Today, Coca-Cola is one of the most popular soft drinks around the world. It is easily identifiable by people of all ages from many different countries and backgrounds. The beverage is brown and carbonated and is sold in unmistakable bright red cans or bottles featuring its iconic red label. It is produced by the Coca-Cola Company, which also manufacturers several other popular soft drinks. Their most popular soft drink, however, has always remained the product that gave the company its namesake. Coca-Cola was invented in the nineteenth century by a pharmacist of the name John Pemberton. John Pemberton served in the Civil War and, as a result of morphine treatment for the wounds that he endured, Mr. Pemberton became addicted to the drug.
John Pemberton realized that the opiate drugs that had become his addiction were quite dangerous and so he began a search to find a better alternative to an opiate drug to cure his addiction. Pemberton’s search for a safer treatment option led him to create his own type of tonic. It is said that Pemberton was perhaps inspired by coca wines of European origins, which were simply wines that contained extracted leaves from coca plants. Coca plant extracts were originally used as a power painkiller but eventually gave way to the creation of the powerful drug known today as cocaine. Pemberton’s “nerve tonic” was a mixture of alcohol and coca extracts. The tonic was successful until the prohibition movement.
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In 1886, Prohibition was in full swing and Pemberton’s tonic, which contained alcohol, was no longer legal. In order to continue manufacturing tonic, Pemberton had to remove the alcohol. When Pemberton removed the alcohol from his tonic, he called it “Coca-Cola.” The drink still contained coca leaf extracts, only it was free of alcohol. As his tonic became popular, it began to be sold in soda fountains, which were extremely high in popularity in the United States during the time period. To gain even more popularity, Pemberton began advertising his Coca-Cola “tonic,” which he claimed would cure many ailments, including everything from headache to addiction.
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As years passed and cocaine use became wide spread, medical studies began to develop in response to the epidemic that showed that while cocaine could have enjoyable effects, it could be harmful to individuals who ingested the drug. Studies continued on the energy and joy producing effects of cocaine, although studies and speculation about negative effects on the body also continued. With the speculation of a harmful ingredient, pressure was put on the manufacturers of Coca-Cola to stop selling a product that contained cocaine. In the year 1903, the Coca-Cola Company removed cocaine from their soft drinks in order to remain in good graces with the general public and health officials who were concerned about the negative impact of cocaine. Negative effects of cocaine include addiction, an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, damage to organs including the lungs and liver, as well as psychosis.
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After the removal of coca leaf extract from Coca-Cola, the company thrived. The company was eventually sold to other owners after John Pemberton’s death. Over the years, various recipes for Coca-Cola were created based on John Pemberton’s original Coca-Cola recipe. The Coca-Cola Company also eventually branched out from their original soft drink product creating several other popular soft drinks. Today, most people are not even aware that one of the world’s most popular soft drinks first began as a “nerve tonic” that contained both alcohol and the leaves of a plant that is used in the creation of an illegal drug. Throughout the years, however, the Coca-Cola soft drink has remained one of the most popular beverages among people of all ages, and the Coca-Cola Company has become a widely respected business. Although John Pemberton did not intend to create a soft drink that would become one of America’s most famous brands, this is exactly what he created throughout his journey to cure opiate addiction.