So I’ve been to Peru many times, beautiful country, and each time I’ve used coca leaf, which is abundant, cheap, and used often here, but mostly in the form of tea, although I did put it in my mouth to “chew” it before but without the base needed to extract the alkaloids (one being cocaine, in tiny amounts).
Anyhow this time I did use both lime (comes with the bag of coca if you ask) and sodium bicarbonate to activate the alkaloids whilst holding the leafs in your mouth. I’ll outline my experiences below:
Coca tea (Mate de coca)
Extremely common here in Peru, used for altitude sickness and also just like you would use coffee. It’s light, not even as strong as coffee, but less taxing. I’d compare it to black tea, although again it’s a bit different.
Increased energy, more wakefulness (although definitely less than caffeine), and a slight mood uplift, without any noticeable comedown, nor any stomach issues (my stomach is sensitive and tea and coffee both are slightly uncomfortable to it).
It’s nice, definitely good for the high altitudes here, but nothing special, what’s noteworthy is that there doesn’t seem to be any tolerance, likely due to how light the effects are.
“Chewing” coca without a base to extract the alkaloids
“Chewing” is in quotes, as this is what it’s commonly referred to as, but really you just hold the leafs in the side of your mouth letting your saliva build up. Previous times I was here I didn’t realize the importance of the lime/sodium bicarbonate for this process. It’s slightly stronger than the tea, but the effects are fairly similar and it’s far less enjoyable.
“Chewing” coca with a base to extract the alkaloids, including a small amount of cocaine and some of its metabolites
Far far more potent, a whole different ball game. I can’t and won’t compare it to cocaine, as it doesn’t compare to it despite the similar effects.
The potency, onset, and just general feeling is much much different. From what I’ve read (feel free to google) this is mainly due to the lower quantities of cocaine actually consumed, combined with the much slower intake.
You first start feeling your mouth go numb, if you have enough leafs your whole tongue, gums and side of your mouth your holding it in will go numb. It’s important not to swallow your saliva as your stomach breaks down most of it, the effects come from your it entering your bloodstream through your capillaries in your mouth.
After about 10 – 15 minutes you feel more energized, more wakeful, and far more cheerful, I’d almost call it euphoric but it’s slightly less than that, but only slightly.
Your mood is significantly uplifted. It also stems your appetite. Whilst I can’t compare it to cocaine, nor can I too caffeine as the mood uplift is just far far better.
The effects peak after about 30 – 40 minutes of holding it in your mouth, you can then spit it out and redose, I’ve done this all day on a Trek and it seemingly works pretty much as strong each and every time.
The comedown from just doing it a couple of times is almost nothing, quite amazingling. You do come back to normal after about an hour of spitting it out, but mostly you are a little more tired, actually I have felt, again with normal usage, quite sleepy after it.
Taking it to the max, as I have, using it all day, you will have problems sleeping and a noteworthy, but not large, negative affect on your mood. The next day you will be absolutely fine though.
Another issue with using it too much is that your mouth can hurt quite a lot the next day, basically because your mouth was completely numb all day and you bite your tongue or excessively press the coca against your mouth without noticing it. This took two days to go away after using it almost all day for a three day hike.
It also sobres you up quite a bit if you’re drinking, really quite amazing how similar, yet far less powerful) the effects are to cocaine.
Many workers use it here, and I now know why. Taxi drives, for example, use it to drive all night. This makes perfect sense as it keeps you awake.
I met miners who would use it to avoid eating until the evening, again this makes perfect sense, it definitely suppresses your appetite. People on the farm use it to work during the day, again makes perfect sense as it increases your ability to strenuous exercise quite noticeably.
Overall I find it to be really really nice, the biggest issue is the method of consuming, it’s obvious you are doing it (mouth full of leaves, teeth as well), and it does lead to a sore mouth if overusing.