Herbal stimulant khat banned
4th July 2013 - The herbal stimulant khat is being banned and treated as a class C drug.
Home secretary Theresa May made the decision, despite her official advisors on drugs, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, saying khat should not be banned.
What is khat, and what are the risks?
Khat is a herbal product made from the leaves and shoots of the shrub Catha edulis.
It is also known as quat, qat, qaadka or chat. It has a bitter taste, and chewing it gives a milder stimulant effect than amphetamines (speed) or cocaine.
Khat is grown in Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen and is chewed and used mostly by the UK's Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities.
Chewing khat is usually seen as a social event in family homes or khat cafes by communities which see it as a traditional medicine or food, rather than a drug.
A person chewing khat may feel more alert, happy and talkative and experience a loss of appetite.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs says khat may cause liver toxity.
The drugs advice website Frank says khat can cause insomnia and may worsen existing mental health problems, causing paranoid and psychotic reactions, such as losing touch with reality. Heavy khat use can also cause high blood pressure, heart palpitations and other heart problems. Khat may increase libido and lead to khat users having unsafe sex.
Chewing khat may inflame the mouth and cause tooth damage and in Yemen, it has been linked to mouth cancer.
The Home Office says Khat is also a cause of social problems, such as low attainment and family breakdown.
Khat and the law
The Home Office says making importation, supply and possession of khat illegal brings the UK in line with most other EU countries.
Possession of khat will carry a two year prison term and an unlimited fine.
Khat dealing or supplying will risk a jail sentence of up to 14 years.
The Home Secretary says that to ensure "a proportionate and robust policing response, the government will introduce an escalation framework for the possession of khat for personal use, similar to that in place for cannabis".