Birmingham users of khat are being offered advice and information on how to quit before it becomes a banned substance later this month.
Used mostly in Africa but increasingly in the UK and across Europe, khat is a leafy green plant containing two main stimulants which speed up your mind and body.
The Government has decided to make khat a Class C drug from 24 June, meaning users face fines and possible arrest.
Now Birmingham users are being urged to call 0300 5555 999 for advice and information on how to quit.
Max Vaughan of Birmingham Public Health said: “Because khat is a plant, some people think that it is safe to use. But using any drug involves risk and in addition to the health risks, from 24 June you face fines and possible arrest if found in possession of khat.
“If you need information and advice on treatment services in Birmingham call our hotline on 0300 5555 999.”
- May develop insomnia and short-lived states of confusion.
- Can get high blood pressure, heart palpitations and heart problems with heavy use.
- As khat can cause periods of increased libido, care may be needed to minimise the risk of unsafe sex and unwanted pregnancies.
- Khat can inflame the mouth and damage the teeth. It can also reduce appetite and cause constipation, and there is concern about a longer-term risk of development of mouth cancers.
- It can give you feelings of anxiety and aggression.
- It can make pre-existing mental health problems worse and can cause paranoid and psychotic reactions (which may be associated with irritability, anxiety and losing touch with reality).
- There is a small risk of significant liver disease, which has the potential to be life threatening.
From 24 June 2014, police will be able to use khat warnings and penalty notices for disorder (PND) for £60 to adults. This means that if the police find you with khat which is meant for your own personal use, you can:
- be given a warning for the first possession offence
- be given a penalty notice for disorder (a £60 fine) for your second possession offence
- face arrest for your third possession offence.
What happens if you trade in khat once it becomes an illegal Class C drug?
If you are caught, the police will take action and there is a risk of prosecution. As a Class C drug it will be illegal to supply, possess with intent to supply and import khat. Sanctions for these offences for Class C drugs are up to 14 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine or both.
Supplying khat to your friends, even if you give it away, is also considered 'supplying' under the law.