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Cocaine is a natural plant alkaloid produced by the coca plant (Erythroxylon spp.), a shrub native to the lower eastern Andean slopes and domesticated by Andean farmers. B enezoylmethyl ecgonine (C17H21NO4), or cocaine, comprises .5 to 2 percent of coca leaves. While the genus Erythroxylon contains 17 species, only two (E. coca and E. novogranatense) produce sufficient cocaine to process into street drugs. Most coca for traditional use and the drug industry is grown in Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia.

Coca leaves have been an important part of Andean cultures for over 3,000 years. Inca state and religious rituals used coca leaves. Today, Andean people chew coca by holding a wad mixed with alkaline lime or ash in their jaw. Coca leaves are a mild stimulant and ...

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