Coca leaf chewing as therapy for cocaine maintenance

Jorge Hurtado Gumucio
Annales de médecine interne 151
October 2000

coca-leaf-cocaine-maintenanceThe cocaine base, or “pasta”, may be seen as a type of South American crack. Its obligatory method of administration is smoking. A primary condition of the “pasta” smoker is compulsive drug-search behavior and addiction to cocaine base destroys emotional and mental balance. Socio-economic maladjustment is the norm amongst “pasta” addicts. Since 1984 I have recommended the chewing of the coca leaf, between 100 to 200 grams of coca leaf per week for the treatment of cocaine dependence.

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Since this treatment was dispensed on an ad hoc basis, it was not possible to measure the relapses. However, an assessment was conducted on the basis of mental condition and level of social and economic adaptation before and after treatment. The patent’s level of social acceptance, before treatment, only reached 60% at most, and after treatment, 26% improved their level of adaptation. Four patients among 50 reached an adaptation level of 100%. Upon final assessment, the level of social adaptation prior to treatment was only 28%, after treatment as many as 48.8% of the patients were socially adapted.

Major ethnic groups in Bolivia (Aymaras and Quechuas) have chewed the coca leaf for generations upon generations without health problems. The effects of coca leaf chewing produce a level of social and economic adaptation that is beyond what is normally possible. This was a major factor during the Spanish colonization of Bolivia, when forced native labor was used extensively.