Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about cocaine in the Netherlands

Cocaine in the Netherlands is becoming more and more of a problem in society and Amsterdam in particular. The drug and country have a history together that goes way back as well. Here’s what you need to know about coke and Holland.

It is the root of all evil. Okay, maybe not the root of all evil but it is the root of many murders, terrible wars, dangerous drug gangs and mass corruption. When coca-cola was first invented, it was added as an ingredient and its use is so ubiquitous these days that traces of it can be found in Amsterdam tap water.  It also comes from a plant and is not, contrary to popular belief, synthetically produced. Have you cracked what we are talking about from our clues? No? Well, it’s cocaine!

In the Netherlands recently, there has been a lot of talk about cocaine- in part due to raging gang wars in the major cities, and in part due to its growing social acceptability (at least among certain classes). Cocaine, along with other non-medicinal drugs- is illegal in the Netherlands. This has been the case since 1912 when the Opium Law was passed. However, because the Dutch government views the idea of a drug-free country as unrealistic, the use of most drugs in the Netherlands is tolerated- which is where the country’s reputation as a drug-tolerant country comes from.

Disclaimer: DutchReview does not support or condone in any form the use of any illegal drugs, including cocaine, in the Netherlands.

Before it gets to the Netherlands, where does cocaine come from?

At first glance, you would think the pure white, powdery substance would be synthetic. But cocaine actually comes from the South American Coca plant, predominantly located in Peru and Bolivia.

The first stage in the making of cocaine is to strip the leaves from the stem and saturate them in a toxic mix of chemicals. The chemicals, including bleach and kerosene, extract the cocaine from the leaves. These chemicals cause great destruction as they are poured into the surrounding ground which run into the nearby rivers.

everything you wanted to know about cocain
The Coca plant. Darina/Wikimedia

Once the chemicals and leaves have amalgamated, the brew is then drained and the residue is heated which forms a discoloured paste.

The final stage of cocaine production is for the paste to be sent to a lab where it is whitened and made into rocks and powder.

History of cocaine: from South America to the most seized drug in the Netherlands

Certain populations of South Americans have been chewing on the leaves of the coca plant for over 4,000 years. This ‘snack’ reduced tiredness and boosted energy levels required for the hard labour in the mountainous terrain.

Spanish invasion

When the Spanish invaded Peru in 1532 they took control of the coca leaves and would regulate their distribution to labourers. They began taxing the leaves and tried to export them to Europe but the leaves did not travel well.

Invention of cocawine

As technology advanced and knowledge of the plant became more refined, cocaine was transported to Europe in a drink called ‘Cocawine’.

This wine was created by a French chemist named Angelo Mariani who mixed the coca leaves with alcohol to create a potent wine. Advertisements for this wine included “fortifies and refreshes body and brain and restores health and vitality”.

history of cocaine
Advertising for the ‘cocaine wine’. Source: lithography by Jules Cheret, 1894/Wikimedia


Cocawine is said to be a predecessor of cocaine in coca-cola, invented in 1886. Recognise the “coca” part? Well, now you know where it comes from! – the coca plant of course. About one line of cocaine was added to every bottle of coca-cola.

Coca-cola was originally only distributed in soda fountains, meaning only the elites in society could afford the beverage. In time, coca-cola bottles were invented which gave the rest of society access to the soda. A drink that originally showed status slowly became “corrupted” by the minorities. Grace Elizabeth Hale in The New York Times explains “southern newspapers reported that “negro cocaine fiends” were raping white women, the police powerless to stop them. By 1903, Candler [manager of coca-cola] had bowed to white fears [by] removing the cocaine and adding more sugar and caffeine.”

Widespread use

Writers and artists such as Henrik Ibsen and Robert Louis Stevenson came to love the drug. The Independent found that Sigmund Freud wrote a paper entitled “über cola” and said the drug brought “exhilaration and lasting euphoria, which in no way differs from the normal euphoria of the healthy person”.

It is now one of the most consumed drugs in the world. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction 2019 Netherlands drug report showed that cocaine is the most seized drug in the Netherlands, followed by cannabis and then MDMA. 

The Netherlands was once the biggest cocaine manufacturer in the world 

The Netherlands has made a huge amount of money from selling drugs and was once one of the biggest manufacturers in the world.

