Cocaine, Leg Warmers & Drug Wars

If LSD was the 60s and Ecstasy was the 90s, the drug that characterized the 80s was undoubtedly cocaine. The memories and cultural achievements of the decade taste forgot should be enough evidence to stop coke use forever.

Here are a few: deedy boppers, Duran Duran, shellsuits, perms, leg warmers, estate agents - the list is endless.

Cocaine use hit its peak in the US in 1985 with over 5.7 million users (nearly 3% of the population) using cocaine at least "once every month".

the champagne drug

Demand for cocaine in America grew alongside the economic deregulation, aggressive business practices and foreign policies of the Reagan and Thatcher era. Vice-jawed yuppies lapped up the expensive and elite drug du jour, the so-called champagne drug.

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godless communism

America's insatiable demand for cocaine was fed by an expanding industry in South America. At the same time, the CIA's support for the Contras against the left-wing Sandinista government in Nicaragua in 1987 (justified as the struggle of "the free world" versus "godless communism") was heavily funded by trafficking from Colombian cocaine plantations. Well-organized, well-armed cartels emerged to control supply and profits.

Farmers in Colombia, Mexico, Bolivia and Peru quickly learned that cocaine was a far more lucrative crop than maize, tea, tobacco, rice or rubber. It was easy to cultivate and transport, and yielded several crops a year with guaranteed sales.

Farmers can sell 1kg of unrefined cocaine base for $690. Its street value: $200,000. That's a mark-up of 28,000%.

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crack invented

The increase in demand led to a drop in price. This led to the development of 'crack cocaine', a cheap mix of cocaine and baking powder (sodium bicarbonate) which, when smoked, gives an intense, short-lived but compelling hit.

Crack cocaine flooded into US cities and crippled urban - often black - communities.

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drug wars

Cocaine is not going away. Former President Clinton donated a $1.6 billion aid package for the war against drugs to "dramatically strengthen and solidify the Colombian Government in its struggle to preserve democracy". George W. Bush then reaffirmed America's war on drugs when he took over.

Yet cocaine supplies show no sign of abating. Not surprising really, since the average cartel can earn $7- $10 billion a year from the trade, most of it coming from America.