Khat use in Europe: implications for European policy
(Cited from Drugs in focus, No. 21, 1st Issue, 2011)
Khat refers to the young and tender leaves and shoots of the khat tree (Catha edulis) cultivated in the highlands of the Horn of Africa, Southern Arabia and along the East African coast. It contains stimulant substances that have amphetamine-like properties. In their pure forms, they are internationally controlled substances, but the leaves are not. Excessive consumption can lead to dependence. It may also result in somatic and mental health hazards in otherwise healthy individuals. In Europe, khat is controlled in some, but not all, countries. This has resulted in both legitimate and criminal transportation networks. Khat is mainly consumed by first generation immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa, among whom it is a contested topic. Over the last three decades, khat has become a major source of employment, income and revenues in producing countries.
Conclusions and policy considerations
· The potential for the crossover of khat to the wider drug market appears limited.
· Khat consumption may lead to health and social problems. European health professionals and social workers need to be able to identify khat-related harms and have strategies in place to protect vulnerable user groups.
· European khat markets appear to be growing but data sources are weak, pointing to a need to improve monitoring.
· Development and drug control policies for khat-producing countries require co-ordination and an awareness of the potential impact of European control measures.
· Khat is primarily used by migrant communities in Europe. These communities need to be better informed about its potential health, social and legal consequences.
· The number of khat users in Europe appears to be growing, yet the scale and nature of the problem is poorly understood. Research studies are therefore required to better assess the market for the drug, evolving patterns of use, as well as the extent of any socio-economic and health consequences.
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