have been using the leaves as a stimulant for thousands of years and there is evidence that the cocaine trade also stretches back that far with traces of the drugs being found in Egyptian mummies.
The drug cocaine has many street names such as blow, gack, charlie, Bolivian marching powder to name but a few, and since its introduction as a lifestyle ‘party drug’, there have been many people who have even advocated its health benefits.
The most famous of such people was Sigmund Freud who proposed using the drug as a remedy to fight depression and impotence, administering the drug in large quantities to himself and patients.
Given the drugs well-documented side effect of exacerbating depression and anxiety, it is clear, at least in this case, that even the finest scientific minds are sometimes utterly wrong.
Similarly, Coca Cola’s popularity in part stems from the use of the coca leaf in its original recipe. One can only imagine how children would have reacted to soda drinks at the turn of the 19th century – a truly scary thought.(1)
However, given cocaine’s catastrophic effects on health, wealth, and happiness, governments the world over have made the drug illegal and there is really no debate that side effects of cocaine far outweigh any possible health benefits.
But all things considered, are there any real health benefits, however small?
The health benefits of cocaine
- Normalizes Bowel function
This is the most interesting health benefit of cocaine because conditions associated with imbalanced gut bacteria and bowel function are becoming ever more common across the western world.
So what has cocaine to do with bowel function?
Well, the story starts with the stomach bacteria Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). The bacteria is very common across the developing world and is becoming increasingly common in the US.
It is spread by unclean food and water and is the principle cause of stomach ulcers and can lead to stomach cancer. If you have a stomach ulcer, you will most like be infected by this bug.
Whats just plain odd is the coca chewing Andean indigenous populations do not at all suffer from this bug. Their city dwelling compatriots, who do not chew the coca leaf, suffer like the rest of us, yet something in the coca leaf makes them practically immune.
The coca leaf was a well-known treatment for dyspepsia (indigestion problems) in the early 19th century and now it seems that it effectively controls and eliminates the h.pylori bacteria as well as other gut pathogens.
To date, there is no research into the precise mechanisms as to how the coca leaf is so effective in regulating bowel function.
If the compound within cocaine can be isolated and perhaps synthesized so that that it does not have an associated ‘high’, there is the potential for an effective treatment of a wide range of ailments. This is most definitely an avenue for future research.
But before those with bowel disorders run to their local street corner for a quick fix, you must remember that while the coca leaf has medicinal benefits, excessive consumption of refined cocaine has documented bowel function side effects. (8)
2. Topical analgesic
Cocaine has been used as a local anesthetics within surgical practice since the late 1800s and is still used today, albeit less frequently. (2) The drug is currently acknowledged as a schedule II drug which means it is recognized by the US government as possessing medicinal value.
Cocaine is particularly effective as an analgesic as it inhibits sodium channels in cells, which is the route whereby nerve impulse conduction and neuropathic pain is reduced. (3) It is particularly effective against chronic inflammatory pain.
However, this same process is also the reason why chronic cocaine users are so prone to heart attacks as the drug simply switches off the nerve impulses that control the heart. (4)
Given the severe cardiovascular problems associated with cocaine, use of the drug as an analgesic will only ever be topical, to provide local anesthesia to wounds and incisions.
3. Promotes wound healing
Cocaine is vasoconstrictive which means that it reduces bleeding when applied topically. This makes it useful in minor surgery, especially in the field of cosmetics.
Cocaine is still used by medical professionals to numb the lining of the throat, nose, and mouth before minor medical procedures such as stitches and wound cleaning. It’s role as an anesthetic combined with its ability to narrow blood vessels and minimize bleeding make it ideal for the treatment of minor wounds.
4. Treats altitude sickness
Andean Indians are renowned for their physical stamina at extreme altitudes. Chewing of the coca leaf has often been attributed to this physical endurance ability. Recent research has been conducted on the physiology changes induced by the coca leaf chewing to test this anecdotal evidence.
The study measured blood pressure, oxygen saturation, pulse, ECG on a test group exposed to physical exercise and the coca leaf. The study found an improvement in a wide range of performance metrics and concluded that the energy requirement for exercise was being met with increased beta-oxidation of fatty acids, a critical metabolic function.
Chewing coca leaves was not only beneficial during exercise but that its effects were felt over a prolonged period of sustained physical activity. (7)
Well, that’s it, folks.
We dug deep to find all the health benefits of cocaine and found a few, but it’s fair to say, pretty minor health benefits. The effect of the coca leaf on gut bacteria was certainly of interest and I hope this is researched more in the future. But lest we forget, this potential significant health benefit is from chewing the coca leaf.
A recent investigation conducted by Instituto Boliviano de Biologica de Altura  found that after chewing about 30 g of leaves, (which is a lot of leaves!), blood cocaine levels were found to be at 98 ng – that’s just 0.000000098 grams!
As the average user will snort a gram on a big night out, any (minor) health benefits will be utterly swamped by the major health risks of snorting so much refined cocaine. So are there any health benefits of cocaine? – The answer has to be no.