Trends on the Dutch drug market identified by DIMS in 2018
In the Netherlands, the Drugs Information and Monitoring System (DIMS) monitors the Dutch drug market for over 27 years. The main objective is to monitor trends and developments of the Dutch recreational drug market and to identify and issue possible additional health risks.
In 2018, DIMS analysed a total number of 12.634 samples handed in by users at one of the 31 office-based drug checking services in the country.
Samples that could not be determined and identified through a database, were either analysed using Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) or using gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and liquid chromatography diode array detection (LC-DAD) by a specialised laboratory. Once the results were interpreted, they were registered in a specific database and used for scientific research, public health purposes, as well as policy making.
In 2018, 62% of all samples handed in was sold as ecstasy tablets or MDMA powders followed by cocaine powders (11%), amphetamine powders (8%) and 4-FA in various forms (4%).
The average dosage of MDMA base in tablets sold as ecstasy was with 171 milligrams again higher than previous years, with more than 72% of the tablets containing more than 150 milligrams of MDMA.
The average percentage of cocaine in powders decreased last year slightly to 65%. Also, the percentage of levamisole in submitted cocaine samples decreased to 35%.
For amphetamine or speed, the average percentage of amphetamine was 48%, which is a little higher compared to previous years.
Interestingly, in 2018 again a decrease in the number of samples sold as 4-FA was observed, but more importantly during the year the number of samples sold as 4-FA, but containing 4-FMA instead after laboratory analysis increased.
These results show how dynamic the Dutch drug market is and how important it is to have a nationwide scientific monitor to identify possible hazardous developments such as the increasing high dosages in ecstasy tablets or replacement of 4-FA by 4-FMA.
By rapidly and efficiently communicating these results to users of these drugs, DIMS is an efficient tool not only for monitoring the national drug market, but also for harm reduction.