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23 September, 2018 12:33:25 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 23 September, 2018 01:34:55 PM

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New drug ‘khat’ finds way into Bangladesh

New Psychotropic Substance (NPS) or khat consignments seized
FAISAL MAHMUD and SAUGATO BOSU
New drug ‘khat’ finds 
way into Bangladesh

Several large consignments of ‘khat’ leaves, a narcotic substance originating in the African continent, have recently been seized in Dhaka and Chattogram, which law enforcers say have added a new dimension to drug trafficking in the country. These seizures came at a time when the country is abuzz with anti-narcotic drives in which over 100 suspected drug dealers and peddlers have been killed.

During the past three weeks, custom officials and police have seized a total of six separate consignments of this new ‘legal high’ drug, officially known as New Psychotropic Substance (NPS), having the street name of khat.

As late as September 20, Customs officials seized 208KG 'Khat' from Chattogram. Two consignments of the drug were also seized on September 6, Customs Commissioner AKM Nuruzzaman said at a briefing at Chattogram Customs house on Thursday.

The consignments, labeled as green tea, came to Dhaka Post office from Ethiopian.

From Dhaka post office, a consignment of 13 cartons 'khat' weighing 160kg was sent to Chattogram to the address of Md Iftekhar Hossain, house no-23, road-1, lane-4, New A Block Halishahar and another consignment of 10 cartons weighing 48 kg to Arif Enterprise, Shantidhara residential area, Shanti Company, Feni Sadar, Feni, he said.

On September 18, officials from Dhaka customs and National Security Intelligence (NSI) seized parcel from Shahjalal International Airport which contained 107 kilos of khat.

On September 12, officials from the Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) seized a parcel from the General Post Office (GPO) which contained 232 kilos of khat. On August 31, the

Department of Narcotics Control (DNC) and Dhaka Customs first confiscated 468 kgs of the contraband, estimated to be worth around Tk 70 lakh.

On September 9, the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) seized a far bigger consignment of 1,600-kg.

Both shipments arrived at the airport’s cargo village from Ethiopia in Africa.

What is Khat?

Khat is a flowering evergreen shrub native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The plant (Catha edulis) contains two alkaloids, cathinone and cathine, which act as stimulants. Users simply chew the green khat leaves, keeping a ball of partially chewed leaves against the inside of their cheeks.

The dried leaves can also be used in this way, though they are less potent. Some khat users also smoke the drug, put it in tea or sprinkle it on food items.

The use of khat has been a tradition for centuries throughout Somalia, Yemen and Ethiopia, where khat cafes are often found. Khat leaves are chewed by students before exams, according to the Los Angeles Times.

From different medical journals, it can be gathered that the effects of khat are similar to those of other amphetamines. Khat users report feelings of well-being, mental alertness, excitement and euphoria.

Though khat is generally described as a mild stimulant, there is consistent evidence of overuse and addiction. Long-term use or abuse has been linked to ‘insomnia, anorexia, gastric disorders, depression, liver damage and heart attack’, according to a 2009 study from the Austrian medical journal Wiener klinische Wochenschrift.

“Manic and delusional behaviour, violence, suicidal depression, hallucinations, paranoia and khat-induced psychosis have also been reported,” the study says.

Who are involved?

Talking with The Independent, Shah Alam, additional DIG of the CID, said this new drug has the same effect as yaba. “This keeps people stay awake for a longer period. Its withdrawal makes people dull and worrisome,” he added.

Alam said that an increasing number of Africans in some parts of the capital might have increased the popularity of this drug. These Africans come here for different reasons like playing in the football league or studying in the private universities. “We don’t find any concrete connection yet. But we believe some of the African nationals in Dhaka are responsible for introducing this new drug to local addicts,” he added.

He also said law enforcers have taken a strong stance against yaba. “So, drug dealers and addicts are looking for alternatives. We suspect that some drug dealers have taken this chance. As khat was not known here and not in our list of banned drugs, some people are trying to bring it into the country in the name of green tea leaves, which actually look quite similar to Khat,” he added.

He further aid a special team of the CID is working now to identify the masterminds behind the khat trade in the country. “We have prepared a list of 20 people and organisations. We have already conducted a drive and captured a cartel from the Shantinagar area of the capital,” he added.

Khurshid Alam, assistant director of DNC, told The Independent that they first learned about khat from the Drug Enforcement Authority (DEA) of the USA. “We received information from the DEA that a consignment of khat would come to Bangladesh on August 27. It didn’t come on that date, but we kept our eyes open. Only four days later we seized the first consignment,” he said.

As the law enforcers in the country get vigilant and extra cautious about Yaba and its trade, this new drug finds its way in the country, observed Alam. He said Bangladesh might also be used as a middle route for in between Africa and the Far East for Khat trade. “We have also received the intelligence that Khat demands have soared in Thailand, especially among the tourists.”

“Besides, khat is not a listed drug in Dhaka and our law enforcers and the border guards are still not familiar with this drug,” he said adding that the generic substance of khat— cathinone and cathine—are illegal here in the country as per the Bangladesh Narcotics Control Act of 1990.


IK

 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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