How did the use of cocaine start?

Cocaine has a long history. The use of coca leaves has been around for at least five thousand years in the Andes region. It was and still is used as a remedy for altitude sickness, to reduce fatigue, to fight hunger and as an anesthetic during surgery. The coca plant was sacred to the Incas and its leaves are still chewed by South Americans.

In the early 1500s, Europeans first came into contact with coca. Chewing coca did not become popular in Europe because the leaves lost their effect during transport across the ocean. By 1850, coca extract was being used in throat surgery.

In 1900, the Dutch Cocaine Factory (NCF) was founded. This made the Netherlands the market leader in cocaine production. In 1928 the Opium Act was passed in the Netherlands. This law prohibited the non-medical use of cocaine. As a result, sales of the NCF declined sharply. It is true; the very first bottles of Coca-Cola also contain cocaine, which has since been replaced by caffeine.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, cocaine became popular again in the Netherlands.

Also check out this video from  ATTN  about the history of cocaine and base coke (crack) in the US.