Amsterdam emergency services have hands full with weed smoking tourists: report

Emergency services in Amsterdam increasingly have to treat tourists - both foreign and Dutch - who smoked too much weed. Over the past 15 years the demand for psychiatric crisis beds among foreign tourists almost quadrupled, Het Parool reports after speaking with emergency services in the Dutch capital.

According to emergency room doctor Femke Gresnigt at OLVG Oost, they treat around 250 foreigners who smoked too much cannabis every year. They come in confused, worried that their heart is beating too fast and afraid that they will die, she said to the newspaper. "Usually there is nothing wrong, they just smoked too much weed." Treatment involves a sedative and reassuring words. They're usually fine again within a few hours.

When the problem is less simple, Amsterdam's Emergency Psychiatry steps in. This happens if high tourists have a psychotic break, for example - they lose contact with reality and could pose a risk to others or themselves. That requires an emergency admittance. "We give tranquilizers", psychiatrist Jurgen Cornelis said to Het Parool. "When the drugs are worked out, the psychosis often disappears. That is a matter of hours or days."

Foreign tourists are increasingly making use of Emergency Psychiatry. In 2003, 4.7 percent of crisis beds were occupied by foreign patients, in 2016 it was 16 percent. There is also an increase among Dutch tourists from outside Amsterdam - 5.8 percent in 2003 and 13 percent in 2016. At the same time, the share of Amsterdam residents decreased from over 80 percent in 2003 to 67 percent in 2016 - the most recent figures available. 

"Tourists sometimes put great pressure on the capacity of Amsterdam crisis bed", said Dick Veluwenkamp, director of Arkin, which includes emergency psychiatry. "Thanks to the good cooperation with healthcare institutions and other partners, we expect to continue to be able to cope with the pressure."

According to the doctors, increased mobility and Amsterdam's image as a party city play a role in the increasing tourists needing help after using too much drugs. 


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