The Dutch cocaine factory supplied soldiers drugs during the war

The Dutch cocaine factory was located in Amsterdam on Weespertrekvaart. Conny Braam wrote a book about the Dutch cocaine factory and spoke to Vice about her findings. She pointed out how during her research it became apparent that cocaine sales from the Netherlands soared during World War I. Why? Because cocaine was given to soldiers to increase their productivity in the war zone. It suppressed appetite, reduced fear and heightened alertness which made it very effective for tired and hungry soldiers in battle.

Is that how the Netherlands became such a wealthy economy?

The Dutch sold cocaine to so many people which perhaps held them in good stead to become the most competitive economy in Europe

“Everybody from the British, the Germans, the French to the Canadians. Neutral Netherlands supplied coke to all of those countries.”

But after the war ended, what happened to the soldiers addicted to cocaine?

In 1919 the Dutch Opium Law came into force making cocaine a controlled substance and exports bans were put in place. So what happens to the thousands of vulnerable soldiers who are heavily reliant on the drug? A black market emerged (which is still in use today).

The human cost of cocaine production

Nearly 75 million euros worth of cocaine is bought in Amsterdam annually and an investigation conducted over six months showed that 30% of people have used the drug.

The production of cocaine is illegal so there is no law which can protect the cocaine producers or drug traffickers. Many people are coerced into drug trafficking, and cocaine producers in South America make very little money and work in harsh conditions.

The street value of a gram of cocaine ranges between 25 and 50 euros but the South American cocaine labourers receive about 50c for a days work.

How does cocaine get to the Netherlands today?

Most cocaine sold in the Netherlands today is not produced here, unlike during the first world war. As we’ve already covered, most of it is produced in South America. So you may be wondering exactly how it gets here. Most of it is produced in Colombia, and is then transported to one of the Netherlands’ former colonies in the Caribbean. From there, it travels by ship to the flat shores of the Netherlands, usually via Rotterdam.

Often smugglers will install a false bottom on a container, under which they will hide their illicit cargo. It’s also been found in the soles of shoes, inside fish, and in fairground rides. Getting the cocaine from boat to land usually involves either a corrupt official or pure luck (given the amount of cargo coming ashore each day, something will always slip through).

What are the effects of cocaine?

As with anything, it affects people differently. Ever heard the saying “different strokes for different folks”? Well, it’s the same with drugs. Some people report feeling much more energised and curious on the drug whilst others say it increases their anxiety levels and gives them hot flushes.

Generally speaking, cocaine is a strong stimulant that increases the natural level of dopamine found in our brains. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that creates feelings of reward, motivation, and pleasure and generally makes us feel good.

The effects of cocaine in the Netherlands

A comedown on cocaine

A comedown is a mental and physical crash after taking drugs. If your brain has had an abnormal amount of ‘uppers’, then your body and mind with feel withdrawal when it is no longer high. This can manifest itself in a variety of ways but most commonly:

Coming down from the effects of cocaine in the Netherlands

The comedown can last between a day to a few days depending on what you mixed the drugs with and how late you partied, and so on. Make sure you drink enough water, try and eat healthy food and get enough rest. If you are still not feeling right after 5 days, go and speak to your doctor.

What is the difference between crack cocaine and cocaine?

Both substances are derived from the coca plant. Cocaine is the powder form of the plant that is typically snorted, rubbed on gums or injected into veins.

Crack on the other hand is smoked. It differentiates chemically because the cocaine powder is mixed with water and baking soda. This mixture is heated to dissolve the hydrocholoride component and results in a far more concentrated form of cocaine. Instead of a fine powder, tiny rocks are created.

What are you actually putting up your nose?

Pure cocaine is almost impossible to source these days. So if you buy it, you’ll be ingesting other nasty chemicals that are used to bulk out the drug. Drug dealers do this to make a bigger profit.

But what substances are commonly used to bulk out the drug? How do you know what you’re actually putting up your nose?

Truth is unless you get every cocaine batch you order tested, you can’t truly know. There’s no obvious signifier just by looking at it as drug dealers use substances with the same texture and colour.

