The Centre for Drug Research, (CEDRO), was established
in 1996 as a department of the School of Environmental Sciences
(Faculteit der Ruimtelijke Wetenschappen), at the University of
Amsterdam. Before, drug research activities directed by Peter Cohen
existed already since 1983 and culminated only later in an organizational
unit called CEDRO. The Centre's research efforts relied mainly
on outside funding in spite of the fact that the University has
always been willing to pay for a small part , thereby helping its
continuity. Due to the sound reputation of its researchers as well
as the special position held by Amsterdam and the Netherlands in
the field of international drug research, CEDRO has gained much
esteem in the scientific community.
In 2000, CEDRO moved to the SCO Kohnstamm Institute
in the then newly formed School of Social and Behavioral Science,
where it remained till December 2003. Per January 2004 CEDRO stopped
being an institute acquiring research funding from third parties.
CEDRO lives on to maintain her website on which all CEDRO research
and much more is published. New publications from the old CEDRO
staff will in the future be published there as well.
CEDRO's former director, Peter Cohen, retired from the university
per March 1, 2004 and is now guest researcher at CEDRO through
CEDRO: a brief history
CEDRO indirectly came forth from the 'drug research
program, ('onderzoeksprogramma drugsbeleid'). This program was
started in 1983 at the former 'Instituut voor de Wetenschap der
Andragogie (IWA)', at the University of Amsterdam, and lasted until
1988. It was initiated by the City of Amsterdam; partly financed
by the former Ministry of WVC, (Ministry of Welfare, Public Health
and Cultural Affairs), the Home Office and the Prevention Fund.
The program incorporated a manifold of socio-scientific research
disciplines, such as: psychology, criminology, human geography,
anthropology, and medical sociology. Two researchers from the Faculty
of Law carried out a part-time study of the Amsterdam drug market.
The study of 'non-deviant' cocaine use, conducted at the School
of Environmental Sciences, was also a part of this research project.
The population studies whichused to be such an important part of
the research portfolio, started at the same time with a prevalence
study among the population of Amsterdam, 12 years and over.
After the completion of the research project at the IWA in 1988,
the co-ordination of the drug research program was moved to the
Department of Human Geography at the School of Environmental Sciences.
Other disciplines remained involved in drug research, and today,
drug research is carried out at other faculties too, notably the
Department of Criminology at the Faculty of Law. Since the end
of 1980, the Department of Human Geography has achieved a number
of publications, (see enclosure). Some of the publications had
an anthropological angle, which tied in with the studies focussing
on 'drug related nuisance', conducted by the Special Urban Geography
Section within the Department of Human Geography.
In addition to these different projects, two other major studies
were carried out at the Department of Human Geography: a cocaine
study of 'non-deviant' drug users and a study on the use of licit
and illicit drugs among the population of Amsterdam. The cocaine
research project resulted in three publications. As appears from
lecture requests, publications in different magazines and the number
of times they cited and referred to, (also, via Internet), these
studies are drawing a great deal of attention from the academic
world. Population drug use research became one of the main pillars
of CEDRO. Since 1987, large survey on the use of licit and illicit
drugs among the population of Amsterdam were carried out every
three years. For this purpose, for each survey, approximately 4,000
citizens from Amsterdam participate in detailed interviews relating
to the use of substances and its frequency. Due to magnitude, continuity
and uniformity, these studies meanwhile are considered very reliable
population surveys on the use of substances.
In the nineties, drug research at CEDRO entered an international
phase. In connection with the preparations of the 'Drugsnota' of
the Government, the Ministry of VWS, (Ministry of Health, Welfare
and Sports), CEDRO designed comparative research of cannabis policies.
For the Ministers involved, as well as the Government, this study,
with its detailed information on cannabis policies in Germany, France and
the USA, served as a tool,
with which their own policy could be placed into perspective. In
order to conduct this study, close co-operation with the Institute
for Drug Research in Bremen, (Bremer Institut für Drogenforschung),
at the University of Bremen, and the Center for Drug and Alcohol
Studies at the University of Delaware, took place.
