From All-Natural To Class A Drug: How Refinement Makes Cocaine, Heroin, & Sugar

When our family began transitioning our lifestyle to whole foods over five years ago, cutting out sugar was not something I thought was necessary.  Instead, I purchased organic sugars and foods made with organic sugars.  I thought I was making the healthy choice!  Can anybody relate?!

The more I researched, however, the more I saw the negative effects any refined sugar has on our bodies.  I slowly began to see it apart from our culture’s view on it.  

The final straw for me, however, was reading Dr. Weston A. Price’s book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration.  In the 1930’s, Dr. Price and his wife traveled around the world looking for primitive races of people living off of only native foods.  

These indigenous tribes enjoyed absolutely wonderful health, mentally and physically.  They did not have doctors, psychologists, or dentists.  They didn’t need them!  And Dr. Price noticed the mild-mannered nature of the children who never cried or ran around wildly.

In every society, the introduction of trade routes brought along one common denominator: sugar.  These tribes began eating jams, pastries, refined flour, and canned vegetables.  Not surprisingly, they began coming down with tuberculosis, tooth decay, and other health problems.  

Surprising to me, however, was that indigenous women who converted to this “modernized” diet began giving birth to children who would have decreased bone mass (including in their skull) and reduced jaw/facial bone sizes.  This change caused them to have inadequate space in their mouth for all of their teeth, causing crowding and painful eruption of their third molars (wisdom teeth).  

This shook me up.  I had known that sugar was bad.  I had already eliminated it completely from our family’s lives by the time I read this book.  (With the exception of using it to make kombucha, with which the sugar is consumed during the fermentation process.)  But I didn’t know that its effects carried through to the next generation.  

(photo from Weston A. Price’s book)


As I faced endless orthodontist appointments for my teenage son’s crooked teeth and my daughter’s beautiful baby smile began changing to crooked adult teeth, I began thinking about this product considered as “food” and wondered how something that causes so much damage could be so prevalent in our food supply.  

Then I saw an article detailing a study of laboratory rats and the addictiveness of sugar.  By providing both cocaine and refined sugar to these rats, it was discovered that the sugar was three times more addictive than cocaine.  

94 percent of rats who were allowed to choose mutually-exclusively between sugar water and cocaine, chose sugar. Even rats who were addicted to cocaine quickly switched their preference to sugar, once it was offered as a choice. The rats were also more willing to work for sugar than for cocaine. (

Oh really? I had to check into this myself.  I thought it might be a little too far-reaching.  You won’t believe what I found.  I didn’t!  

First, let me take you through the process of converting various natural products into what is now considered a Class A drug.  We’ll start with coca leaves into cocaine.

From Coca Plants to Cocaine

The coca plant has been chewed by the natives of Peru and Bolivia for over 2,000 years and was reputed to act as a stimulant, aid to digestion, aphrodisiac and life-extender.  To this day, indigenous tribes continue chew on the leaves for its nutritional and mild psychological benefits.

When the creator of Coca Cola, John Stith Pemberton, originally used coca leaves to make a new popular drink, he chose ingredients that would replace his morphine addiction with something else.  Many physicians at the time had the same morphine addiction problem that he did.  

After working long hours in a secretive lab, he developed the drink today known as Coca Cola.  Unfortunately, the drink was only another addictive alternative to the morphine addiction.  Pemberton eventually died of cancer and his morphine use.  His son, whom he wanted so badly to leave some of his fortune to, also died just six years after Pemberton’s death of morphine addiction.  (

So essentially, Coca Cola was created by a druggist through many chemical processes in an attempt to make an addictive drink that would sell successfully.  

The process of converting coca leaves to cocaine was difficult at first.  Coca leaves exchanged chemists’ hands a few times before the process of isolating the cocaine alkaloid was pinpointed.  Afterwards, its use became popular in medicine as an anesthetic, including its marketing for children’s toothaches!

