As CEO of Twitter, Elon Musk, loves Tweeting. The self-declared “freedom of speech absolutist” usually writes tweets that open online debates and make headlines around the world. That happened when he jokingly tweeted “next I’m buying Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in”.

Many of his followers were left wondering whether Coca-Cola ever had cocaine as an ingredient. User Baby Doge replied, “the new name of Coca-Cola should actually be Coke”.

But is coca the same as Cocaine?

Experts say that coca is not cocaine, from the coca plant you can make cocaine but coca in its pure form is just that, a plant. Thomas Grisaffi, L.S.E fellow of the Department of Social Anthropology, wrote in a study entitled “coca is not cocaine”:

Coca is a perennial shrub native to the Andean region. Coca leaf cannot be considered tobe the same thing as cocaine because it requires a significant amount of processing toreach that stage. To produce one kilo of cocaine paste (which is still only between 40-60% cocaine) requires between two to three hundred kilos of coca leaf and a variety ofchemical precursors including sulfuric acid, petrol, and caustic soda. Thomas Grisaffi, LSE fellow.

The coca plant grows mainly in Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru. In order to manufacture the drug, different chemicals need to be used. In Bolivia, the coca plant has been cultivated mainly by farmers in the Yungas region, and Aymaras and Quechuas have chewed the coca leaf for generations without health problems 

They have used the plant to treat conditions such as thirst, hunger,fatigue and altitude sickness. Many visitors to La Paz, a stunning city at approximately 3,650 m (11,975 ft) above sea level, will need to drink a brew of coca leaves to ward off altitude sickness, and that is not the same as consumption of coca.

The indigenious people of countries like Bolivia are not cocaine addicts or drug users, because as they insit, “coca is not cocaine”. This is part of their culture and tradition and it is not their fault others have made an awful drug out of it that causes addiction. Cocaine has nothing to do with the millenary sacred plant. In 2012, the then Bolivian prime minister Evo Morales defended the practice of chewing coca and urged an U.N council to reconsider its stance on the leaf, telling them that “producers of coca leaf are not drug dealers; consumers of coca leaf are not drug addicts.” 

Coca-Cola has repeatedly denied ever using cocaine as an ingredient. The drink, invented in 1885 by a pharmacist from Atlanta called John Pemberton, was described by his creator as a “brain tonic that could cure headaches, upset stomach, and fatigue”

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, Pemberton’s original recipe contained coca leaf extract, which is not the same as cocaine. Indeed that is how Coca-Cola got its name, the cola comes from the kola nut that contains caffeine.