Cocaine seized by customs on the tip of a pocket knife. © Marcus Brandt/dpa/Symbolbild
There are the classic addicts who take heroin or crack on a daily basis. And the careerists and partygoers who throw in cocaine or ecstasy. Almost all of them have in common that they do not know exactly what else has been added to their material by the dealers.
Berlin - Free and anonymous analyses of drugs are now possible in Berlin. After years of discussions and preparations, a plan from the 2016 coalition agreement by the SPD, the Left Party and the Greens is being implemented with the so-called drug checking. This was announced by the Senate Health Administration on Tuesday.
GOAL and TARGET GROUP
The offer is aimed at adults who take drugs. These are mainly addicts with daily consumption, but also partygoers who only take something on weekends. Children and adolescents are not allowed to use the offer, nor are professional sellers, according to the website "drugcheckig.berlin". The aim is to achieve "addiction prevention" and "harm reduction in drug use". Consumers should be warned of "particularly harmful preparations", impurities and high doses and reduce their risks when consuming.
EXAMINATION AND ANALYSIS OF DRUGS:
Chemical drugs such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and the stimulant Speed are tested for their components in a neutral laboratory. So-called new psychoactive substances (NpS), also called "bath salts" in the scene, which cause intoxication, are also being tested. Herbal drugs such as cannabis, i.e. marijuana and hashish, or medicines, anabolic steroids or sexual enhancers are not examined.
DRUG TESTING AND COUNSELING
Addicts and other users can hand in samples of their purchases in "drugchecking" consultations at three counseling centers: the addiction counseling initiatives Fixpunkt and Vista and the gay counseling service. Addresses and times of office hours can be found on the Internet. At the beginning of June, a weekly consultation hour was offered on the topic. Before dispensing the drug, there is a consultation.
SHAPE AND QUANTITY
Above all, "powders (including crystals and heroin balls), tablets (pills), trips (felts, cardboard, blotters), capsules and liquids" are accepted. In the case of powders and liquids, the laboratory reportedly requires only a small amount of the substance. "The amount that fits on the tip of a knife (20 - 50 milligrams) or two to three drops is sufficient." When the sample is handed over during the consultation, the substance is placed in a tube provided. Tablets and capsules are accepted as a whole. A return of the drugs dispensed was "excluded".
The State Institute for Forensic and Social Medicine (GerMed) is responsible for the analysis. In the laboratory, harmful and toxic additives are to be discovered, which are often added by manufacturers or sellers of the drugs ("stretches" of the drugs), so that larger quantities can be sold and more money can be raised.
Another mass brawl in the open-air swimming pool – around 20 young people involved
Trial on New Year's Eve riots: Defendant denies
New investigations in the case of Rebecca Reusch: Now her mother speaks out
Dense column of smoke due to major fire in Berlin: civil protection warns
Missing Rebecca Reusch: Many mysteries – and always a suspicion
Fancy a voyage of discovery?
OTHER TOXIC SUBSTANCES IN DRUGS
Heroin is sometimes diluted with rather harmless painkillers such as paracetamol or the stimulant caffeine. Cocaine often contains other toxic substances such as drugs, such as highly effective painkillers, which are very harmful in the long run. Also, a toxic dewormer for animals, which affects the lungs, is often added to cocaine in South America to prolong the effect. Experts consider the additives to be just as harmful as pure coke in the long run. In the case of ecstasy, the problem is often a question of dosage, i.e. how strong individual tablets are.
RESULTS OF THE TESTS
The results should be available after three days to a maximum of one week. Consumers receive a code with which they can check the result in person or on the phone. Active ingredients, quantity (content) and hazardous impurities are listed. "The analysis result will be prepared for you by a pharmacy specialist so that it is understandable for you."
However, it is also possible that novel substances or impurities are not found, i.e. the result is not completely complete. In addition, there is a note: "The associated health risk and the responsibility for negative consumption consequences are borne by you alone."
WARNINGS AND INFORMATION
The first warnings have already been published on the website "drugcheckig.berlin" as part of the project, for example on various colorful tablets of the stimulant MDMA, of which ecstasy consists mainly. The list includes the date of submission of the sample, weight, quantity of active ingredients, a risk assessment and safety instructions against overdose. For the party night, the advice is: "Accept when the MDMA effect wears off." It is also important to take breaks from consumption for as long as possible. "Therefore, take breaks of at least four weeks between intakes."
About a certain tablet "Tiger" in the form of a tiger's head, it says: "To prevent overdoses, the tablet must be divided, and only fragments should be taken." Women should only take 1.3 milligrams of active ingredient per kilogram of body weight, i.e. "about 60 mg of MDMA hydrochloride for a 80 kg woman". And further: "If you really want to do it accurately, you pulverize the tablet, mix the powder well and weigh the amount of powder to be consumed with a fine scale."
The site also provides information on all common drugs, forms of distribution, ingredients, dosages, effects, side effects, long-term medical consequences and the legal situation.
The public prosecutor's office and the police were involved in the years of preparation through a cooperation agreement with the Senate. Therefore, there will be no prosecution at the counseling and testing centers, although it is known that there are people on the road who possess and carry prohibited drugs.
CRITICISM, PRAISE AND COSTS
In Vienna and Zurich, there are good experiences with similar projects. Critics in Germany saw the project as an incentive for further drug use. Berlin's Senator for Health, Ina Czyborra (SPD), said that the "analysis-based counseling" offered "the opportunity to address party and recreational drug users, who have so far been little reached, and to take risks (...) to raise awareness". Overdoses and poisoning could be avoided and new trends could be identified. It is not about facilitating drug use. According to an earlier report by Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg, the project is expected to cost around 200,000 euros per year. Dpa