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The use of drugs in Dutch jails is ‘worrisome’ and more needs to be done in terms of information provision and care, according to addiction clinic Trimbos, which was financed by the health ministry to research the issue.

The research focused on the Ter Apel prison in Groningen, which has a population of some 290 inmates, all of whom are foreign nationals. The prison was chosen because it is open about drugs use within its walls, unlike others, Trimbos said.

The Netherlands has a total of 29 prisons and around 30,000 inmates.

In particular, the research highlights the use of synthetic cannabinoids (SCRAs) within the prison, which are smuggled in by impregnating letter paper with the liquid containing the drug.

SCRAs have been in use at prisons abroad for some time and there are indications it is widely used in Dutch jails, Trimbos said. This is because it is more difficult to trace than more traditional drugs such as cannabis or cocaine.

The effect of the drug is like that of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, but this can widely greatly and in extreme cases it can be life-threatening, Trimbos said.

The research, based on interviews and questionnaires involving prison workers and inmates found that cannabis and alcohol were the most common drugs, followed by SCRAs and prescription drugs such as painkillers.

The researchers also assessed the results of 8,643 urine tests carried out on prisoners last year. In total, 181 samples tested positive for cannabis, 31 for methadone and 11 for opiates. Benzodiazepines were found in 116 samples but SCRAs were not found in any. 

Little is currently being done to research drugs use in Dutch prisons, with strategy focused on stopping drugs getting into jails rather than on their use, Trimbos said.

The survey used for the Ter Apel research should be now expanded to other penitentiaries in the Netherlands to get a better overall picture.

“We had hoped for more than double the money from The Hague to form a bigger team,” Manusama told the broadcaster. “We calculated that we need a team of at least 50 to 55 people. But we have made a good start and we have now put our team of 25 to work,” he said.

The team will be focusing in particular on intercepting stowaways who are climbing into containers to make their way into Britain illegally and youngsters brought in by drugs gangs to enter the containers to remove drugs.

Drug criminality is a growing problem in Zeeland ports, and in Vlissingen in particular. On Thursday a haul of 1,500 kilos of cocaine, the biggest in the province this year, was intercepted while in May, customs investigators found over 700 kilos of cocaine hidden among a shipment of bananas.

So far this year some 31 youngsters were arrested and 4,500 kilos of cocaine  discovered at Vlissingen port alone.

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