Drug testing in the Netherlands: Why and how does it work?
If you buy drugs in the Netherlands, be aware that the potency and purity of the drugs you buy here can be very different from the drugs you buy in your own country. In other words; it’s impossible to know how strong (pure) the drugs are. If you are trying drugs for the first time or don’t have much experience, be extra careful. We advise you to take a lower dose than you would take in your home country.
If you are staying in Amsterdam for more than a week, you can get your drugs tested anonymously at the Jellinek or GGD Amsterdam drug testing service. Drugs that you submit are checked on the spot or analysed in a laboratory. Pills can be compared to the pills in our database. About 30 to 50% of the pills can be recognised that way. This means you’ll get the result immediately.
Are you planning to visit our drug checking service? Please look here for our opening hours, adresses and how drug checking works.
History of drug testing in the Netherlands
At the end of the 80’s Stichting Adviesbureau Drugs (SAD) and Jellinek stepped forward as the pioneering organizations of drug checking. They were illegally testing drug samples of consumers. In that time (1987) SAD also started doing reagent testing (also see ‘how does testing work’) combined with health promotion and drug education at parties/events. They did this under the ‘Safe House Campaign’ banner. Reagent testing gave limited information about the drugs content. But it was better than no information at all. Back then, the drug market was not as complicated and diverse compared to now. So given information was generally very useful for the consumer.
The Drug Information Monitoring System (DIMS) was founded in 1992. In February 1999 the minister of health, Els Borst (ministry of public health, welfare and sport) decided to centralize the drug checking and put the coordination of the DIMS program under the Trimbos Institute’s responsibility (Netherlands Institute of mental health and addiction).
The DIMS program further professionalized the drug-checking service in cooperation with another few alcohol and other drugs services (AoD services). Dancefloor testing moved to test locations in offices.
Since 1999, the primary goal of DIMS is not to offer a service to the consumer, but to monitor the Dutch illegal drug market. Based on its observations, action can be taken when an acute public health risk occurs. The possibility for the consumer to know what is in their drug is obviously a useful outcome as well.
Over the years the test service of DIMS has become better known by the general population. An increasing number of people that use drugs access the service. Especially around the public holidays and the festival season. The last couple of years it happened frequently that more drug samples were collected than the laboratory was able to analyze. There is simply not enough funds to send every collected drug sample to the lab. The DIMS program has started researching other methods to analyse drugs since 2016 to accommodate these increased needs (see FTIR section).
Why does the government allow drug checking?
The government recognizes that drug testing offers several (public health) advantages:
Warnings / Red-alerts
In the interest of public health, the government allows drug checking. The DIMS program has the task to monitor the illegal drug market and to inform consumers when potential dangerous situations occur. Warning the public has happened several times in the past. Chances are big that this has saved lives, but this is, of course, difficult to prove. For example: At the end of 2014 a pink superman pill (colour of pil + logo/shape) was found that contained a very high dose of the hazardous substance PMMA. After putting out a warning the drug has not been seen at the drug checking services anymore and has not caused any incidents in the Netherlands, as far as we know. It has however caused several deaths in other European countries.
List of risky pills
Since 2015 the DIMS program publishes a list of extra risky pills on their Red Alert App. This does not mean that other pills don’t have risks, but these are pills you definitely should avoid. Because the DIMS program does not test all drugs that circulate on the market, this list is not complete. So it is important to be aware that other pills that are not on this list may still contain risky contaminants or adulterants.
Education and prevention
The collected drug-samples provide a representation of the types of drugs that are used in the Netherlands and useful information about trends and other developments of the illegal drug market. A clear example of this is the vast increase of the average amount of MDMA in ecstasy tablets in the last few years. Because of this it was clear that more education and attention was needed for ecstasy. Especially the risks linked to the use of high doses of MDMA. On most drug testing sites, you’ll be welcomed by a friendly peer educator from the Unity harm reduction project.
Drug checking in other countries
All drug checking services in the world have united in TEDI. Check our website TEDI – Trans-European Drug Information project (tedinetwork.org)
Versie: januari 2023