Call For New Controls On Legal Drug Khat
The growing use of the stimulant Khat is causing widespread social problems among Britain’s East African community, according to a Sky News investigation.
Ten years ago an average of 10 tonnes of Khat were imported into the UK every year.
That figure has now risen to 10,000 tonnes per year.
The Khat plant is grown in Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia.
Users chew the leaves then swallow the juice, which contains an ingredient similar to amphetamine.
Although banned in North America and most of Europe, Khat is legal in Britain and sold openly in corner shops.
After a few hours users become talkative and experience feelings of alertness, euphoria and excitement.
But symptoms can include depression, lack of concentration and psychosis.
Abukar Awale, a Somalian living in North London, claims he was addicted to Khat for seven years.
He lost his confidence and self-esteem and became depressed and paranoid.
He told Sky News: “This drug is destroying the Somali community in Britain and should be made illegal.
“The government banned ‘Meow Meow’ within weeks. That was clear discrimination because it was white people taking it.
“Last year there were 16 Khat-related deaths but you don’t see that on the six o’clock news.”
The legality of Khat in Britain means London has become a hub for smugglers.
In May David Sydenham, 32, was sentenced to three weeks in prison after smuggling 70kg of Khat into Canada hidden in his suitcase.
The consignment was worth £100 in the UK but on the black market in North America, it would have fetched £26,000.
Conservative Peer Baroness Warsi wants to make the sale of Khat illegal in Britain but opponents claim this would discriminate against and criminalise Britain’s Somali community.
Last year the Home Office commissioned two studies to explore the social harms associated with khat use, which will be published later this year.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Government is committed to addressing any form of substance misuse and will keep the issue of khat use under close scrutiny.”