The side job: Jan tests drugs

Jan Heida is keen to help minimize the risks of drug use.
Photo: Jan Heida

Who: Jan Heida
What: Drug testing and counselling
Why: Jan is keen to help minimize the risks of drug use
Hourly wage: 13-16 euros, varying per institution and location

You’ve got to make ends meet somehow. We can all borrow from Uncle Duo, but there are also students who earn money in special ways. In this series, we discover some unusual side jobs. This time we meet Jan Heida (27), a certified drug tester at a testing service * in Arnhem.

‘Drugs are illegal, of course, but at the test site there is a local “opium exemption”. We are allowed to have drugs there, under strict conditions. There are clear agreements with the authorities and the testers have undergone training and must be qualified. If we do not recognize tablets, we send them to a lab. We test thousands of samples a year, with major peaks on New Year’s Eve, Kings Day and Amsterdam Dance Event.

‘If users come in for testing, we talk to them. Is the user aware of the risks? When I ask that question, the answer is often, “yeah”. But then I ask them to name three risks? Sometimes there is no response to that, and then we provide information about the product. That is how we try to minimize the risks. If we get the impression that we’re dealing with a vulnerable person, possibly with an addiction, we also provide information about addiction care. That care is in the same building. We try to make the threshold as low as possible for them. We have another task as well: we monitor the drugs market. All the testing centres in the Netherlands collaborate to get a good picture of the trends: which drugs are on the rise and whether there are dangerously contaminated products in circulation.

‘I ended up at Unity via the testing service. Unity is a national network of young people that provides open-minded education and information about alcohol and drugs. We are often at parties and festivals and we get a lot of positive responses. I think that if you limit the risks, you can make them more acceptable. The line between what is illegal and what is not can be hard to explain. They are all just molecules that have some effect or other.’

*This testing centre is part of the Drug Information and Monitoring System (DIMS) network. Users can hand in drugs here and have them tested for composition and dosage.

Are you or do you know someone with an unusual side job or summer job? Send an e-mail to steven.snijders@wur.nl

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