Deemed Netflix's next big series, the new show Narcos has been generating a lot of positive attention this month, as a second season was recently announced. Based on the life events of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, the show breaks down the particulars of how exactly the US came to know cocaine so intimately, especially during the 1980s. The show excels at depicting the intricate politics of selling and buying cocaine during the time and how it became massively popular on the party scene and even on Wall Street. 

However, the show left out one significant detail that left a Redditor, along with the rest of us, curious: why exactly was cocaine so popular in the U.S. during the 1980sThere were several great answers that help us better understand what set the phenomenon off:

1. Marketing. 

[–]Red_pill_junkie explains:

In a word; Marketing. 

Get a few celebrities using for free via their local cartel "rep" and everyone follows. 

It's just a normal business (apart from the illegal part). 

Think of the hype of cocaine - what does a cocaine user look like to most people? Attractive, rich, social, laughing. 

All marketing.

[–]deezniggadeez agrees: 

Depends where your market is. In NYC clubs are open til sometimes 6am easily. If you wanna hang out, ya gotta take her out.. cocaine.

2. Alongside marketing, other factors were at play, like the CIA: 


  • CIA (or rather those contracting those spooks by any other name) helped in conjunction with the FBI and DEA to create a market and allow it to flourish (overwhelmed local police too lol) in the United States. The supply was already ripe for picking.

  • Pablo. Fucking. Escobar. 

  • Popularity of the drug spread quickly because that shit is awesome. It's just like LSD is making a huge come back right now because of the internet. Put simply it was around and people wanted it.

  • Massive marketing campaigns to glamorize it conducted by the same spooks trafficking 


  • When you introduce something with the express intent of profiting and controlling you need to start with a bang. That was the 80s.

 3. In the words of Rick James, "Cocaine is one helluva drug":


[–]JDlx 5 points 1 day ago 

Go do some cocaine. You won't be asking that question anymore. In fact, the only question you'll have about cocaine is "Is there more?"

[–]tdqe2 writes: 

Cocaine has always been a party drug because it tackles 3 major partying requirements:

  1. Staying up all night
  2. Feeling happy and confident
  3. Having something interesting/fun/cool to do

Remember in the 1920's it was prohibited for its association with black people. It probably lost popularity because no-one wanted to be seen taking a "black drug". By the 70's, such a crazy racial association had dimmed and it started to regain use. Picture the 70's: people are partying and fucking, rockstars are throwing shit out of hotel windows, film stars are getting paid crazy figures. A demand appeared and the cartels began setting up the supply.

By the 80's there was a perfect storm:

  • Economic boom (plenty of young people with disposable incomes)
  • Familiarity with cocaine (and all the cool people who took it) through movies and media
  • Existing supply chains from the 70's resurgence (which could be quickly expanded to keep up with demand)
  • Ronald fucking-idiot Reagan ensuring that everyone knew cocaine was a thing, that it was taken by lots of people, and that it was obviously pretty fucking cool because why else would someone be telling you not to try something that everyone else was enjoying.

These days cocaine has degenerated into shit. Everyone does it and no-one actually enjoys it. In London for example, dealers will usually give you 2 options: the "ok stuff" at £50/g which is 10% cocaine or the "really really good shit" at £80/g which is 10% cocaine and whatever he can put in it to make it look slightly different. Most kids in the UK have never even experienced cocaine above 20% purity! Outside the UK it varies, but one thing is always consistent: if you binge on cocaine you will feel like shit tomorrow.

[–]Thirdnipple79 2 points 1 day ago 

Cocaine is still pretty popular and the reason is simple - People like it. Source: Have tried cocaine and it's pretty good. This is no different than alcohol, weed, caffeine, or (insert your drug of choice here). 

Of course, it becomes accessible because people are able to make a profit off of bringing it to users and the potential profit outweighs the risk of getting in trouble with law enforcement to those supplying it.

TL;DR There was a demand for something that people enjoyed and it was profitable to supply it to them.

With the proper marketing, right location, and increased need for an excessive party drug, it doesn't seem like cocaine was a tough sell to clientele in L.A, New York, or Miami during the 1980s.

For Pablo, tapping into the market at the right time and at the right locations made him the seventh richest man on earth, profiting a net worth of $25 billion before he died at the young age of 44.