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Speech on Cocaine

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Specific Purpose: To inform my audience about the history of cocaine, how it became illegal, and how it affects society almost a hundred years later. Central Idea: Although cocaine was once hailed as a cure all drug, the general population failed to see how addictive and destructive the drug can be.

Introduction I. In 1972 there was a test done on monkeys where they were injected with cocaine. II. When given a choice of interacting with other monkeys or living in isolation with unlimited amount of cocaine, they chose the latter. III. They also chose the drug over food, so much so that it led to starvation. IV. Today I would like to inform you on how cocaine became illegal as well as the affects it still has today.

Transition: However, before I do that I would like to give you a little history on cocaine and how it became the cure all drug in America.

I. Cocaine has not always been the taboo drug that it is today. A. As a matter of fact, natives of the Andes Mountains used the cocoa plant for medicinal and recreational uses for over 15 centuries. 1. The Incas would chew the leaves to enhance their mood and productivity.(1) B. However, the drug itself didn’t hit mainstream until in 1859 when an Italian chemist named Albert Niemann isolated the active ingredient in the cocoa plant and called it cocaine. 2. Several patent medicines, laced with cocaine, were prescribed for ailments ranging from depression to hay fever, and was incorporated into wines and colas.(4) 3. These self-medicated medicines claimed to cure everything from sexual dysfunction to cancer. (2) And all of these were easily accessible at your local drug store. 4. You could go to the local drug store and get a shot of Coca-Cola Classic for just a nickel. Transition: Now that I’ve given you a brief history of cocaine, let’s talk about how it became illegal.

II. Cocaine did not become illegal until the Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act of 1914. A. Ever since the late 1880’s, employers would supply cocaine to African American dock workers so they could endure the long hours of working on the dock.(2) 1. Often times it was given to them as part of their wages. 2. It wasn’t long after that they began to use the drug for recreational purposes.

B. With decades of unchecked abuse, and with the ever increasing racial tension, it was believed that an African American man under the influence of cocaine would commit unspeakable crimes. 1. A local newspaper in New Orleans attributed the violent resistance of Robert Charles, whose shootout with police in 1900 led to a bloody racial massacre, to his use of cocaine.(2) 2. However, it needs to be understood that at that time it was thought that one class of society could handle the effects of drugs while another class couldn’t. C. So in 1914, a physician by the name of Hamilton Wright became the nation’s first drug czar. 1. Mr. Wright was instrumental in convincing congress to pass the Harrison Anti-Narcotics Act in 1914 2. The Harrison Act stated that the possession of cocaine was only legally available through the prescription of a doctor.(2)

Transition: While that may have affected the availability, it did nothing for the addiction.

III. Almost 100 years after the passing of The Harrison Act, addiction to cocaine still affects our society today. A. Cocaine usage hit its peak in the mid-1980’s.

1. According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, or NCJRS, 5.7 million Americans used cocaine in 1985.(3) 2. Not only has the number of cocaine users has gone down, the amount available has too. B. However, according to the 2008 World Drug Report, released by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, the U.S. is tied for first in terms of cocaine use.(4) 1. According to this chart, 3 percent of America’s teens and adults have admitted to using cocaine.(5)

Conclusion I. In conclusion, what was once hailed as the cure all drug for any ailment, has now become one of the most addictive and taboo drugs of the 21st century. II. Racial tensions in the south actually assisted in passing laws regulating cocaine. III. And while the government has tried to keep the drug in check, the battle of addiction is still being fought today.

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