The number of qat users in Europe appears to be growing, yet the scale and nature of the problem is poorly understood, according to a new publication released Monday by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).
Qat refers to the young leaves and shoots of the qat tree, cultivated in the Horn of Africa, Southern Arabia and along the East African coast.
The leaves have been chewed for centuries for their mildly stimulating properties and, for many, are part of their cultural legacy and social life.
Migration from the Horn of Africa has been associated with the spread of khat use to neighbouring countries, Europe and the rest of the world.
The drug goes by many names: ‘qat’ (Yemen), ‘chad’ (Ethiopia, Somalia), ‘miraa’ (Kenya) or ‘marungi’ (Uganda, Rwanda).
In the EU, qat is treated as an illegal drug in 15 of the 27 member states.
“The fact that qat is controlled in some, but not all, countries is reflected in both legitimate and criminal transportation networks,” said EMCDDA Director Wolfgang Goetz, in press statements.
The report notes that the two main entry points for qat into Europe are the UK (London) and the Netherlands (Amsterdam), where it is imported, traded and consumed legally as a vegetable product.