Khat Drug: Minneapolis, Kansas City concerns for officials
Khat has been making headlines across the Midwest with two cases in the Des Moines area recently. One Storm Lake area man, an immigrant, said the drug was common when he was growing up in Africa, and he admits to having used it.
For most local residents, however, the name remains an unknown. While it is spreading into Iowa, no arrests for use of khat have yet been recorded locally.
Khat, pronounced cot or cat, is a natural stimulant drug from the Catha Edulis plant that grows in East Africa and Southern Arabia. Chewed in moderation, it has been used to cut appetite and reduce fatigue.
Compulsive use can result in manic behavior, paranoia and may result in hallucinations.
Cathione is a schedule I drug under the controlled substances acts, with Schedule I being the most dangerous drug, with no medical use. Cathine is a Schedule IV with a low risk of dependence.
When the plant's leaves are freshly picked they are a glossy crimson-brown and contain both cathione and cathine.
As the leaves age, it changes to a yellow leaf with a leathery texture, and the cathione breaks down over 48 hours of being picked, leaving only the less dangerous cathine.
To keep the plant fresh and preserve its potency, drug dealers often ship it frozen, handled similar to meat and produce.
"When I used it from time to time in Africa was for Ramadan," a Sudanese man reports, choosing to remain anonymous. "It is not available here due to American drug laws but where I grew up it was in every market and it was a high seller among other countries."
While the drug spreads across America, it is losing favor elsewhere in the world in its traditional role. " It seems to be an old-fashion tradition that is dying out in some areas," he said.
According to officials with the Department of Justice, khat is mostly seen as a threat in the larger cities that host numbers of east African immigrants, including Minneapolis and Kansas City. Transporting such goods is normally easier there than in small cities.
While no incidents involving khat have been reported in Buena Vista County, the Department of Justice does warn that there has been an increase of availability of khat in some areas and it has been caught on the roadways of America. Anyone who suspects being exposed to khat should contact local law enforcement officials.