REPORTING. Take drugs “as safely as possible”: in Berlin, drug addicts have their drugs tested for free in centers

With the “Drug Checking” project, launched by the city of Berlin in June, the authorities want to try to limit the damage caused by drugs in the German capital. In three centres, drug addicts can have their drug samples checked free of charge and anonymously before consuming them, to find out what exactly they contain.

>> Drugs are always easier to access in Europe, worries a report

In the center of the district of Charlottenburg, in the west of Berlin, consultations take place once a month, by appointment. Consumers receive a personal and anonymous code, and are then received by Conor Toomey. “We ask a few questions to find out where people bought the substance and what they think they bought. We collect a small amount of it in this sachet or this pipette and we send the sample to the laboratory”, explains the manager. Since the start of the operation, 200 tests have been carried out in Berlin.

Conor Toomey, one of the program managers "Drug Checking" in Berlin, with the kit to take the drug samples.  (SÉBATSIEN BAER / RADIO FRANCE)

“The consumer does not know what he absorbs”

The samples are then sent and tested at the toxicology laboratory in Berlin, in a small room no bigger than a kitchen. Stefan Scholtis analyzes about fifty samples of LSD, ecstasy, amphetamines, cocaine every week, and very often, he finds impurities.

“In more than one in two cases, there are mixtures, for example cocaine with an anesthetic which, in high doses, can cause heart rhythm disorders and lead to deathdeplores the scientist, who points to another problem: “The highly variable amounts of active substances. A cachet can contain very little, or a lot. The consumer does not know what he is absorbing.”

The head of the toxicology laboratory at the Berlin Institute of Forensic Medicine, Stefan Scholtis.  (SEBASTIEN BAER / RADIO FRANCE)

An initiative welcomed by Bernhard, who is waiting in front of the Neukölln center to have his sample tested. “In principle, we know the dealers we buy from. Obviously, they want to keep their customers and don’t want them to die. But it can still be dangerous if you don’t know what’s inside. It’s good to be able to do the tests.”

The German capital victim of the ravages of drugs

The “Drug Checking” operation is supposed to help fight the ravages of drugs, especially in Berlin, where 223 people died from drugs in 2021, a record figure in the country. If some critics see it as an operation that could encourage drug use, Vasili Franco is not of this opinion. “Drug use is a reality. You can ban it, you can punish it, people will still take drugsassures the one who follows the file for the environmentalist party. The role of politicians is not to look the other way, but to offer help. And if people take drugs, they have to do it in the safest way possible.”

The experiment should be completed at the end of the year, but given its success, it could be extended, or even extended to other regions of Germany.

Users can have their drugs tested in Berlin – report by Sébastien Baer


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