Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Alternative Coca Reduction [Expansion] Strategies in the Andean Region

Commissioned by the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress, this report, dedicated to the official line that Coca cultivation ought to be reduced, Alternative Coca Reduction Strategies in the Andean Region, adopted from a contractor report prepared for the OTA in July, 1991, ended up presenting findings that contradict this dogma of official policy:

...the utility of traditional coca consumption for Andean populations cannot be ignored. Three physiological benefits of coca use (for relief from altitude sickness, as a remedy to vitamin deficiencies, and in conserving body heat), are specifically appropriate to Andeans who must endure the stresses of high-altitude labor and a low protein diet. Evidence does not [emphasis added] support claims that traditional long-term traditional use is harmful. Rather, the multiple advantages of coca use indicate that it has a strong positive role in Andean health. [47]

Alternative Coca Reduction Strategies in the Andean Region, noted Coca's widespread medicinal/therapeutic/dietary importance as an:

Anesthetic/antiseptic: Indigens and non-indigens apply coca topically as a local anesthetic; coca also has antiseptic qualities. The cocaine alkaloid has been shown to exert a powerful bactericidal action on gram-negative and coccus organisms.

Curative/preventative remedy: Coca tea, consumed by indigenous and non-indigenous Andean people, alleviates the symptoms of altitude sickness; combats the effects of hypoglycemia; and helps prevent various lung ailments (an attribute of particular significance to the mining population). For example, chewing coca leaves is believed to limit inhalation of silicates that cause silicosis.

Dietary supplement: Coca leaves contain vitamin A and significant amounts of B, B, and C; they also contain calcium, iron, and phosphorus, in either the leaves or the calcium carbonate customarily taken with the leaves. Leaf chewing helps alleviate nutritional deficiencies of a diet consisting principally of potatoes.

Stimulant: Coca leaves give energy for work, reduces physical discomfort and fatigue, alleviates hunger, sharpens mental processes, and, at high altitudes, helps the chewer keep warm. [48]

Alternative Coca Reduction Strategies in the Andean Region additionally notes that "reports that Coca is bad are unfounded," and significantly, though deferring somewhat to political and economic realities, suggests that we consider re-legalizing Coca, and its potential benefits:

"Options [to reduce the coca supply for cocaine production] might include expanding the international market for legitimate coca products (e.g. coca tea, pharmaceuticals). However, the large amounts of coca produced are likely to overflow existing legitimate markets.

Alternatively, developing new products from coca may have some merit. Potential medicinal and therapeutic applications include:

1) treatment for spasmodic conditions of the gastro-intestinal tract, motion sickness, toothache and other mouth sores;

2) caffeine substitute;

3) anti-depressant; and

4) adjunct to weight reduction and physical fitness.

Examination of the other alkaloids found in coca might yield additional industrial possibilities. Although the research and development time required to bring new products to market may reduce the short term utility of this approach, it could be a useful component in an overall package of efforts to reduce illicit coca production."

I felt vindicated, having said a bit of this in my papers published in the D.P.F. conference paper compendium, particularly the latest of these three, “Coca Conversion: Onwards to Coca!”

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