Health services flooded with requests to test drugs
It is getting increasingly popular in the Netherlands for drug users to get their drugs tested for unsafe substances. The GGD’s testing service now often has waiting times or has to tell people that they don’t have the capacity to test the substance, the Volkskrant reports.
The GGD in Amsterdam has consultation hours on Monday and Tuesday for people who want to get their drugs tested. Unfortunately, long queues are becoming more and more common, Mirjam Reitsma, the coordinator of the drug testing service at GGD Amsterdam, said to the newspaper. The testing service is particularly in demand during festivals. “During the Amsterdam Dance Event at the end of October, we worked with double teams. Still, we couldn't get through the entire queue during the three-hour consultation.”
According to Luara Smit-Rigter, the national coordinator for the Drugs Information and Monitoring System (DIMS), this is a nationwide problem. The DIMS is a network of about 32 test locations managed by various addiction care institutions and the GGD Amsterdam. In 2019, DIMS tested around 18,000 people’s drugs. That slowed down during the pandemic but is quickly picking up again. “We expect around 20,000 visitors this year. A new record,” Smit-Rigter said.
GGD Amsterdam and DIMS are concerned that their limited capacity will discourage people from seeking them out if they have concerns about what’s in their drugs. The pressure on the test locations also comes at the expense of information provision. Workers have less time to spend with people who come in. “If we see that a young user is nervous during their visit to the test service and is uncertain about use, we want to guide them as best as possible and advise against use, for example. That is especially at risk during the busy festival periods,” a worker at the GGD Amsterdam said to the newspaper.
The test centers are trying to boost capacity with new techniques that will allow them to test more drugs in-house instead of sending them to a lab and waiting a week for results. The test location of the GGD Amsterdam, for example, tries to give every visitor at least an indication of the content of their drug by performing a quick acid test. “As a result, a user will at least know whether, for example, an ecstasy pill actually consists of MDMA,” Reitsma said.