Cardiff youth worker urges ban on legal high khat
A Somali youth worker is calling for the UK government to ban the legal high, khat.
Mohammed Dualeh of the Somali Youth Association in Butetown, Cardiff told BBC Radio Wales that the stimulant is killing his community.
There are also concerns that excessive chewing of khat is leading to mental health problems and family breakdowns.
The Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs is carrying out a review and preparing a report.
In an interview for the Eye On Wales programme, Mr Dualeh said: "Khat is a killer, it's deadly, and it's really sad that the UK government allows it to come here, when the USA and much of Europe bans it.
"I hope the government comes to its senses and bans this material from the UK."
Khat is illegal in the United States and many countries within Europe.
Earlier this year, Holland banned it, and the pressure will now be on the government to stop khat from entering the UK.
Khat comes from plants grown in East Africa, and has been chewed for a stimulant effect in countries like Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia for centuries.
Taken within normal social boundaries, it acts in the same way that a few shots of espresso coffee might. The user becomes more alert and sociable.
But concerns have been raised by some people in the affected UK communities that the younger generation is taking the drug out of its normal social context.
They are worried that excessive chewing is leading to mental health problems and to the breakdown of families. One of the concerns is that it is time consuming.
Saeed Ebrahim from Butetown in Cardiff said: "The khat arrives in Cardiff in the afternoon. By the time they sit down and start chewing, it can be seven in the evening until seven in the morning.
"If you chew 10 hours, then you need another 12 hours to sleep. It takes up their lives."
Mohammed Dualeh told BBC Wales: "Children are losing their dads. Men don't wake up in the morning and take their responsibilities seriously. Wives are left carrying the pieces.
"Khat tears everyone apart and is destroying our families and community."
Khat was last reviewed by the Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs in 2005.
The council advised that it should not to be classified under the misuse of drugs act.
It recommended instead that there should be targeted education about the dangers of khat if it is chewed excessively and repetitively.
Samira Shaddad of the Yemeni Community Centre believes that this the best way to deal with the problem, but she told Eye On Wales that she has seen no awareness-raising campaigns in Butetown in Cardiff.
But Unlike Mr Dualeh, she believes a blanket ban on the drug could make matters worse.
"Could banning it lead to other things?," she said.
"Would the younger generation find something else to socialise with, like cannabis or cocaine? How many young people would we be visiting in prisons?
The Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs will report to the government later this year.
Eye on Wales is broadcast on BBC Radio Wales at 16:30 BST on Sunday and is also available on the BBC IPlayer.