Cocaine (benzoylmethylecgonine) is an alkaloid derived from the leaves of Erythroxylon coca, a shrub found in the eastern highlands of the Andes Mountains. Coca leaves, which contain cocaine in concentrations ranging from 0.6% to 1.8%, have been chewed by the inhabitants of this region for medicinal, religious, and work-related purposes for at least 1,500 years. The local anesthetic properties of cocaine were initially described by Sigmund Freud and Karl Koller in 1884; the drug is still widely used for topical anesthesia of the upper respiratory tract. However, the most common reason for cocaine use today is recreational; the drug is a central nervous system stimulant and a powerful euphoriant. It is because of this property that cocaine abuse has become widespread.
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