Teen Alcohol and Drug Use

The regulations as they affect teenagers in the Netherlands...


To consume or purchase alcohol one must be eighteen years of age. Proof of age should be asked for with each purchase. These rules do not apply in the home where parents may allow younger children to drink if they wish.

Youth Clubs or similar young people's clubs which have a bar must have a minimum number of staff with a Social Hygiene diploma, which basically means they understand about the safe and responsible consumption of alcohol. They must also have a written policy on alcohol that addresses its sale and how they deal with issues arising from its consumption.

  • Alcoholics Anonymous in the Netherlands has an English version of its website. This gives information on meetings throughout the country including a group in The Hague and Maastricht.


The Netherlands makes a distinction between different classes of drug. The legalisation of cannabis in recent years has meant that the sale of cannabis is allowed under certain conditions, but the supply is not. Typically this has led to cannabis coffee shops where there is little or no opportunity to buy other types of drug. This use of soft drugs is considered acceptable whereas the use of hard drugs is not. The general approach is to educate and therefore reduce demand and, where this approach has failed, to limit the harm caused by offering treatment of various kinds.

Heroin and other hard drug addicts are offered help and support as well as the free supply of methadone. Syringe exchange programmes operate in more than 60 towns and cities.

Ecstasy is popular with clubbers in the Netherlands and is also one of the drugs that is given the highest priority in terms of investigation and prosecution.

Whether under the influence of drink or drugs, the Dutch take the view that one is still responsible for one's actions and therefore should expect to be prosecuted if they cause nuisance or harm to others.

  • The Trimbos Institute (an independent mental health organisation partly financed by the Ministry of Health Welfare and Sport) is considered to be a leading expert in the field of treatment and policy.