As a frequent reader of Quora, I get notifications on topics that I’m interested in/have knowledge of. So, of course, I get a lot of questions on Amsterdam. One question that keeps popping up is; “Why is it ecstasy/XTC/MDMA legal in The Netherlands/Amsterdam?” (https://www.quora.com/Why-is-MDMA-legal-in-Amsterdam) Let me clear this question for once and for all; it is not legal. Whatever urban myths might be told on the subject, XTC is not legal in Amsterdam or anywhere in the Netherlands. Possession and trade of the drug are prohibited by law.
Please note: XTC is known to be a lot more potent and thus dangerous in The Netherlands, do not think it is safe
Where does the myth of XTC being legal in Amsterdam come from?
To be honest I’m not sure. I guess that the liberal law on soft drugs (marihuana, mushrooms and some herbal drugs) have fueled the belief that any drug is legal in The Netherlands is legal. Another explanation for the myth could be the popularity of the drug in the Amsterdam nightlife scene. Despite its illegal status, the drug is the most consumed drug after nicotine, alcohol, and marihuana which are legal in The Netherlands. In comparison to other countries in Europe, the use of XTC among youngsters 15-34 is significantly higher; 6,6%, in comparison to 1,8% on average. However, it might be that the liberal Dutch culture also influences these numbers, as the Dutch might feel freer, to be honest on the matter. These matters might all have led to the belief that it’s a legal substance. Well, now you know this is not the case.
Is it safe to use XTC in The Netherlands?
No, it’s not. Although usage of the drug is not prohibited, there’s a lot of risk to drugs in any country. However, please take into consideration that;
- First of all, you never know what you’re buying it could be anything. Street dealers often don’t know what they are selling themselves.
- Second, you don’t know how your body reacts to any substance.
- Third, research has pointed out that the potency of XTC is a lot higher in The Netherlands. MDMA, which is the active substance in a pill can vary from 100 mg up to 250 mg. On average ecstasy pills in The Netherlands contain 148 of MDMA, which is a lot more than in other countries.
How can I have my ecstasy tested?
If you understand that there’s a risk to taking ecstasy, but you’re willing to take that risk, we strongly advise having the drugs tested before taking it. There are two organizations in Amsterdam where you can legally have your ecstasy pills tested. These are ‘GGD’ which stands for Public Health Service, and ‘Jellinek Prevention’ which is an organization in Amsterdam specialized in alcohol, drugs and addiction treatment. If you have ecstasy pills tested there’s a big chance that you’ll get the test results the same day. Test locations for ecstasy are:
If you would like to learn why it is legal to have drugs tested and how it works, please check out this article by Jellinek prevention: https://www.jellinek.nl/vraag-antwoord/why-do-they-test-drugs-the-netherlands-and-how-does-it-work/.
How to reduce risks when using XTC?
If you decide to take MDMA, you can reduce the risks by making sure that you’ve done thorough research on the drug. On top of that, it’s always a good idea to have someone around who stays sober. Make sure that the people who you’re with, know what you have taken and in what dosage. Do not combine MDMA usage with alcohol or other drugs, as this increases the risks. The biggest risk of taking MDMA accidentally overdosing. Therefore be extremely cautious. Never take a whole tablet at once, but just a piece of it. Be patient waiting for the effects to kick in, it can take up to 90 minutes.
What are the most common risks of taking ecstasy?
- Hyperthermia; usage of MDMA increases body temperature. One of the effects of the drug is increasing energy, which in its turn, increases the risk of Hyperthermia. Users experience more stamina and the drug enables users to dance longer. This might lead to the body overheating.
- How to prevent hyperthermia; make sure not to take rest from time to time. You might not feel tired or overheated, but to cool down every 90 minutes or so. Make sure to stay hydrated, but don’t overdo it. A non-alcoholic drink is recommended every hour.
- Hyponatriamy; the medical term for water intoxication. The heat of a club combined with a lot of dancing does not only raise the risk of hyperthermia but makes one thirsty as well. While it’s important to stay hydrated, drinking too much water is dangerous as well!
- How to prevent hyponatriamy; make sure to drink in small sips. You don’t need to finish your drink at once. Share a drink with your friends and try to keep track of time. Do not drink more than 1 glass per hour.
- Bad trip/anxiety attack; MDMA can intensify emotions that you did not feel before. It can trigger both positive and negative emotions. You can easily feel overwhelmed by what you are experiencing.
- How to prevent a bad trip/anxiety attack; only take XTC when you feel good both mentally and physically. Make sure you are well-rested. If, at some point, you feel uncomfortable or overwhelmed, make sure to take someone with you to take a rest. Do not panic, try to realise that what you’re feeling is simply because of what you’ve taken. Do not be afraid to seek professional help at the first aid, you will not be arrested.
What are the regulations on the MDMA?
The drug is an illegal substance; production, possession, and trade are a criminal offence. If you get caught you can be prosecuted. The last few years, authorities have been stricter on regulations. At dance parties, there’s often a zero tolerance regulation. You will be searched at the entrance of clubs and festivals. If you get caught with less then one ‘unit’ (pill), there will be no prosecution. One pill or more can lead to prosecution. However, in reality, a user amount of up to three pills often leads to refusal of admission and seizure of the drugs.
I’ve seen XTC for sale in shops, how is that possible?
In Amsterdam so-called ‘smartshops’ sell various herbal drugs, stimulants and magic mushrooms. Among the stimulants, you’ll often find products marketed as ecstasy. These products do not contain MDMA, but substitutes that mimic the effects of XTC. These products are legal to buy and sell in the Netherlands and some other countries. If you’re visiting Amsterdam and are looking for herbal ecstasy, mushrooms or similar products make sure to find a smartshop near you.