Sometimes batches of cocaine are mixed with innocent ingredients such as caffeine but most of the time it is dangerous substances like the following:

Substance What it is used for 
Strychnine Rat poison
Sodium carbonate Laundry detergent
Levamisol Medication to kill parasitic worms in animals
Magnesium sulfate Epsom salts
Fentanyl An opioid used as pain medication


Lidocaine is also common and mimics the numbing of the mouth and gums people associate taking cocaine with. In a study of drugs, lidocaine was discovered in over 66 per cent of the cocaine batches seized for testing.

If you’re interested to know more, Doing Drugs for Fun is a recently aired three-part documentary which follows four British cocaine users as they explore behind the scenes of cocaine production. A major focus on the docu-series is testing the cocaine and seeing what the drug is really mixed with.

How do you get cocaine in the Netherlands these days? 

Through dealers. If you texted a dealer and ordered a pizza at the same time, the cocaine would almost be guaranteed to arrive faster.

Some people purchase their drugs through the Dark Web and have them posted to their mailbox. Pretty silly though, right? You have no idea what you are ordering and if you will be caught.

Interview with an Amsterdam street-dealer

Vice spoke to a long-running street-dealer who has been selling drugs in Amsterdam in the 1980s. He said “it’s terrible out on the streets now. People are selling all kinds of shit. Like lidocaine, for example. If you put that on your gums, it will numb them a bit, just like with cocaine.”

“People are cutting their stuff more and more. The quality has just gone downhill. And sometimes I sell flour or baking powder.”

Colloquialisms of cocaine 

There are a few Dutch slang words for cocaine of course, other words for cocaine in Dutch include (and feel welcome to add to these in the comments): soz/sos, kabouterpost, witte motor, wit brood, Colombiaans marcheerpoeder, neus poederen, nakkie, lijntje, sleuteltje etc.

Other general colloquialisms include coke, coca, snow, blow, charlie sheen, nose whiskey, powder

Do’s and Don’ts of taking cocaine

We don’t want to glamourise cocaine, but if you make the decision yourself to engage it’s important to be educated on drugs and their use. Here are a few things that you must take into consideration if you are planning on using cocaine:

Do’s  Dont’s 
Do go to the toilet even if you feel you don’t need to go as drugs can interfere with the bladder signals to the brain Don’t give in to peer pressure – you must feel comfortable taking drugs
Do make sure you are with a friend who trust completely Don’t buy drugs from street dealers (see point 9)
Do take small doses and work your way up to the high – the effects can take a while to kick in and you don’t want to be caught off-guard by taking too much in one go Don’t try drugs for the first time in a setting you are not familiar with. If you get anxious or paranoid is it good to be able to venture home


Being educated about drugs is our responsibility. We must choose wisely, make informed decisions and try to mitigate the risks if we choose to take recreational drugs. It’s also good to bear in mind that sometimes you’ll get darn right ripped off and dealers will sell you baking soda as “cocaine”.

What is the drugs policy in the Netherlands at the moment?

As we’ve already mentioned, the drugs policy in the Netherlands is pretty mild and tolerant compared to other countries. And although drugs like cocaine are officially illegal, in practice they are tolerated by authorities in the Netherlands. Producing and dealing in cocaine are both punishable by law, though possession of between 0.5 and 1 gram for personal use is usually not something you’ll be prosecuted. Police do often seize it when they find it on you, though- cocaine is the drug most often seized in the Netherlands.

In terms of societal acceptance, it depends on who you are, as with everything. Cocaine has always been associated with the upper classes in Europe, and that continues to today. In Amsterdam, you’ll often find hipster 30-somethings eating organic, local food during the week, and snorting cocaine at the weekends for example.

We hope you learnt something new about cocaine in the Netherlands. Do you think we missed anything? Or is there something else you would like us to cover? Let us know in the comments below! 

Feature Image: StockCatalog/Flickr

Freya Sawbridge
Freya was born in Edinburgh but raised in New Zealand (cue every person she meets saying “oh I have always wanted to go there but it’s so far away!”). A restless and curious nature has led her to move countries 5 times in the last 3 years in attempt to find a place she can call home. She contacted DutchReview on a whim and arrived in the Netherlands in summer 2019 to start her internship.


  1. Nice Info, thanks.

    I will just add that I saw the other day a Coca-cola documentary. They mentioned that still a ‘not activated component of Coca is still added’

    I think I saw the documentary in History channel. If I find again I will share it. It was about the history of Coca-cola


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