Doctors Don’t Know The Cause Of Vaping-Linked Hospitalizations
Krystina Murray ❘
There has been a recent explosion in vaping-linked hospitalizations, and doctors are still trying to identify the reasons why.
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A middle-aged couple in Austria received quite a surprise when they woke up to a package that wasn’t exactly what they had ordered a few days prior. The unnamed 58-year-old Austrian women said she was expecting the parcel to contain some dresses that she had bought from an online retailer in the Netherlands. Instead, she had received nearly 25,000 ecstasy pills.
She initially believed the tiny purple pills to be small decorative stones, but her husband, 59, quickly realized this wasn’t the case upon closer inspection. Afraid they were “probably stimulants,” the couple returned the package to their local post office in Linz, Upper Austria.
Post office personnel was equally as shocked when the couple handed over the parcel of pills and promptly informed the narcotics department of the City Police Command Liz. Police found that while one of the packages did contain two dresses, the other contained 24,800 ecstasy tablets worth about €500,000 ($548,127).
Following an investigation by Linz’s drugs squad, it was discovered that the parcel was actually intended for a residence in Scotland, where the pills are valued at just £165,000 ($205,000). Police Scotland and the UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) are now working together to investigate the case. No arrests have been made at this time.
Drug dealers have long relied on lax postal screening to deliver goods and this isn’t the first time a couple in Austria has opened their door to find a package of illegal substances exported from the Netherlands. Earlier this year, another Austrian couple mistakenly signed for a parcel that contained $10 million worth of methamphetamine.
Synthetic drug production has boomed into a billion-euro business in the Netherlands. In fact, the country is currently thought to be the world’s largest producer of ecstasy. A large majority of the ecstasy taken in both Europe and the US comes from labs located in the south of the country, which are increasingly run by Moroccan gangs that are also involved with the production of marijuana.
Researchers and authorities are attributing the Netherlands’ position as a top drug-producer to a combination of factors, including the country’s tolerant approach towards drug use as well as its relatively low penalties for those caught making the drugs. The Netherlands Opium Act is the basis for the current drug legislation. The possession of drugs for personal use is punishable by imprisonment; however, in practice, it is not subject to targeted investigation by the police and is generally tolerated.
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Another important contributing factor to the Netherlands’s prominent drug-trade status is the rise of the dark web. The dark web is a series of websites on an encrypted network that can’t be found using traditional search engines or traced by authorities. In addition to traditional smuggling, drug dealers are now listing goods on the dark web and sending the narcotics to buyers via letters and packages in the post.
We are seeing an increase in all types of synthetic drugs, but by far the most that we see going outside the EU from the Netherlands in the mail is ecstasy and amphetamine.
According to Dutch customs, the amount of ecstasy and amphetamines found in the post has more than tripled from 137kg in 2016 to 460kg last year, but those numbers are regarded as a tiny fraction of the bigger picture. The Dutch customs authority has warned that a sharp rise in successful seizures from the country’s postal service is indicative of a growing trend.
As a result, officials say they are strengthening collaboration with financial and customs authorities in order to tackle narcotics ordered online and sent via the post.
Jena Hilliard earned her Bachelor’s of Arts degree from the University of Central Florida in English Literature. She has always had a passion for literature and the written word. Upon graduation, Jena found her purpose in educating the public on addiction and helping those that struggle with substance dependency find the best treatment options available.