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Do you know that quite a few of the soft drinks we buy today once included hard drugs in their formulas? Cocaine, Lithium and pepsin were all early ingredients in some of the best known soft drinks of today. Many were developed by pharmacists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the goal of finding a more palatable way to deliver medicine. So yeah, back in the day, you could get pretty high off a simple Coca-Cola.

Cocaine Put the Coke in Coca-Cola

It's not a myth or fake news, the earliest recipes of Coca-Cola contained cocaine. The coca leaf has long been used by native Central and South Americans for a variety of medicinal purposes and when Coca-Cola inventor John Pemberton set out to invent a remedy for the morphine addiction he had developed as a soldier in the Civil War, he decided that a couple of drugs that can put a real pep in your step were exactly what he needed. So, he added a little cocaine, in the form of Coca leaves and he added a little caffeine, produced by Kola nuts and Coca-Cola was born. Pemberton spread his soda throughout the Atlanta, GA area through pharmacies, promising that it would relieve headaches, cure tiredness and solve almost any other ailment under the sun. It became an instant success. It grew even more popular when Fulton County (where Atlanta is partially located) passed a strict prohibition law. Oddly, alcohol was prohibited, but cocaine was not! But by 1903, the formula had been altered and the cocaine was removed all together, giving us the formula we know today.

7Up "Takes The 'Ouch' Out of 'Grouch'" With Just a Lithium

7Up came to market a generation or so after most of the medical elixirs of the late 19th Century, like Coke and Pepsi, but it launched with the same purpose. Invented by St. Louisan Charles Grigg in 1929, 7Up's key ingredient was Lithium Citrate, a commonly used drug to moderate mood and promote mental health, even today. In short, 7Up's goal was to make the drinker happy. Really, really happy. Prohibition in the 1920s had caused an explosion in the sales of soft drinks as Americans looked for something interesting to drink that did not contain alcohol. And they also proved quite popular with bartenders at speakeasies looking to mask the flavor of poorly made bootleg booze, mixing the bathtub gin with the tasty, sugary sodas of the day, like 7Up. You mixed your drink with 7Up on Saturday night and then cured your hangover with 7Up and its lithium on Sunday morning.

While Not Quite as "Hard" as Coke and 7Up, Other Early Pops Had Serious Fizz Too

In 1885, a pharmacist named Charles Alderton in Waco, Texas mixed up a formula he had been messing around with and Dr Pepper was born. It boasted being made from 23 flavors and was self-proclaimed to be a "brain tonic". It was sold as an energy drink at Morrison's Old Corner Drug Store in Waco and got very popular. In 1904, Alderton took his creation to the World's Fair in St. Louis and its popularity exploded across the country. Although the formula is a closely held secret, early versions of the soda likely contained Pepsin, a enzyme that helps break down food in the stomach, think of Dr Pepper's marketing as similar to probotics today.

Even Pepsi Was On The List

Not to be left out is the other granddaddy of soda pops in America, Pepsi. Like Dr Pepper, early versions, originally known as "Brad's Drinks" also contained pepsin and was sold as a digestive aid and an energy booster, owing to the caffeine in the Kola Nut that was its other main ingredient.

The End Of The Drug Era and The Rise Of Mass Marketing

Inevitably, the practice of adding powerful drugs to soft drinks came to end. Cocaine was removed from Coca-Cola in 1903 and Lithium was out of 7Up in the 1930s. All that was left was lots of caffeine in the colas and lots and lots of sugar, or now, High-Fructose Corn Syrup in the USA. We'd probably be healthier with the cocaine and the lithium.

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