During the annual Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE) the Dutch capital turns into a madhouse. ADE lasts five days and consists of 300 events where no less than 2000 DJs show their skills. The event attracts more than 350.000 visitors. It’s a Valhalla for lovers of dance. Unfortunately, during the past ADE four people deceased, three of them likely as a consequence of hard drug use.
Inevitably, such a high death toll immediately leads to heated discussions between different political parties. Christian Democrat councilor Marijke Shahsavari says: ‘I refuse to accept that hard drugs are used massively at dance parties. Because they are bad for health, hard drugs are prohibited by law. It’s necessary that municipality and organisers sit down to talk in order to ensure the event will be drug free in the future. If necessary the organisation should deploy sniffer dogs.’
Green Left faction leader Rutger Groot Wassink believes, however, that drugs and dance are inseparable. He advocates for good information and restoring the ability to test pills at parties. Currently this is forbidden, while accidents usually occur as a result of contaminated ecstasy pills and poor education.
Groot Wassink claims the Green Left party basically has no problems with recreational drug use, as long as conditions causing incidents are minimized. SP councilor Peter Kwint and D66 councilor Ariella Verheul share the opinion of Wassink.
Drugs and dance are intertwined
The left parties thus are of the opinion that drugs and dance are inseparable from each other. Research by the Dutch Trimbos Institute for mental health and addiction care underlines this: of people frequently attending parties 60% occasionally takes a pill, 20% even swallows 2,5 pills per party.
In addition, one may wonder whether the danger of ecstasy is such that its use must be eradicated. Internist and clinical pharmacologist Kees Kramer of the Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre claims that daily drinking alcohol is many times more harmful than occasionally taking a pill. He says: ‘It’s highly unusual that three people succumb due to drug use during one event. However, if we would appoint all alcohol victims in the newspaper, we would need an extra edition. Without doubt drugs are dangerous, but alcohol is even more so.’
Ecstasy is relatively harmless
Kramers can substantiate his claims with findings of the Trimbos Institute. In the Netherlands an average of two people per year die from XTC and 1664 from the effects of alcohol. Traffic fatalities involving alcohol aren’t included in these figures. If they would, the number of deaths would be even higher. In short: ecstasy makes relatively few casualties. Still, it’s important to aim for maximum prevention.
Besides testing and good information, it’s important that people drink enough while partying. For this reason Amsterdam recently incorporated a law to provide free tap water to partygoers: on festivals there should be at least one outlet per 150 visitors. Unfortunately bars and restaurants are exempt from this rule and the majority of the ADE occurred in bars. Therefore, free water taps weren’t at ADE yet.
Drug tests or drug dogs?
In previous municipality elections the Christian Democrats only won one seat, while the Green Left, D66 and SP together got 26 seats. We therefore can assume it will take a while before sniffer dogs make their entry.
Hopefully ADE will take necessary measures next year: committing participating bars to provide free water and placing information booths. Furthermore, we hope the left wing parties manage to convince the Christian Democrats that drug testing is wiser than using drug dogs.
Written by: Sofie