Cocaine An Unauthorized Biography by Dominic Streatfeild


Reviewed by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Contributing Editor

Dominic Streatfeild, such a talented writer, tells a very thorough and entertaining story of the nature, history and effects of coca and cocaine from before the Spanish Inquisition and conquest to recent times, and he does so in an entertaining style, beginning with his depiction of coca’s discovery and indigenous use in South America. 

 In 1999 South America produced approximately 615,000 tons of coca with a potential yield of 800 tons of cocaine

 The author displays an amazing amount of research going into the areas of Bolivia, Columbia, and Peru where the Drug Lords and Cartels created their product for recreational use, which very quickly became abuse.  

In 2019, cocaine was used by an estimated 20 million people. The highest prevalence of cocaine use was in Australia and New Zealand, followed by North America, Western and Central Europe, and South and Central America.

 While rarely used medically today, its accepted uses are as a topical local anesthetic for the upper respiratory tract as well as to reduce bleeding in the mouth, throat, and nasal cavities. 

South Americans have used coca to cure every malady out there.  The Incas were performing brain surgery using the numbing effects of the coca plant 450 years prior to Western civilization discovering these properties.

Known as the rich man’s high, the cocaine trade has generated approximately 100 billion dollars per year. It’s been used in drinks and tonics, hence the name Coca-Cola and created mounds of addicts until it was banned in the 20th century.  By the 1960’s it became popular again and remains so, now tainted with the deadly narcotic known as fentanyl, a drug 100x’s more potent than morphine to unsuspecting users, leaving a deadly trail behind.

Streatfeild’s research has stretched from the British Library to crack houses in New York City and to the jungles of Peru and Columbia.  He is a documentary film producer and a writer that resides in London.

An enlightening and informative read, this is a long read.  What Mr. Streatfeild tells us is not only factual, but also historical.  His statement ” Perhaps the lesson to learn from history is that we should learn more lessons from history ” is not only an extraordinary truth but a brilliant way of looking at reality in the year of 2023.    

Cocaine Bear