Medical Uses

Cocaine was recognized as early as 1884 as a local anesthetic in ophthalmology, and the only currently accepted medical uses today for cocaine are for mucous membrane anesthesia and vasoconstriction. These indications ultimately led to the discovery of procaine (Novocain), which produces local anesthesia but does not produce cocaine’s euphoric or vasoconstrictor effects. Amphetamines were originally synthesized as possible alternative drugs for the treatment of asthma and were the principal component of the original benzedrine inhalers (Figure 4.7). The United States military continues to use amphetamines today to allay fatigue, and amphetamines are currently legally available for medical use as adjuncts for short-term weight control. Amphetamines are also effective treatments for narcolepsy and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in both children and adults (Box 4.7).

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