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Drugs are not the devil

Going through the headlines of Dutch newspapers over the past few weeks, one point becomes clear: ecstasy is bad, taking it is irresponsible, and drugs have to be banned from festivals. The three people that died at Amsterdam Dance Event have died from an overdose of ecstasy, and buying cocaïne is stupid because you could end up with white heroïne, from which another three people have died already. You could definitely say that hard drugs are hot news in the Netherlands at the moment, especially related to festivals. But, let’s be honest. If drug dogs would be checking each and every person on a festival, there would not be a lot of people left with enough courage to still go to a festival. Fact is that a lot of people on festivals use hard drugs, mostly ecstasy, and those people will not go anymore if drugs would be completely banned. In 2013, 79% of people that had been to a festival in the Netherlands had used ecstasy. Festivals are not so much about the music however; the feeling the music gives in combination with drugs is what creates the fantastic festival feeling that a lot of people aim for.

Kingsday Festival ’14

According to the National Drug Monitor, published by the Dutch Scientific Research and Documentary Centre, ecstasy is a drug with both a stimulating and entactogenic function. The entactogenic function makes people feel connected and makes it easier to get in touch with strangers, which makes ecstasy the party- and dance drug. Personally, I have been to two festivals where drugs was used. Walking around on a festival there are several things that will not go unnoticed. The terrain is filled with people dancing on music coming from several podia, on the left I see people eating snacks from the various food stalls, and on the right there is always a queue waiting for the toilets. But as the hours pass by and I look more closely, I see jaws clenching, teeth grinding, dilated pupils, and people that look like they can rave for hours. Additionally, due to the raised body temperature caused by ecstasy, I see boys taking off their shirts all around me and more people drinking water than people drinking beer. Opposite from the high water intake, ravers tend to lose their appetite and hence the queues at the food stalls disappear. What is particularly striking are the strangers hugging and dancing together as if they are best friends. “I just really want to hug every person I see when I am on a festival”, claims one of my friends. His girlfriend ads to that: “I have never been this much in love”. All these ravers on drugs are certainly very friendly!

This last point is made by many people that have used drugs before. People on ecstasy do not get into fights, such as people that have consumed alcohol. The Dutch ‘Stop Meaningless Violence Foundation’ claims that it is known that soft drugs do not result in violent behaviour, and hard drugs, mostly cocaine, only have this effect when used frequently. This supports the claims made by ravers that festivals are mostly peaceful happenings. Alcohol on the other hand does have an influence on violent behaviour. In just the Netherlands every year about 40.000 acts of violence are reported that are acted upon under the influence of alcohol. Also hospital visits are less frequent among drug users than alcohol users. According to the Dutch Scientific Research and Documentary Centre, in 2012 there were 67 cases (0,0068% of ecstasy consumers in the age 15-64) in which ecstasy users had to go to the hospital, while in the same year two million people (16,09% of alcohol consumers of 12 years and older) got into the hospital with alcohol-related issues. In addition to that, the three deaths caused by ecstasy at Amsterdam Dance Event have been highlighted in the news a lot, but per year a lot more lives are lost due to alcohol. In 2012 for instance, only 3 people died with ecstasy being the direct cause, while in the same year 1679 people died with alcohol being the direct cause. In this last number the amount of deaths related to drunk-driving, alcohol as the secondary cause, and deaths due to violence related to alcohol are not even included. Therefore, I claim that rather than pinpointing hard drugs as the devil, we should take a closer look at alcohol consuming behaviour, and with that start an anti-alcohol campaign to make people more consciouss of the negative effects of alcohol that I have just pointed out.

Wednesday December 3: White heroine problem in Amsterdam

Wednesday December 3: White heroine problem in Amsterdam

In sum, Dutch newspapers tend to overreact when drug related issues happen. We must not focus on small accidents with ecstasy, but rather on the cause of many more deaths per year: alcohol. Solely because alcohol is generally accepted by our community does not make it any more safe than drugs. We have to shift the perspective of the Dutch from drugs are the devil, to anti-alcohol is the answer.

 

By Melissa de Jonge

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