Is Germany a Club Kid’s drug-infused dream or a dangerous techno façade?
Germany, a hub of parties, techno, Avant-Garde expression, and lots of drugs. Germany’s clubs have an alluring narrative of a strict door policy guarding a partier’s utopia. Often described as an “adult playground,” German clubs have a freedom about them that most European clubs wish they had. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, clubbing has risen exponentially, including liberal drug use. With Germany’s progressive and accepting societal culture, its nightlife allows everyone to express themselves in ways not normally witnessed in Western culture. The addition of drug “acceptance” within these clubs only adds greater appeal to partiers seeking a good time.
Drug Laws in Germany are much different than in surrounding European countries. According to European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, small amounts of cannabis (up to 10 grams), and small amounts of heroin, cocaine, amphetamine, and MDMA/ecstasy (up to 5 grams) are technically illegal, yet not punishable by imprisonment if caught. A principle of “treatment instead of punishment” is imposed to allow the offender rehab instead of prison time. This direction of treatment is cited as part of how Germany is trying to combat drug-related deaths and addiction rates. Rather than locking-up suffering addicts, the German government seeks to help them by allowing access to the proper facilities. Larger quantities of illicit drugs, cultivation, and multiple offenses can result in up to five years in prison.
Drug in Clubs
German clubs are almost always associated with Techno/house music and copious amounts of drugs. A study done in 2018 by Germany’s prestigious Charite Hospital found that 50.3% of clubbers have taken drugs during their parting experiences. The most popular drugs are amphetamines, ecstasy/MDMA, nicotine, cannabis, and cocaine. The study found that the percentage among gendered drug use is relatively the same, with men being 55.3% and women being 42.8%. Multiple personal accounts have continued the narrative of drug use not being used in an addictive manner, more-so for a “boost” in mood and stamina for partying. Fizzy Magazine interviewed Berlin clubbers asking, “Is Berlin’s Party Scene Self-Destructive Or Just Free?” with the majority understandably having mixed feelings. Calum McDonald, a Berlin-based DJ, exclaimed that, like all things, drugs and partying all have to maintain a level of balance. That German club scene is not solely based around drugs, you could go out and enjoy a sober night if that is your agenda, “You choose how far down the rabbit hole you want to go.” Clubs usually perform bag and person checks to ensure that no one is bringing in anything dangerous or illegal, however petty drugs usually just get taken away. Should you decide to bring/take drugs in clubs, it’s important to know that while most drugs like MDMA and cocaine are “tolerated” inside, anyone found with GHB will get a year-long ban, called a “Hausverbot.”
GHB, also commonly used as a date-rape drug, has been rising in usage throughout German clubbers. Elizabeth Schumacher claims that Berlin clubs have to call an ambulance every 24 hours for GHB related overdoses. Mostly popular within the LGBTQ+ community of Berlin, Schumacher claims that everyone with the club scene knows someone who has died of a GHB overdose.
Technically, marijuana is illegal in Germany. Being considered an Appendix III drug, “neither too dangerous to market nor too dangerous to prescribe,” yet still a mind-altering substance. The Supreme Court allows a “small amount” of marijuana possession to be legal; however, this wording allows for different interpretations of this law. Since the wording “a small amount,” is subjective, every city has its own limit of what constitutes “small amount.” The greatest being in Berlin at 15 grams, and the lowest in 11 different regions being up to 6 grams. Regardless of the amount restrictions, recreational smoking has been on the rise since the mid-2000s. Germany’s Federal Center for Health Education found that there has been roughly an 11- 24% increase in marijuana smoking within 18-24-year-olds from 2008-2015.
Medical Marijuana has been legal since 2007; once legal, cannabis prescriptions had risen from 1,000 to 2,213 in less than 3 months. Now it’s estimated that pharmacies fill over 5,000 prescriptions every 3 to 4 months. There is a heavy push by Germany’s Green and Left-Wing Parties, respectively, to legalize marijuana in both medical and recreational use.
Due to Germany’s unofficial drug acceptance within its party scene, there has been speculation and multiple studies on the effects of long-term drug use on the minds of party-goers. Each popular drug (cocaine, MDMA, marijuana, speed, etc.) has different short-term and long-term impacts on the user. However, each of the drugs has a similar allure. They all release extreme amounts of dopamine for extended periods, meaning that once the drug is “out of your system,” the initial effects can have a completely different reaction than when first taken. Usually, when someone ingests a narcotic that releases dopamine, the body absorbs it. The brain can only produce a certain amount of dopamine before exhausting itself and needing a break from producing more. This can lead to lingering bouts of depression, mood swings, no appetite, and in some cases, MDMA addiction and dependency. But when the drug creates intense highs and extreme lows, the user often thinks that if they take more, they will feel better, and that’s how you and your brain get emotionally and physiologically addicted to the substance(s).
The neurotransmitters working overtime to create the influx of dopamine could get damage in the process of overproduction. Exberliner Magazine claims that once the neurotransmitters are overworked and depleted, “it takes up to weeks for them to fully regenerate” causing a major depressive episode. These episodes are common with drug use, but depending on how frequent the use is can affect the lengths of depression.
With drug-related deaths on the rise, Germany has been seeking to establish systems to help and save those battling addiction. Germany’s health care system is designed so that harder, more addictive forms of “pain relief/management” are prescribed as a last resort. That way, Germany can maintain the public’s access to opioids, thus, decreasing the number of opioid addictions caused by overprescribing a narcotic for simple pain management. Unlike America, where opioids are virtually prescribed like candy, Germany’s healthcare system is acutely aware of the dangers brought on by these actions. KUTV reports that in 2016 there were 21 opioid overdoses per every one million people in Germany. Though large at first glance, that number pales in comparison to the 11.5 million Americans who had reported misusing opioids in that same year. Consumption rooms are also growing increasingly popular with German addicts. Started in 2000, drug consumption rooms have been introduced in 15 cities and 6 German States (Berlin, Hamburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, and the Saarland). As of June 2015, 24 consumption rooms are operating throughout Germany. The room’s main goal was to establish a location that can give addicts a safe, clean, and medically staffed place to take their drugs and receive the proper aid, should they need it. The rooms act as a resource to allow addicts access to rehab services and other clean methods. Consumption Rooms are credited with keeping hard drug use off the streets, saving the lives of addicts when overdosing, and giving a usually ignored demographic safety.
As Germany’s party culture continues to rave and dance their way through drug-filled techno euphoria, it is important to remember that though ingrained in that community, drugs serve as a way to “enhance” one’s nightly activities, not fiend for more. While there is a large emphasis placed on techno music and drug culture, there is always a message of knowing when enough is enough. The popular portrayal of the clubbing community is that drug use is there for an enhanced experience, yet it is completely okay to go out without using it. Specifically, within the Berlin club scene, there is a message of acceptance, welcoming energy, and safe space. Clubbing in Germany does not mean you HAVE TO take these drugs. Do what you want, have fun at your own pace, and remember, “You choose how far down the rabbit hole you want to go.”