SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG

Designer Drugs: “Bath Salts” Offer Some Wild Trips, Sometimes To The Hospital

Users of "Bath Salts" - a trendy new designer drug that's all the rage in Germany's club scene - say the substance can be hit and miss: often a rush of euphoria, sometimes an attack of paranoia. In a few cases, users ha

A young woman speaks about the effects of MDPV, aka
A young woman speaks about the effects of MDPV, aka

*NEWSBITES

MUNICH -- They may not be against the law, but they are definitely dangerous. "On a good high, I dance for hours – but once I had a down that lasted for days," says Rita Morales (not her real name) describing the game of Russian roulette that an increasing number of young Germans are playing with designer drugs known as "bath salts."

"Wicked," "Ecko," "Rush Hour," "Jungle Dust" – whatever the name, they come in small bright packages, can be sniffed or swallowed, and engender rushes of euphoria. Side effects? Racing heart, hyper activity, shivers, delusions of grandeur, paranoia, aggressiveness and suicidal thoughts.

Morales, 25, is a student in Munich, and she and her friends often take drugs on weekends. She has used Bath Salts many times. "They stimulate you, you feel like talking a lot, and for a couple of hours you're in a great mood," Morales says. "It's like taking Ecstasy." When things go well, that is. The catch is that sometimes Bath Salts trigger the opposite reaction. "You never know what the effect will be. Once I had to be rushed to the hospital to be stabilized," she says.

For several months, the designer drugs, also known as "legal highs," have been finding ever more users in German cities -- and the number of users delivered to the emergency rooms of German hospitals is piling up.

Dr. Felix Tretter, head of the addiction unit at Munich's Isar-Amper hospital, says in the past month alone he dealt with 12 cases of psychosis triggered by the drugs. "Patients are completely disoriented, experience severe psychotic episodes, and suffer permanent damage to their health," he says. Many have to be turned over to the psychiatric ward.

One case involved a 15-year-old who became extremely aggressive in a train, attacked other passengers, and ended up at the clinic in a psychotic state. Another teenager experienced kidney failure after taking the drug for the first time, leaving him with irreparable damage that could eventually make him a candidate for dialysis, says Bernd Kreuzer of the drug unit of Bavaria's State Office of Criminal Investigations.

The drugs are easily available on the Internet, sometimes sold as "artificial fertilizer" or "air freshener." They contain mephedron or chemical derivatives of it. But their composition is such that they don't yet fall under existing narcotics laws, and are thus legal. It usually takes about a year for new substances to figure on the index, but by that time drug "designers' have come up with something new that is not yet outlawed.

According to Kreuzer, the problem with Bath Salts is the way they are being played down. "Young people see them as party drugs," he says. "They don't see that things can end very badly, very quickly. These new drugs have far worse side effects than conventional drugs."

Another problem, according to Kreuzer, is easy availability. In Europe he estimates there are about 600 Internet shops that will ship them; some 25 are in Germany. Rita Morales says they're also available under the counter at plenty of shops like a piercing studio she knows of, "where all you have to do is ask." One gram costs between 20 and 50 euros, which makes it a lot cheaper than cocaine, which costs 100 euros per gram. Some Munich bartenders keep a supply on tap for customers as well, Morales says.

Kreuzer says his department focuses on dealers, not users, as selling Bath Salts is illegal. Last year alone, he says, there were some 3,000 arrests in Bavaria. But growth of synthetic drugs is estimated at 100% per year.

Read the full story in German by Beate Wild

Photo - Youtube

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Society

Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.


The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.

Hollandse-Hoogte/ZUMA

Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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