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Peter Donald Albert Cohen, Ph.D.


Peter Cohen, Ph.D.
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Peter Cohen has been researching drug use, drug policy and drug use epidemiology at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, as director of the first Amsterdam Drug Research Program, and since 1996 as director of CEDRO, the Centre for Drug Research.

Dr Peter Cohen first entered the field of drug research in 1980 by way of a course in sociology on the 'history of social problems'. In his view, human construction of cultures and societies can be partly understood by studying what a society defines as a problem and why. Since then he has studied the so called drug problem as one of the many 'social constructions' of western culture, based on complex prejudice and ideology. His main interest is to conduct empirical research on typical drug myths such as those relating to addiction to cocaine or to cannabis as a stepping stone to more 'dangerous' drugs. Large-scale epidemiological drug use research in the city of Amsterdam and later in the Netherlands as a whole have been conducted. Dr Cohen is currently Director of the Centre for Drug Research at the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Universiteit van Amsterdam, doing research funded mostly by the Dutch Ministry of Health.

Born: Haarlem, 5 February, 1942

Educated as Experimental Social Psychologist and Sociologist at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1960-1968.

Thesis: Drugs as a social construct. Amsterdam, 1990.

At present Associate Professor, CEDRO Centre for Drugs Research, SCO-Kohnstamm Instituut, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Universiteit van Amsterdam.

CEDRO is led by Dr. Peter Cohen, who has carried out a large amount of research on socio-scientific issues such as drug use, drug policy, and methodological aspects of drug research. This, among other things, led to his invitation by the then Minister of the WVC, (Ministry of Welfare, Public Health and Cultural Affairs), to hold seats in international commissions such as the Pompidou Group, a commission of drug experts, which within the European Council, compiles and improves indicator data for drug policies. In addition, as from 1990, upon request by the European Commission and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports, (VWS), he regularly functioned as advisor for the development of the Observatoire de Drogues of the European Union.

From 1993 until 1995, as representative of the European Parliament, Peter Cohen was on the Board of Directors of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, (EMCDDA), located in Lissabon. From the 'Wereld Gezondheidsorganisatie', (Program of Substance Abuse), he received an invitation to act as advisor for the 'Global Cocaine Project'. During 1992 and 1993, for the benefit of this project, he supplied the research concepts for surveys in twenty countries. It was the 'cocaine study' in particular, which finally earned him the international Lindesmith Award of the American Drug Policy Foundation, which was bestowed upon him in Washington DC, in 1993.

Peter Cohen is a highly regarded speaker in his own country as well as abroad. In addition to giving lectures at numerous scientific conferences, he addressed the Polish Parliamentary Commission, working on penal drug legislature, the Drug Policy Commission of the Belgian Parliament, various drug policy commissions in Italy, (Florence, the Province of Emiglia Romagna, the Province of Trapani in Sicily), a delegation of the German Magistracy, medical associations, and numerous political parties, youth organisations and associations.

Key publications

Cohen, Peter (1990), Drugs as a social construct. Amsterdam. Thesis, pp 1-198.

Sandwijk, P., Cohen, P. & Musterd, S. (1991), Illicit Drug use in Amsterdam. Universiteit van Amsterdam. Monography, pp 1-132.

Cohen, P.D.A.(1992), Junky Elend. Some ways of explaining it and dealing with it. In: Wiener Zeitschrift für Suchtforschung, Vol. 14, 1991, 3/4. pp. 59-64.

Cohen, Peter (1993), Re-thinking drug control policy: Historical perspectives and conceptual tools. Paper presented at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) Geneva, 7-8 July 1993, Palais des Nations, Symposium The crisis of social development in 1990's

Cohen, Peter & Arjan Sas (1993), Ten years of cocaine. A follow-up study of 64 cocaine users in Amsterdam. Amsterdam, Department of Human Geography, Universiteit van Amsterdam. pp.1-126.

Cohen, Peter, & Arjan Sas (1994), Cocaine use in Amsterdam in non deviant subcultures. Addiction Research, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 71-94.

Cohen, Peter, & Arjan Sas (1995), Cocaine use in Amsterdam II. Initiation and patterns of use after 1986. Amsterdam, Department of Human Geography, Universiteit van Amsterdam.

Cohen, Peter (1999), Shifting the main purposes of drug control: From suppression to regulation of use. Reduction of risks as the new focus for drug policy. Paper presented at the Euro-Ibero-American Seminar, 8-9 October 1998, Palácia da Bolsa, Porto, Portugal, promoted by the President of Portugal. International Journal of Drug Policy, 10 (1999), 223-234.

Cohen, Peter (2000), Is the addiction doctor the voodoo priest of Western man? Extended version of an article that appeared in Addiction Research, Special Issue, Vol. 8 (6).

Cohen, Peter D.A., & Hendrien L. Kaal (2001), The irrelevance of drug policy. Amsterdam, CEDRO.

Last update: February 9, 2010