Class B drug back on the streets of Hamilton

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 05:00 08/02/2013

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Waikato Police are asking for anyone with details of the Middle Eastern drug khat to come forward following reports of the Class B drug being sold in a Hamilton East park.

Khat (pronounced "cot", also known as qat, qhat, catha and mirra) is known botanically as Catha Edulis and is native to Africa and southern Arabia and was last considered a problem in Hamilton back in 2010.

This week a Hamilton woman contacted the Waikato Times anonymously, concerned for the health of her husband who had recently bought the drug late at night from a dealer at Steele Park.

She said her husband bought half a bag of khat for $25.

"I don't like my husband doing it," she said. "I don't like the effect it has on him. He does not become bad, but he sleeps all day and he is losing his appetite."

Detective Sergeant Graham Pitkethley of the Waikato CIB urged the woman to come forward with more information.

"There is nothing to suggest at this point that the use of khat is growing. However, again the key message is that if you see something do something and that is speak to your local police," he said.

Mr Pitkethley said the last time khat had been raised as an issue was in November 2010.

"Khat is used primarily, but not solely by, members of immigrant North African communities who are often not aware of the illegal nature of the substance."

He said reports involving the sale, distribution and consumption of khat were not common in Hamilton.

The woman who contacted the Times said her husband had chewed khat with friends.

"They chew it and get the juices from the leaves and then they kick back. They don't swallow it," she said.

"I want them to stop it, I don't want my husband to get addicted to it, I don't want him involved with those people."

Mr Pitkethley said khat contained two psychoactive substances: cathine and cathinone.

"Cathine (also known as norpseudoephedrine) is said to be a relatively moderate stimulant, similar in action to ephedrine," he said.

"Cathinone is the main psychoactive ingredient. It is stronger than cathine and, according to some researchers, more powerful than cocaine. It is a naturally occurring amphetamine analogue and, like amphetamines, has similar stimulating and relaxing properties and acts as an appetite suppressant."

A former leader of the Waikato Somali Friendship Society, Abdirizak Abdi, said he hoped the latest reports would be fully investigated.

"[Khat] is not good for our community, or anyone, for that matter."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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