In order to mass-refine this product, the process now goes something like this:

The leaves were dried for half a day, then chopped into small pieces with a strimmer and sprinkled with a small amount of powdered cement (replacing sodium carbonate from former times). Several hundred pounds of this mixture was soaked in 50 US gallons (190 L) of gasoline for a day, then the gasoline was removed and the leaves were pressed for remaining liquid, after which they could be discarded. Then battery acid (weak sulfuric acid) was used, one bucket per 25 kilograms of leaves, to create a phase separation in which the cocaine free base in the gasoline was acidified and extracted into a few buckets of “murky-looking smelly liquid”. Once powdered caustic soda was added to this, the cocaine precipitated and could be removed by filtration through a cloth. The resulting material, when dried, was termed pasta and sold by the farmer. The 3750 pound yearly harvest of leaves from a hectare produced 2.5 kg (6 lb) of pasta, approximately 40–60% cocaine. Repeated recrystallization from solvents, producing pasta lavada and eventually crystalline cocaine, were performed at specialized laboratories after the sale.
(from wikipedia)

The refined product is now used illegally as a stimulant.  I personally knew a couple of people who were addicted to this drug. They reported the desired benefits of giving them energy to do housework and other responsibilities for which they otherwise could not find the energy.

While coca leaves and coca tea continue to be enjoyed legally in many countries for its mild psychological effects and nutritional properties, this natural product constantly comes under fire because of its refined drug byproduct.

The physical health effects of cocaine include heart/lung problems (especially with smoking cocaine), mineral deficiencies, brain cell degeneration, and increased risk of autoimmune disorders.

Additionally, stimulants like cocaine, methamphetamine, and even caffeine cause dehydration and dry mouth. Since saliva is an important mechanism in maintaining one’s oral pH level, chronic stimulant abusers who do not hydrate sufficiently may experience demineralization of their teeth due to the pH of the tooth surface dropping too low . (wikipedia)

So basically, it gives you energy whereby you soon crash, and in the process causes mineral deficiencies, a weakened immune system, bad teeth, and the need for more.

Sound familiar yet? Okay. . . moving on. . .

From Poppy Flowers to Heroin/Opium

Like cocaine, heroin has all-natural beginnings and only becomes a drug through the process of extraction.  Opium poppies, also called the ‘flower of joy’, are grown mostly by impoverished farmers on small plots of land in warm, dry climates from Turkey through Laos, and now also grown in Colombia.

The process goes a little something like this:

“About three months after the poppy seeds are planted, brightly-colored flowers bloom at the tips of the greenish, tubular stems.  As the petals fall away, they expose an egg-shaped seed pod.  Inside the pod is an opaque, milky sap.  This is opium in its crudest form.”

”  The sap is extracted by slitting the pod vertically in parallel strokes with a special curved knife. As the sap oozes out, it turns darker and thicker, forming a brownish-black gum. A farmer collects the gum with a scraping knife, bundles it into bricks, cakes or balls and wraps them in a simple material such as plastic or leaves.Then the opium enters the black market.” (from PBS:

From there, the opium undergoes more refinement in a way very similar to sugar, where the dark heavy stuff sinks to the bottom and white crystals are separated at the top.  The white crystals are drawn off, then treated with ammonia (same as sugar except sugar is treated with chlorine), and a few more tweaks to get the final drug.

“By an age-old rule of thumb, every 10 tons of raw opium reduces to one ton of heroin.”

The short-term effects of heroin include:


The long-term effects include:

From Sugarcane (or beets) to Sugar

Bags of sugar and products laden with sugar can boast the claim “all-natural.” Made from either sugar cane or sugar beets, this white powder was once considered a luxury that only the wealthy could afford.

Sugar has been produced in the Indian subcontinent[4] since ancient times. It was not plentiful or cheap in early times—honey was more often used for sweetening in most parts of the world.
Originally, people chewed sugarcane raw to extract its sweetness.(wikipedia)

Originally, the refinement process was minimal compared to today’s process and actually retained some of its nutrients. Today, however, the process to make sugar crystals (aka evaporated cane juice) from sugar cane is lengthy and involves various chemical washings, heat, centrifuges, and chemical additives. 

 The sugar percentage goes from 15% to 60% in this process, making it unnaturally sweet and containing none of the original fiber meant to help slow the absorption of the 15% sugar content into the bloodstream, and containing virtually none of the original nutrients.

