Vietnam customs officers seize 2.5 tons of illegal chewing herbs smuggled from Africa

By Thanh Huyen, Thien Tri   May 12, 2018 | 12:04 am PT
The narcotic leaf contains cathinone, a stimulant that has similar effects to amphetamine.

Customs officers in Vietnam’s northern port city of Hai Phong discovered nearly 2.5 tons of leaves from the narcotic plant khat under tea and coffee labels on Friday.

The container of leaves was imported from Africa, where the practice of chewing them is common along locals.

The narcotic leaf gets its kick from a chemical called cathinone, a stimulant that has similar effects to amphetamine. Users tend to pack the leaves into their mouths and chew them slowly, allowing the leaves to break down and the cathinone to enter the bloodstream. Side effects include rotten teeth and mouth disease.

Khat leaves produce an euphoric effect that can become addictive. The World Health Organization classified khat in 1980 as a drug of abuse that can produce psychological dependence.

The chewing of the leaves has been considered a serious problem in many parts of the world, and the leaf has been banned in several countries, including the U.K. and the Netherlands.

While heroin remains the most widely used illicit drug in Vietnam, the market for amphetamine-type stimulants continues to expand and diversify, prompting recent crackdowns.

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