Synthetic cannabis widely used in Dutch prisons
Synthetic cannabinoids (SCRAs) are widely used in prisons in the Netherlands, the Trimbos Institute reported after an investigation in collaboration with C-EHRN.
According to Trimbos, SCRAs are smuggled into prison in the post. The synthetic drug is impregnated on paper. In this form, SCRAs are odorless and very difficult to detect. They also don’t show up on conventional urine tests.
“The effects of SCRAs are similar to those of THC, making the user feel relaxed and intoxicated,” Trimbos said. “However, the effects can vary considerably in strength and duration and can cause other side effects that can even be life-threatening in extreme cases.”
The institute investigated drug use in the Penitentiary Institution (PI) in Ter Apel due to international research showing that people in detention use drugs substantially more often and are more likely to do so regularly. They found that cannabis, alcohol, and SRAs are highly used in Ter Apel. The inappropriate use of prescription pain, sleep, and sedative medication is also widespread.
“Although drug use in the PI in Ter Apel does not seem to lead to visible major safety or health incidents, it is likely that detainees do not readily turn to the medical service for drug-related health problems, partly for fear of sanctions or stigmatization,” the researchers said. They called drug use in prison a cause for concern, and there is room for improvement with regard to information and care.
The researchers recommended broader studies into drug use in Dutch prisons and shifting the focus from only stopping drug smuggling to also providing information and care for detainees and prison staff.
“The investigation results have made us realize that we have been looking at the subject of drugs for too long from a safety point of view only. We do our best to prevent drugs from being smuggled in one way or another. It is also important to look at the subject of drugs from the perspective of health, care, and the professionalization of our employees,” said Laurens Huizenga of the Penitentiary Institution in Ter Apel.