Three lines of 'cocaine' and a razor blade, c 1990s.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Cocaine is an alkaloid substance which exists in the leaves of the coca plant, which is native to Peru and other South American countries. Indigenous South American peoples, including the Incas, chewed coca leaves to alleviate hunger and fatigue. Synthetically produced cocaine was the first local anaesthetic to be used, but was replaced by other drugs as it was found to be addictive. Cocaine is used illegally as a recreational drug as it acts on the central nervous system inducing feelings of euphoria. (Note: castor sugar has been used as a substitute for cocaine in this picture.)