American billionaire Elon Musk, whose impending takeover of Twitter has dominated tech headlines this week, is known for making tongue-in-cheek tweets on a regular basis.
On Wednesday, Musk posted one of his most popular tweets yet, joking that he might buy the Coca-Cola brand next and addressing a popular rumor about its original ingredients.
On April 27, Elon Musk made a series of tweets in reference to his upcoming Twitter purchase. In one of the tweets, he wrote: “Next thing I’m going to buy is Coca-Cola to put the cocaine back in.”
The tweet was incredibly popular, garnering 2.6 million likes and over 500,000 retweets and dating tweets combined in less than 12 hours.
The claim may seem like an urban legend, but it is true that the original recipe for Coca-Cola, the popular brand of carbonated soft drinks, contained something at least similar to cocaine.
The US government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that Coca-Cola’s original formulation “contained cocaine in the form of coca leaf extract” and that the ‘Coca’ part of the product’s name product was a reference to coca. leaf from which cocaine can be extracted.
The drink was invented in 1885 by Atlanta pharmacist John Pemberton, who formulated it in his backyard. At the time, cocaine was believed to be safe to use in small amounts and was a common ingredient in medicine.
At the time, drugs were not as heavily regulated as they are today. Someone could claim that their drug has all sorts of health benefits and they wouldn’t have to prove it or reveal any risks. Pemberton advertised Coca-Cola as a “brain tonic” that could cure headaches and fight fatigue, says NIDA.
Despite the above, Coca-Cola Great Britain states on its website that “cocaine has never been an added ingredient in Coca-Cola”. news week has contacted The Coca-Cola Company and Coca-Cola Great Britain for comment.
NIDA declined to comment in time for publication.
This denial may or may not be due to the fact that the ‘cocaine’ ingredient used in the original Coca-Cola recipe was actually ecgonine according to fact-checking website Snopes, which is a chemical described as “a metabolite and a cocaine precursor” of the European Institute of Bioinformatics.
It’s unclear how much cocaine or ecgonine was ever present in the original Coca-Cola recipe, but in any case it was reduced over time and completely phased out in 1929 according to the NIDA.
Ecgonine, which is not cocaine but is chemically similar and is obtained from the same leaf, was present in the original Coca-Cola recipe in small amounts, but was removed entirely in 1929.
NEWSWEEK FACT CHECK