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Drug users flood health services for drug testing

by Ties Inc.

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In the Netherlands, it is becoming increasingly popular for drug users to have their drugs tested for unsafe substances. The GGD's testing service now often has waiting times or has to tell people that they are unable to test the drug, de Volkskrant reports.

The GGD in Amsterdam has consultation hours on Mondays and Tuesdays for people who have their drugs want to get tested. Unfortunately, long queues are becoming more and more common, says Mirjam Reitsma, the coordinator of the drug testing service of the GGD Amsterdam.
Especially during festivals, the test service is in great demand. “During the Amsterdam Dance Event at the end of October, we worked with double teams. However, during the three-hour consultation, we did not get through the entire queue.”

Drug testing sites too crowded

According to Luara Smit-Rigter, the national coordinator of the Drugs Information and Monitoring System (DIMS), this is a national problem. The DIMS is a network of approximately 32 test locations managed by various addiction care institutions and the GGD Amsterdam. In 2019, DIMS tested approximately 18.000 human drugs. That decreased during the pandemic, but is quickly picking up again. “We expect around 20.000 visitors this year. A new record”, says Smit-Rigter.

GGD Amsterdam and DIMS fear that their limited capacity will discourage people from seeking them out if they are concerned about what is in their drugs. The pressure on the test locations is also at the expense of information provision. Employees have less time for people who come in. "If we see that a young user is nervous during his visit to the test service and is unsure about the use, we want to guide him as best as possible and advise against use."

The testing centers are trying to ramp up capacity with new techniques that allow them to test more drugs internally instead of sending them to a lab and waiting a week for results. For example, the test location of the GGD Amsterdam tries to give every visitor an indication of the content of the drugs by performing a quick acid test. “As a result, a user at least knows whether an ecstasy pill actually consists of MDMA,” says Reitsma.

Source: NLtimes.nl (EN)

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