It takes approximately 15 feet of sugarcane to provide the amount of refined sugar in one 12-ounce can of soda. 

The effects of sugar on one’s health is lengthy as well, and starts with bone and dental deformities (especially when consumed during pregnancy), mineral deficiencies, and suppressed immune function.  

In a study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition as far back as 1977 reported the adverse that sugar has on the immune system. Blood was drawn from subjects and the activity of the white blood cells that neutralize viruses and bacteria was observed and calculated. The white blood cell activity was calculated before and after subjects were given various doses of sugar: 6, 12, 18 and 24 teaspoons, respectively. Each subsequently higher dose of sugar created a corresponding decrease in the activities of the subject’s white blood cells. The group that had consumed the largest amount of sugar had essentially no functioning white blood cells within an hour after consuming the sugar. The immunosuppression occurred for up to two hours after consuming that sugar, but the adverse effects of no blood cell activity persisted in some instances for up to five hours

“Sugar literally eats up the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy.” Jackie Warner, This Is Why You’re Fat

Refined sugar causes the liver to store up fat, resulting in reduced liver and kidney function.  The mineral deficiencies caused by sugar include a major loss of magnesium which is responsible for keeping blood vessels open.  

Long-term effects include depression, addiction, autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.  In fact, it is commonly known that cancer cells need sugar in order to survive, so eating sugar just invites cancerous cells to grow and thrive.


Sugar increases production of serotonin in your brain, the “feel-good” neurotransmitter.  But then when blood sugar drops, serotonin drops and the body begins the withdrawal process, creating cravings for more.

Sugar also releases opioids, just like opium and heroin.  Opioids bind to brain receptors, triggering feelings of pleasure and well-being.


To Sum It Up. . .

At this point, I’m hoping you’ll see the striking similarities between these three products with all-natural beginnings.  They start out in the beautiful form designed by our Creator and are then taken through a lengthy, unnatural chemical process to produce little white crystals that have a pleasurable effect on our emotions, give us energy, and cause addiction.  

One of the main issues I take with this ingredient is its marketing as an all-natural ingredient.  And the public’s subsequent belief of that marketing.

“Cocaine, too, could be advertised as ‘made from natural ingredients.’ The coca leaf from which it is made is as natural as sugarcane.  Both leaf and cane yield similar products–a white crystalline powder with horrible effects.” Jackie Warner, This Is Why You’re Fat

This marketing lie has caused millions of people to be addicted to this “legal” and socially acceptable Class A drug, including myself at one point!  

The Church, for instance, would never allow cocaine or heroin to be distributed within its walls, but hands out sugar-laden products in common areas and the children’s classrooms.

Sugar’s addictiveness and ill effects on our health carries many spiritual implications with it as well. Being addicted to anything causes a professing Christian to be led by something other than God.  According to God’s word, this is idolatry.  

Furthermore, we are called to be good stewards of our bodies, these living temples of the one true God.  We are called to be warriors for the kingdom of God and to “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God. . .” 1 Peter 2:12.

In my work as a nutrition counselor and wellness educator, I’ve had many, many Christians confide with me about their health issues and lack of energy. These beaten-down, fatigued, depressed bodies can do nowhere near what they could be doing for the Kingdom if they had physical energy, emotional strength, and good health, nor is it an example of abundant living in Christ.

I’m not saying that we won’t experience disease and sickness. I am, however, saying that we should not put the Lord our God to the test. We shouldn’t be addicted to any drugs, including sugar, so that we may wholeheartedly follow after Christ and Christ alone. 

Please know that this is not meant to be a judgmental attack.  This is a call out to all Christians to see this drug for what it is. Take a good look at what it does to your health and your mind. Pray about it and ask God to give you wisdom and discernment on this issue, rather than looking at it the way the world does or with addictive pretenses. 

Why? Because Jesus is coming someday, and He’ll be looking for those whose hearts are fully committed to Him!  And because He has eternal rewards for those who run the race and stay committed to Him!
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV)

And because as Lysa TerKeurst says in Made to Crave,


You were made for more!


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Comments & Responses

10 Responses so far.

  1. Jessica says:

    So I guess Turbinado would still be just about as bad as table sugar then? I thought I was using a healthier alternative when sugar was called for.