Cooperation with the University of California (Santa Cruz) helped
execute the study that compared cannabis use careers in San
Francisco, Amsterdam and Bremen (published in 2002). Plans
for cooperation with the Institute for Special Populations Research
National Development and Research Institutes (NDRI) in New York
were developed as well. We wanted to compare our data on initiation
of use to find out if initiation ages are comparable between the
USA and the Netherlands, and we wanted to look into the combined
use of tobacco and cannabis. However both plans never materialised
because of lack of funding. Still cross national comparative research
is probably the most important innovation for drug use research
for the next decade.
CEDRO also did not realize funding for its plans to compare the
cannabis distribution and growing situations of Amsterdam and the
frontier town Venlo ( near Germany). This means that the CEDRO
research structure will cease to exist, although its widely used
website will continue to be open to the public. Peter Cohen will
stay another few years to maintain the website and collaborate
with collegues in different Universities to develop behaviorist
theory around the concept of 'addiction'.
The criminalization of drug use and its consequently
assumed perception by society as 'major deviance', are important
determinants in the way drug use occurs. The use of illegal drugs
is 'regulated' almost entirely via criminal law mechanisms. The
interpretation of it, is virtually left up to psychiatry alone.
CEDRO has always had a distinct socio-scientific orientation and
regarded drug use as natural human behaviour, primarily shaped
by contextual and social variables. This is an important difference
to the more common interpretation with a preponderantly criminal
or medical orientation. Criminalization and the depiction of drug
use as pathological behaviour have led to serious shortcomings
in the attainment of knowledge in this field, (notably theory).
These shortcomings stand in the way of rational policy-making.
Amsterdam as experimental garden
As far as drug use and drug policy are concerned,
the Netherlands, and Amsterdam in particular, hold a leading position
in the world. Since drug policy is less repressive, drug use manifests
itself more openly than elsewhere. Therefore, more than in other
cities or countries, possibilities for conducting relevant, new
empirical research in Amsterdam, exist.
Because views on drug use are so strongly dominated by tight,
almost dogmatic presuppositions, the need for systematic empirical
research on drug use outside of the classic prison-hospital context,
has hardly arisen in the past. With the slow realisation that the
majority of drug use takes place outside of this context, the relatively
easy access to Amsterdam's drug users provides an important advantage
in setting up new research.
The Centre for Drug Research had the following goals:
- Conducting socio-scientific research in the fields of drug
use, drug policy and drug distribution, on high methodological
and theoretical level.
- Developing expertise, theories and research techniques for
the diverse facets of the drug problem in a way, which will lead
to a more scientific understanding of the entire drug research
- Dissemination of knowledge on the complexity of the drug problem
through publications, readings, (guest-)lectures and consulting
among social scientists, lawyers, and policy-makers.
- Contributing in the promotion of international exchange of
research findings and international co-operation in drug research,
via existing international network contacts.
The CEDRO Internet Site
An important task of CEDRO consists in providing
interested parties with research findings. In view of the international
attention attracted by the drug situation in the Netherlands and
the international character of some of the studies, CEDRO has decided
to display a large portion of its research findings on the Internet.
In the autumn of 1995, CEDRO opened its own site on the Internet.
The website has since evolved into the second largest drug research
site in Europe. Though the Internet offers a large amount of drug-related
information, there is a great demand for scientific and systematically
arranged information. Every day, 700 to 800 people visit the site.
On average, per month 41,000 documents are retrieved from the CEDRO
website. The most important sections of the website are the on-line
library and the statistics section.
The extensive on-line library contains most of the journal articles,
papers, and research reports written by the CEDRO staff. Most of
the documents are in English, some of them are in Dutch, but in
many cases CEDRO has chosen to provide German, Italian, French
and Russian translations for our European audience. In fact, CEDRO
was the first organisation in The Netherlands that published Russian
texts on the internet using the Cyrillic alphabet. In many cases,
large documents are also offered in Adobe's PDF format for off-line
printing and reading.
CEDRO uses the internet site and its connected electronic mailing
list as tool for achieving the largest possible dissemination of
research findings. The URL of the website is: http://www.cedro-uva.org/
In fall 2003 it was decided that CEDRO would terminate its costly
research activities because of increasing problems of acquiring
funding for the problems it considered relevant. The website and
some literature study will be continued.
With sufficient funding, secundary analysis will be done on all
available population survey data by Manja Abraham. She will publish
these outcomes with the purpose of obtaining a PhD.