People died in Berghain

Debate about drug deaths : How Berlin clubs could deal with drugs

Well, drugs are also used in Berlin's nightlife - and all the intoxicants are more common in clubs, but also in pubs and living rooms than many Berliners assume. A few days ago, the “Spiegel” caused a stir across the city with a story about a fatal evening in June 2017 in Berghain. It is about an American woman who died after an MDMA overdose - she had swallowed two ecstasy pills.

Senator for culture Klaus Lederer (left) is quoted as saying that politicians shouldn't interfere in the inner workings of the clubs: "It doesn't help either to march in with a hundred police." they are “places of solidarity”.

Both Lederer personally and many politicians in the red-red-green coalition have repeatedly pointed out that prohibition is reaching its limits in Berlin, in other words: it threatens to become pointless. Focus raids and anti-drug campaigns could not prevent the fact that in Berlin - according to all known facts - people regularly consume a lot: mostly cannabis, cocaine, all kinds of amphetamines such as MDMA.

Because there is a need for drugs, left and green advocate legalization, but at least allow drug checking. The idea that this is already happening in Switzerland is banal: In relevant places, consumers can have their intoxicants tested for potentially toxic substances without the threat of arrest. In the best case, there is also prevention advice, i.e. laboratory and street work in one.

The administration of Health Senator Dilek Kolat (SPD) favors that. Kolat tried to shed light on in a study which drugs are consumed in clubs. The study carried out by the Charité is not representative, but offers laypeople insights: 887 people answered questions, more than 60 percent said they had used cannabis in the past 30 days, 50 percent amphetamines and 36 percent cocaine. However, there will hardly be any drug checking in the foreseeable future, which many of the respondents also called for. The legal hurdles are enormous, the Narcotics Act forbids having drugs examined and then handed over to users. Justice Senator Dirk Behrendt (Greens) is in conversation with the public prosecutor, said a spokesman, but it would be better to change the Narcotics Act. This is a federal matter. Some, still few in the red-red-green coalition, are therefore considering starting a Federal Council initiative. In the federal government, however, the situation would also be difficult because the CDU is almost unanimous against drug checking.

Raids in Berghain cannot be justified

There is, well, cause for the hardliners to reconsider their position. Even among police officers, there are not only opponents of cautious liberalization. Drug checking? That is a political decision, says Olaf Schremm, the head of the narcotics department of the State Criminal Police Office, weighing the Tagesspiegel. “But it's an interesting approach.” After all, Schremm is the city's top drug investigator - and was portrayed a bit too much as a desk clerk in the “Spiegel” text. It is apparently difficult, especially with a view of Berghain, to order constant police visits. There is not even one complaint per month about alleged drug trafficking in the club in Friedrichshain. According to the police, the reports are so vague that they cannot justify raids.

The nightlife workers, by the way, almost unanimously plead for a different drug policy - but at least for legal drug checking. The majority of operators, bouncers and bartenders consider this to be sensible when it comes to pills. "They are often blatantly adulterated," says Rosa Neuman (name changed). The 31-year-old Berliner has been behind the counters of various clubs for 14 years. And although drugs are taken as a matter of course, the staff is by no means overly tolerant. “A friend of mine once flew out of Bar25 because he had laid a line.” What is meant is: cocaine. Practically, adds a 31-year-old club employee, however, this supposed zero tolerance policy means: “Don't get caught!” It is clear to every operator that drugs are also used in his shop. "It's just expected that you can handle it if you do," says Neuman. Consumption has increased in the past ten or twelve years - mostly in the toilets of the shops. But even there, says the 31-year-old man, the following applies in theory: "If I go to the bouncer and say: 'I think they're pulling something in the toilet‘ and they get caught - then they'll be kicked out. "

Taboo drugs in clubs too

In an emergency, club operators quickly call the ambulance, there is broad consensus in the industry. Usually this is not necessary. "When someone has a crash, they usually need two hours of patting, a Coke, friends to bring them home - and sleep." “If someone dies of drugs in a club, a lot must have gone wrong.” In his experience, you can be sure that almost every guest is carrying drugs. "To make sure that no drugs get into the clubs, you would have to felt everybody down to their underpants." This could not be done by a security crew on site. He doesn't see the clubs themselves as having a duty, because consumption is ultimately the responsibility of every single adult. Most of the problems, says Neuman, are not caused by the excess of a drug, but by its poor quality.

However, despite predictions to the contrary, there are still drugs in many clubs that are considered taboo. GHB for example. GHB is the abbreviation for gammahydroxybutyric acid and is also known as liquid ecstasy, although the composition and effect cannot be compared with that of MDMA, i.e. ecstasy. GHB makes you compliant, willless, and attacks often occur, which is why the drug is also known as a "rape drug". Crystal, known from all sorts of horror documentaries, is only widespread in Berlin in certain subcultures.

Massive problems in everyday club life are more likely to arise because guests drink too much alcohol. “The most unpleasant experiences I've had with people who drank too much,” says Rosa Neuman. And drug investigator boss Schremm would also like to get rid of the question of possible drug checking that many people find it difficult to use drugs in a controlled manner. "That often doesn't work with alcohol."

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