Aid website gives tips on how to shoot up heroin
Tips, practical information, insider stories: at first glance, ikgebruik.nl appears to be a perfectly decent website. It could have been set up by the Dutch AA or the consumers’ union. In fact, the site’s homepage explains how to shoot up heroin.
The website was created by and for Amsterdam hard drug users. It offers information on aid, care, treatment and safe drug use. The problem is that the site is accessible to everyone, including curious school children, and its home page presents a 21-step guide on how to safely inject heroin.
Kim Oei, aid worker for hard drug users and the website’s initiator, says: “We created the site because we feel that hard drug users in Amsterdam who are avoiding all aid should be brought back into care. And for that, they should be able to easily find all care institutions available in Amsterdam on a single website, and not scattered on many different websites.”
“A little too down-to-earth”
Amsterdam VVD-councillor Erik van der Burg says the site has pros and cons: "On the one hand, we must ensure that the lowest possible number of people use that stuff. On the other hand, if they do, they should use clean needles, not borrow them from each other. And they should try to limit the health risks. That's the perspective from which I look at the site. It’s good to provide information on the problems that hard drug-users face, but you really do not want to talk about drugs in a positive way.”
The ikgebruik.nl site can’t be said to praise substance abuse. But for some it’s too down-to-earth. Media expert Peter Nikken from the Nederlands Jeugdinstituut (Dutch Youth Institute) would like to see the site “blocked for children under the age of 12, and young people who visit the site should do so with their parents present.”
Nikken compares ikgebruik.nl to pro-ana sites, where girls suffering from anorexia give each other horrifying tips on how to lose even more weight. Such sites claim they warn against anorexia. But many visitors see the information provided as an encouragement to continue dieting.
Official drug addiction institutions see things differently. Daan van der Gouwe, drug researcher at the Trimbos instituut, the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, is convinced that children will not start using hard drugs after visiting ikgebruik.nl. “Today’s school children do not relate to hard drugs at all. Heroin, also in combination with cocaine, is seen as a drug for losers. And the ‘21 steps to safe heroin use’ is so confrontational that it will only discourage people further.
The off-putting effect was not the main reason for Kim Oei to set up ikgebruik.nl. He was merely keen to provide help for addicts. Even so, he invited 40 school children and other young people to comment on the texts and users’ stories that appear on the site. “They were deeply shocked”, Oei says, “So that was reassuring.”
Thijs Westerbeek van Eerten