Did Coca-Cola contain cocaine, as claimed by Elon Musk in his tweet?

Elon Musk’s recent tweet generated curiosity among netizens about whether soft drink company Coca-Cola ever had cocaine in its formula.

The world’s richest man and Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk is on a tweeting spree following his acquisition of the microblogging site. On Thursday, April 28, Musk tweeted that he would be buying Coca-Cola next to “put cocaine back in”.

While it is difficult to say how serious Musk is about buying Coca-Cola, his tweet generated curiosity among netizens on whether the soft drink company ever had cocaine in its formula.

Did Coca-Cola contain cocaine?

In short, yes. The popular soft drink was invented in 1885 by John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, Georgia. Pemberton made the original formula of Coca-Cola in his backyard. The original formula did contain cocaine, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, a US government web portal.

In his formula, Pemberton used extraction of the coca leaf, which is the raw form of cocaine. The formula also contained kola nut (which contains caffeine, another stimulant). The name Coca-Cola (coca-kola) was thus inspired by these two main elements.

At the time of Coca Cola’s invention, cocaine was legal in the US and was used as a common ingredient in medicines. Initially, Pemberton marketed his product as a medicine — a ‘brain tonic and intellectual beverage’ that cured headaches, upset stomach, and fatigue.

Since there were no regulations on medicines in the 19th century like today, many got away with adding addictive ingredients to their products and branding them as having health benefits.

So, was cocaine removed from Coca-Cola?

Gradually. In around 1891, some Americans spoke out against the use of addictive ingredients in patent medicines. Following this, the makers gradually reduced the content of such ingredients in their products.

Coca-Cola also complied. The cocaine content in its formula was reduced over time, and was finally removed completely by 1929.

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