The Dutch government said it will ban the use of khat, a mild narcotic that is popular across East Africa, as well as with Somali immigrants in Holland.
The leafy drug, when chewed, releases juices that behave like a natural stimulant, according to BBC. However, some research also suggests khat can cause psychosis or the onset of schizophrenia. The Dutch government also complained that the use of khat on the streets creates too much noise, litter and a potential threat to public safety.
Grown in the Horn of Africa, khat is increasingly popular in Europe, with the Netherlands as a key transport hub.
Agence France Presse reported that about 843 tonnes of khat, valued at least 14 million euros ($18 million) arrived at Schiphol Airport in 2010, up from 714 tonnes in 2009 and 693 tonnes in 2008.
Dutch immigration minister Gerd Leers told Dutch radio: I'm involved in the ban because it appears to cause serious problems, particularly in the Somali community.”
Leers claimed that 10 percent of Somali men in Holland are suffering bad effects from excessive khat usage.
They are lethargic and refuse to co-operate with the government or take responsibility for themselves or their families, he said.
Khat is also widely used by people from Yemen, Ethiopia, and Kenya.
A spokesman for the Dutch immigration department, Frank Wassenaar, told Agence France Presse: The problem lies especially within the Somali community, which is much larger than the Kenyan or Yemeni communities within our country. If taken in moderation there are no major problems, but an investigation showed it to be problematic among some 10 percent of khat users.”
There are now about 27,000 Somalis living in Holland, according to the Dutch immigration minister. Many are unemployed.
Khat is already banned in the US, Canada and some European countries (although it is widely available in Britain).
Ironically, the Dutch are well known for their liberal attitudes towards soft drugs.
According to the talktofrank.com, a British website that spells out the effects if drug use, khat makes people feel more alert, happy and talkative. It also suppresses the appetite.
“[Khat] can cause insomnia and can make pre-existing mental health problems worse and can cause paranoid and psychotic reactions (losing touch with reality),” the website stated.
In addition, khat users often develop insomnia, short-lived states of confusion, high blood pressures, heart palpitations and heart problems.
Talktofrank added: “Khat can inflame the mouth and damage the teeth; can 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.”