AMSTERDAM - This Christmas holiday has been the killing season for cocaine-seeking tourists in Amsterdam. After taking white heroin sold to them in the streets as cocaine, three British tourists to the Netherlands’s principal city died and 17 more were rushed to hospitals. Amsterdam’s response has been lauded as a rational and intelligent way for dealing with a grave problem that can seriously damage the city’s image.
Parallel to an ongoing investigation into the sale of the drugs, urban officials have plastered the city with Drug Alert pamphlets, posters and electronic boards dotting favorite tourist spots, launched an intense media campaign, and posted warnings in various social media cautioning tourists of the danger.
The electronic boards splashing alerts in big neon lights read: “Caution: white heroin sold to tourist as cocaine…Tourists in hospital…3 have died… Ignore street dealers.”
The posters and leaflets distributed by the Health Ministry are more detailed: “Currently extremely dangerous cocaine is being sold. Several tourists were hospitalized with life threatening conditions after using cocaine bought on the street. Three tourists have died. Research has revealed that the “cocaine” used was actually white heroin. If someone faints or starts breathing superficially or stops breathing call 112 for an ambulance.”
At the end the poster advises: “You will not be arrested for using drugs in Amsterdam.”
The Dutch Justice Ministry has offered a €15,000 reward for information on the drug dealers who could have been selling the fatal drug. Hotels frequented by young tourists are providing leaflets with information and “some 20,000 British tourists in the Netherlands or planning to visit have been sent a text message warning them about the ‘coke killer’, ” local broadcaster ATV said.
Also the Amsterdam City Council made test kits available for just €2 at the city’s ‘smart shops,’ which sell legal drugs and paraphernalia, to confirm that cocaine is not heroin. Special teams sell them on the streets, according to Dutch News.
The three young tourists died after taking what they thought was cocaine but was actually a lethal form of white heroin.
“The campaign is striking because you’d never see one like it in the U.S.” the Washington Post reported, praising the fact that rather than threats, the Dutch authorities provide information on how to receive medical assistance and how to keep potential overdose victims alert while waiting for help.
“The Dutch approach allows authorities to have a frank dialogue with drug users when new dangers arise, like the fake cocaine,” the paper wrote. “The destigmatization of drug use in the Netherlands also plays a big role in this. Drug users there aren’t thought of as criminals, as in the U.S., but rather as normal people engaging in unhealthy behavior.”
City mayor Eberhard van der Laan said that no stone will be left unturned in the city’s efforts to stop tourists from dying, despite the impact that the focus on drugs has on Amsterdam’s reputation. He also said that every year more than 1,000 street dealers selling fake drugs are arrested in the city.
Forbes/Dec. 29, 2014
Photos: lights-Forbes; men's photo- Facebook
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