If you are from Somali then you’ll be well aware of the existence of Khat. It refers to the leaves and shoots of a small shrub called the Catha Edulis which grows mainly in Africa and Arabia. The leaves contain various stimulant properties like cathine and cathinone, both of these are banned substances in the UK but the khat leaves are legal currently.
Chewing the leaves is meant to create a feeling of euphoria and make the imbiber much more talkative that normal. However there are many side effects which have led to it being banned in many European countries and North America. The Somali community have always been heavy users of khat and about 100 members of that community staged a demonstration asking for it to be banned.
The problem is that there are increasing fears that apart from the direct side effects, there is growing evidence that prolonged usage can create mental health problems as well. There are suspicions that the drug caused mental illness, depression as well as cancer and liver problems.
Some researchers have suggested that more than 30% of Somalis based in the UK chew the leaves of khat regularly. They also pointed out that there is a social impact on families to as users sometimes spend 10 hours chewing then require over 12 hours rest to recover. Extensive use of khat simply takes over people’s lives and fathers and husbands neglect their families.
A report has been handed to the Home Secretary which was conducted by Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), it is expected that a decision will be made before the end of the year. There is a fascinating documentary about the use and economics of khat shown on the BBC last week. It should be available in the IPlayer for a short time. If you live outside the UK and want to know how to access BBC IPlayer abroad, all you need is to use a UK proxy or VPN when you connect to the site to get access.