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Khat Special Edition Introduction

NCJ Number
Substance Use & Misuse Volume: 43 Issue: 6 Dated: 2008 Pages: 749-761
Susan Beckerleg
Date Published
13 pages
As "khat" (Catha edulis) consumption has spread to five continents from its countries of production in East Africa and Yemen, it is perceived by many as being "exotic" and "alien" and a major cause of poverty and underdevelopment; however, this article argues that khat is being used as a scapegoat for a wide range of social and economic ills across the world.
Khat or qat is a plant whose leaves or twigs are chewed for its stimulant and euphoric-producing qualities. Although khat has been outlawed in countries on five continents, there is little empirical evidence that it does medical harm. Still, the case for and against khat continues to be debated in medical journals, travel books, and monographs. With the evidence on the harm caused by khat chewing is inconclusive, the author's view is that a ban is not advisable and would be unworkable. Outlawing khat will not stop consumption, she argues, but will criminalize producers, traders, and consumers across the world. If a ban were to be enforced, resources would be diverted from other law enforcement work, including efforts to control drugs that cause documented harms. In addition, in some countries such as Yemen, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda, khat is grown by small farmers and not on commercial estates. A ban would impoverish hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people in some of the poorest nations of the world. The anti-khat lobby should redirect its energy to lobbying for better development initiatives, social justice, and welfare for the peoples of Arabia and eastern Africa, both at home and in the cultures to which khat-users immigrate. This article also introduces this special section of "Substance Use & Misuse," which consists of four papers that take a fresh look at khat. 28 references


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