Dutch police chief Erik Akerboom has told an international conference in Rotterdam that more should be done to counteract the ‘normalisation’ of drug use.
Drug users are often unaware that they are propping up a system known for its extreme violence, Akerboom told the 35th International Drug Enforcement Conference, which is jointly hosted by the US drug enforcement agency.
‘Highly educated young people in their twenties and thirties have an ultra healthy lifestyle during the week – yoga, smoothies, and daily workouts at the gym,’ he said, pointing out that drug related deaths have doubled in the Netherlands in recent years.
‘But then, at the weekend they get hopelessly drunk, and take cocaine and various pills. This is how drug use is becoming normalised and romanticised. And we have to get rid of this image.’
Apart from the fact that it’s bad for your health, there is a ‘hard and brutal world lurking behind that ‘innocent-seeming’ little line or pill’, the police chief said. He went on to appeal to his audience to ‘raise people’s awareness of the system they are continuing, the system they are sustaining.’
Akerboom was supported by justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus, who told the conference: ‘Drugs are associated with having a ‘happy time’, as if that is part of it. But behind every pill or line is a world of hardened criminals, murder, money laundering, corruption, fraud and environmental crime.’
Grapperhaus said that the Dutch drugs trade turns over some €3bn a year. ‘We are only able to track down a tenth of it,’ he said.
‘A drugs economy has developed which undermines all aspects of our society,’ Grapperhaus said. ‘This drugs economy is threatening our legal economy. But it is also threatening our norms, our morals and our safety.’
Akerboom also called for more to be done at a European level to combat illegal drugs.
Postal delivery firms, for example, could pay more attention to the packages they deliver, potentially spotting parcels of drugs, he said. Police forces too should pool resources, given that the drugs trade does not stop at borders, Akerboom said.
‘There is no option because we all have the same problems,’ he said. ‘We cannot do it alone.’
Representatives of 120 different countries are at the conference, which runs until April 12.
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