The WHO cocaine project
In 1995 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) announced in a press release the publication of the results of the largest global study on cocaine use ever undertaken.
The study concluded that the use of coca leaves appears to have no negative health effects and has positive therapeutic, sacred and social functions for indigenous Andean populations.
The most important recommendation holds that: "WHO/PSA should investigate the therapeutic benefits of coca leaf" and a broader statement on researching the impact on health at individual and population levels of different legislation and drug control measures.
According to the study, cocaine-related problems should be kept in perspective. Health problems from the use of legal substances, particularly alcohol and tobacco, are greater than health problems from cocaine use.
Cocaine-related problems are widely perceived to be more common for intensive, high-dosage users and either unknown or very rare for occasional, low-dosage users.
A decision in the World Health Assembly banned the publication of the study. The US representative threatened that "if WHO activities relating to drugs failed to reinforce proven drug control approaches, funds for the relevant programmes should be curtailed". This led to the decision to discontinue publication.
A part of the study has been recuperated and is now available on the TNI's website. We feel this information is valid, important and needs to be available in the public domain.
In the short article WHO: 'Six Horsemen ride out' there is more information on this case.