In the night of Wednesday, 25 February to Thursday, 26 February, three people suffered health problems after using white heroin that had been sold to them as cocaine. The affected people are three Danish tourists aged 21, 22 and 24 respectively. The victims were admitted to a hospital, but discharged after treatment. It is the first occurrence of people suffering problems after using white heroin since November 2014. The police are continuing their efforts to find the perpetrator; however, in light of the acute risk the drug poses, a four-party cooperation consisting of the City of Amsterdam, the Public Prosecution Service (Openbaar Ministerie), the police and the Public Health Service of Amsterdam (GGD) has announced plans to reinstate the large-scale warning campaign that was started last year after the first occurrences of casualties of the drug.
The public information displays, first used between 8 November 2014 and 19 January 2015, will return to central locations in the city. Other aspects of the campaign, such as posters, teams distributing leaflets and a social media campaign, are also set to be reinstated. The four cooperating parties see it as their most important task to safeguard all citizens and the many thousands of tourists that visit the city and to guarantee their health and safety. As such, it is now the absolute priority of all involved parties to prevent further cases. This takes priority over the investigation into the identity of the perpetrator and, of course, also over concerns about potential negative effects on the image of the city.
Warning the public
The cooperating parties stress that this is both an exceptional and dangerous situation that must be met with special measures. Due to the serious danger to the health of potential users of the drug the parties have resolved to reinstate the warning campaign on the streets of Amsterdam.
In specific terms, this means that just like last year, public information displays will be placed at locations that are popular with tourists, focussing on entertainment and nightlife districts. The campaign begins today with the placing of ten public information displays at Central Station and on various squares that are centres for entertainment and nightlife. The number of displays will be increased over the course of the following days. The campaign is targeted to communicate with young budget tourists, as they are most at risk of falling victim to the drug. Because that target group is hard to reach, there will be teams distributing information leaflets and posters will be displayed in businesses such as cafés, bars, restaurants, coffeeshops, smartshops, hotels and hostels.
Thirty selected smartshops will also be offering drug testing kits. To prevent these tests conveying a false sense of security, it will be clearly communicated that the tests do not warrant that the tested drug is safe to use. The test’s sole function is to determine whether the drug contains heroin. It cannot determine whether the drug is indeed cocaine or whether it is ‘safe’ or ‘clean’.
All medical assistance services are informed about the matter and are doing their utmost to prevent further victims.
The police are making a considerable effort to find the perpetrator(s). As yet it is unclear whether the drugs in question are from the same batch and or dealer as last year’s. As yet it is unclear whether the drugs in question are from the same batch and or dealer as last year’s. The police are currently investigating this and will issue a statement later today.
The reward of 15,000 euros previously offered by the Public Prosecution Service for information leading to the perpetrator is still available.
Three drug-related fatalities and 17 injured in 2014
Late last year there were three drug-related fatalities in Amsterdam, while 17 other people became seriously unwell after using heroin that they believed to be cocaine. Due to the use of such extremely dangerous hard drugs, the victims suffered respiratory distress.
As a result, a large-scale warning campaign was started on 26 October 2014. After the campaign was extended on 27 November, there were no further casualties and no further instances of this specific drug being sold were reported. In early January 2015 the campaign was ended using a phased approach.
The emergency services, the hospitals, the Public Health Service and its Red Alert Team, the advisory body Adviesbureau Drugs and the narcotics research and information centre Jellinek continued monitoring the situation. The police remained alert and continued actively to seek the suspected street dealer. In addition, it was agreed to reinstate the campaign in the case of new incidents with white heroin. This incident has now occurred.
Further information and an appeal for witnesses
The cooperating parties appeal to anyone who has specific information or simply witnessed anything suspicious to urgently contact the police. It is also possible to make an anonymous report. Essential contact numbers include:
- Emergency police, fire brigade, ambulance: 112
- Police information: 0900 8844
- Anonymous tip-line: 0800 7000
In addition, the City of Amsterdam would like to stress that in the Netherlands, anyone who experiences discomfort, difficulties or pain following any drug use can always seek medical assistance without risking prosecution.
Further information can be found at the Public Health Service of Amsterdam’s dedicated website www.drugsalert.nl.