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Cocaine used for Painless Surgery

Updated: Jul 23, 2023

#04 Science in History

16th September 1884

Karl Koller (also Carl Koller, Carl Coller); born 1857 in Sušice, Bohemia Wikipedia

On this day in 1884, cocaine was first used by Carl Koller. Koller successfully performed surgery on an eye that was anaesthetised using the drug. The procedure led to the use of cocaine as a localised anaesthetic in many medical procedures, including those used in dentistry.

Cocaine, isolated and synthesized in the mid to late 1880s, eventually found its way into many unregulated products. It was used in toothpastes, tooth drops, drinks, sweets, lozenges and cigarettes.

Toothache drops were marketed as safe for children*

Some Interesting Examples:

Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda, which later became 7UP, at one time contained cocaine and a lithium salt - a mood stabiliser. Coca-Cola, created by chemist John S. Pemberton, contained small quantities of cocaine for nearly 40 years, starting in the 1880s.

Sore Throat Lozenges, Pastilles, and syrups containing cocaine were aimed mainly at speakers and singers. They are now known to have caused internal damage to users.

Cigarettes, especially addictive due to nicotine interacting with cocaine, were marketed as cures for asthma and other lung conditions.

*Image used from the Vintage Pharmacy Ads & Images pack, freely downloadable: https://rxinsider.com/vintage.htm#

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