Cocaine is a white powder made from an extract of the leaves of the coca plant indigenous to South America. It is believed the natives in South America were chewing coca leaves as far back as 3000 BC. The leaves gave them a lift, and staved off exhaustion and hunger.
For these beneficial properties, the coca plant was considered a gift from God.
In the 1400s, the Incas, an ancient Peruvian civilization, started cultivating coca extensively. This was the foundation of the modern coca crop, the origin of today's cocaine.
The Spanish were exposed to the plant when they invaded parts of South America in the early 1500s. Sensing the benefits of the plant they promptly took over the coca plantations and imposed a tax on coca leaves. Toward the end of the century the coca trade became the largest employer of European labor in South America.
The medicinal and narcotic effects of cocaine began to be fully understood toward the latter half of the nineteenth century. The first extraction of cocaine took place in 1855. Cocaine in small doses was added to wines, certain medicines and even to coca cola.
Today three quarters of the world's cocaine is produced in Colombia. Some of the cocaine base is imported from Peru and Bolivia and the rest from home-grown coca.
The demand for cocaine as a recreational drug started in the 1970s. Cost of production in Colombia was $1 pre gram which retailed in the US at $80 per gram. Most of the cocaine that enters the US is smuggled across the Mexico-US border. Because of the enormous profits entailed, drug traffickers conjure up more and more ingenious methods to evade detection. At one time the CIA trafficked in cocaine to fund the US backed insurgency against the socialist led government in Nicaragua.