  2. Rachel says:

    What is your reference for the quote from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition? I would like to share that original study.

  3. […] We do not tell a smoker that they can have cigarettes in moderation, or an alcoholic to have alcohol in moderation. By physical, scientific standards (not societal standards however), refined sugar is a Class A drug. Like cocaine and heroine, it starts out as a perfectly natural, God-created plant. Through chemical refinement, it becomes a white powdery substance that wreaks havoc on our health. In laboratory studies, sugar was found to be three times more addictive than cocaine. In fact, test subjects who were addicted to cocaine chose sugar over cocaine when given the choice. For more information on the topic of sugar as a Class A drug, read my post From All-Natural To Class A Drug: How Refinement Makes Cocaine, Heroine, & Sugar. […]

  4. Paige says:

    Good thoughts to chew on! I’ve been on my own sugar/sweetener eliminating journey for awhile’s easier to do in your own diet than it is in your kids’ diet…mostly because so many social activities at school and church involve it 🙁 But I’d like you to edit this post please: You incorrectly typed that too much sugar leads to autoimmune diseases like diabetes… You meant to say non autoimmune diseases like diabetes – and by that you need to ALWAYS type the correct type of Diabetes. Type 2 is very nutritionally related and the most common. Type 1 is autoimmune, strikes kids as young as 6mo. old and, like ALL OTHER AUTOIMMUNE dieases, we can’t figure out what causes it. MS, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, some Thyroid disorders….all of these we can’t pin it on a single origin. So thanks for editing it and stopping the spread of misinformation!
    – sincerly a sugar free, whole foods plant based dietician student/diabetes educater mother of a great little boy who eats the same way and was still diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at the early age of 3 🙂

    • sjpoff says:

      Hi Paige,
      I’m sorry about your son’s illness. I wonder–did you vaccinate him? Studies have found a link to vaccines and juvenile diabetes. In fact, one study found a 60 percent increase in rate of JD with Hep B shot, while others found an increase with HIB vaccine. Additionally, cases have been reported of JD following vaccination with MMR. Furthermore, studies found that infants fed soy formula are twice as likely to have JD than other infants. So there is plenty of information out there as to the potential causes of these unfortunate illnesses. Similarly, lupus and RA have also been linked to chemical exposure, whether from vaccinations or household insecticides. Thyroid disorders are a bit more simplistic and easier to treat. In fact, I have clients who were able to get off of their thyroid medications (under a doctor’s supervision of course) after implementing my recommendations. There is a lot of information available on these things; unfortunately the right information for them cannot always be found in the conventional medical system. That’s where the true misinformation lies!

      That said, my post will remain as it is. Sugar feeds and exacerbates every illness, just like heroine and cocaine would, whether it is technically considered an auto-immune condition or not. Auto-immune conditions really boil down to one thing: the body is attacking itself when it shouldn’t. Why? Because it senses innocent things as invaders. The reason it does this (in simple terms) is because it has had too many true, offending invaders into its system (like vaccines, toxic GMO foods, lawn/farm/household chemicals, prescription drugs, etc.) and therefore senses innocent things as invaders as well. When you throw inflammation (from which sugar and vegetable oil are infamous for) into the mix, you get chronic disease.

      Here’s some information you may find useful with resources for your situation: . It has some books and supplements you might be interested in 🙂


  5. Sujey says:

    Well written, thought provoking blog. However to be more realistic I would suggest using better references than Wikipedia, such as Medical or university studies. Thank you for taking the time to share your good opinion.

  6. […] body of essential nutrients. (For more information on how sugar affects the body, check out my posts here and […]

  7. […] that change is so worth the extra money! (If you haven’t seen my posts on refined sugar, start here. At the same time, learn to reduce the amount of sweeteners your family uses, no matter how natural […]

  8. Renee says:

    Hi Sara,
    Thank you for your research here. Very impactful! Have you heard about these sermons series on caffeine, drugs, and sugar, by a pastor in Texas? While I don’t agree with every nuance of his message, I think he is very correct for calling sugar a drug. Anyway, you might be interested:

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