Dealing with drug death in berghain: yes, people consume here

A "Spiegel" report mystifies an Ecstasy death. But drugs have long been mainstream. Only those who accept this can enlighten.

If you take too much, it becomes dangerous: Ecstasy Photo: dpa

It has happened again, a report from the drug milieu scares the Spiegel readers. Every few years, a journalist reports on "horse anesthetics" and "graffiti removers" that "techno-disciples" take. This remains tendentious and inaccurate even when repeated, but it’s always exciting.

This time, award-winning journalist Alexander Osang goes one better, accusing the operators of Berlin’s Berghain club of "just carrying on" after the woman’s death in his in-depth report for the current Spiegel magazine about a young woman from the U.S. who probably took two ecstasy pills within a few hours in the summer of 2017 and died of multiple organ failure that morning in a Berlin hospital.

He also accuses a staff member of failing to provide assistance because she called the rescue too late. Whether this is true cannot be verified. The police did not question her, and whether the American woman’s life would have been saved had the paramedic treated her the disputed 15 minutes earlier, the reporter does not ask anyone.

A person apparently dies of an overdose. That’s rarely a story for a news magazine. But every newsroom knows that Berghain comes right after sex in the attention spiral. Myths are associated with this place because what happens there also happens under the covers, so to speak. But just as most of us can imagine what’s going on at the neighbor’s on the sofa bed, so it is with this club, which is retold in the same paraphrases over and over again. And by the way, things are similarly boring in the clubs as they are in the neighbor’s sex.

Drugs are not only found in Berlin

So the story is not the woman, but the place. The Berghain has to be used, just like the tragic death of a woman, to drive the outrage sow through the village: Drugs are consumed in clubs and nobody does anything! So far, so right. What exactly is to be done, however, remains unfortunately unclear. Most Berlin clubs check their guests for drugs and take them away. In many Berlin clubs, bouncers patrol and wake up sleeping guests – much to the chagrin of the guests – to ensure that they are not about to choke on vomit. Many clubs have rooms where guests with – mild – overdoses can sober up or wait for rescue to arrive. Some clubs post warnings to watch your drinks, some clubs post pictures of pills that are way too high in dosage.

Unfortunately, not all of them. Staff members know symptoms of some drugs, but employees are neither doctors nor always empathetic toward the few patrons who shoot themselves to the point of unconsciousness rather than consult a therapist or else escape the constraints of wage labor in some other way. Customers can be a pain. Clubs also tolerate drug use as part of techno culture, not always for the mere calculation of profit. This gives rise to a responsibility. But not a sole one.

Berghain doesn’t have to talk to the press. For many journalists, that’s an affront. For others, impressive. This culture of silence may still preserve the appeal of the technomythos a bit and preserve spaces of freedom, sexual and hedonistic, for some.

Drugs belong to Berlin as a former promise of freedom. But the Bundeswehr-refusener-Berlin, the post-Wende rave-Berlin, that is no more. Drugs no longer preserve the myth of Berlin, because they belong just as much to Zurich, to Bremen, to Nuremberg and Tbilisi. Techno has long since ceased to be a counter-model, drug consumption does not mean individuality, it is mainstream.

The responsibility of the reporter

Because people take drugs everywhere. Whether it’s the speed kids in the parking lots of Osnabruck or the stylists in Berlin’s Paris Bar, it’s amazing how much people suppress the fact that their fellow human beings are snorting. There’s the surgeon, there’s the lawyer, there’s the social worker. The writer, of course, the actress. But also the prospective teacher, the TV salesman in the electronics store, they all take cocaine, pills, grass or ketamine from time to time.

By the way, you only have to Google the latter to find out that it is not only used in horses, but also in human medicine as a narcotic, but is also effective in the treatment of depression.

Clubs tolerate drugs as part of technoculture, not always for the sake of profit. But they are not solely responsible

But if drug reporting is not concerned with education, but with maximizing emotion, it will not encourage consumers to start with a quarter pill, but will fuel the appeal of the forbidden. So the reporter has a similar responsibility to the club operator. Because the drug users you meet at the checkout at Aldi, at the pediatrician’s office, in the meeting, who consume their drugs not only in Berghain, but also at the wedding party in Husum, in the corner pub, the restaurant, don’t take two pills in a short time if they know a little bit about it.

One learns in the mirror text indeed that the lawyer of the victim husband smokes, however nothing over the dangers by the different composition of Ecstasy tablets. Whether you buy them from friends, on the street, on the darknet, in clubs, in recent years pills have appeared again and again that have extremely high MDMA dosages or contain other ingredients instead of MDMA, recently for example Tadalafil, a sexual enhancer. Or paramethoxyamphetamine, which is cheaper and can also kill quickly.

Drugchecking saves lives

On the Internet you can find warnings: "This XTC tablet contains 243.1 mg MDMA." Next to it, a picture of a green tablet labeled "Wings." "Such high doses may cause: ‘jaw grinding,’ eye and nerve twitching, headaches, nausea, seizures, hallucinations. There is also a risk of life-threatening overheating as body temperature rises."

These warnings are carried out by drug-checking organizations, and the Berlin Senate is also considering introducing some. They save lives. But the opposition expresses horror – and it doesn’t take much imagination to imagine what tabloid media would headline if the Berlin Senate assigned people or organizations to check drugs for purity in nightclubs.

The city of Zurich already has something like that: the website is run by the city’s social services department. "There is no drug use without risk! Risk-free is only a complete renunciation of drugs! If you still decide to use drugs, you should at least follow the safer-use rules," they write on their site.

Instead of stamping the club logo on club-goers at the entrance, they might as well put a warning like that on the back of their hands. Maybe it would do some good. But it would also be an admission by the clubs: Yes, people are consuming here. And this admission could lead to problems. Drugs are still illegal. That’s why there’s not enough education, that’s why there are dangerous pills, that’s why this young woman died.

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