Amsterdam tourists mad about truffle trips

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The ‘trip truffle’ has replaced banned magic mushrooms in Amsterdam’s smart shops - outlets which sell legal ‘drugs’. Trip truffles aren’t against the law, but neither are they entirely without risk - especially when used by ‘three-day tourists’ to Amsterdam.

Magic mushrooms – hallucinogenic fungi – were made illegal in the Netherlands in 2008, after several incidents, in which some people died. The only reason that you can still legally buy trip truffles, or sclerotia, is that – unlike magic mushrooms – they grow underground.

So technically they’re not mushrooms. They are hallucinogenic though, but a lot less so than magic mushrooms, says August de Loor from the drugs advice agency, Stichting Adviesbureau Drugs.

Fewer call-outs
Amsterdam’s GGD health service says ambulances were called out 69 times last year to deal with people having bad trips. “There have been markedly fewer incidents and these are less serious than in the days of magic mushrooms,” confirms GGD spokesperson Sanne van Meeteren.

Paul van Oyen, who represents the smart shops which sell the truffles, argues that the number of incidents is even lower:

“It’s not true that there were 69 emergency call-outs last year. The GGD has added the incidents involving illegal magic mushrooms to those involving sclerotia. There were actually less than 20 ambulance call-outs for sclerotia problems.”

Just too much
Bad truffle trips almost always involve tourists getting panic attacks. “In 59 percent of the cases, the problems can be dealt with on the spot by talking, reassuring and arranging for somebody to stay with the person,” Ms Van Meeteren explains.

Drug expert August de Loor says that most cases involve what are known as ‘three-day tourists’.

“They want to cram everything they’re not allowed to do in their own country into their three days in Amsterdam - binge drinking, smoking marijuana in ‘coffeeshops’ and doing magic mushrooms on top of all that. It’s just too much. They also take the magic mushrooms in Amsterdam’s busy city centre, with all the noise and trams. That’s the very worst place possible!”

Gap in the market
Mark Owen from Amsterdam smart shop Inner Space says trip truffles have filled the gap in the market created by the banning of magic mushrooms.

“I think there are still as many smart shops as there were back then. I’ve even seen truffles being sold in souvenir shops. Mind you, they should only really be sold in smart shops, because there you’re given proper instructions about how to use them. So that’s the only difference. We still have the same number of visitors and customers; as many Dutch people as foreigners. So actually nothing has changed.”

He advises against using trip truffles in cooking. They’re not the same truffles as their expensive French and Italian counterparts. But more importantly, if you cook them, their all-important hallucinogenic properties are lost.