Injected cathinone in Israel

… and an HIV problem to go with it.

Khat is an East African plant whose leaves are chewed as a mild stimulant in parts of East Africa and the Middle East, especially Yemen. Its primary active agents are cathine and cathinone.

How damaging the khat habit can be is a matter of considerable dispute. It’s illegal in the U.S., though openly available in some stores with East African and Middle Eastern clientele. In Israel, with its substantial Yemeni population, khat is not controlled, and not regarded as much of a problem; few Israelis of non-Yemeni origin are interested in it, and even among the Yemeni it tends to be a of old men.

However, according to an Israeli official I just met with, over the past couple of years some Israelis have begun to chemically extract cathinone from the plant for use by injection, and the associated injection practices have generated a substantial HIV problem in a country where previous HIV levels were quite low.

No, I can’t think of a specific policy moral to cap this tale, other than that drug-related activity is complex and hard to predict.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

7 thoughts on “Injected cathinone in Israel”

    1. Well, Anonymous, there don’t seem to be any reports of Israeli Khat dealers shooting it out in the streets of Tel Aviv, nor of young Sabras serving life sentences for Khat trafficking. So, yeah, it would seem that the current legal status of Khat there produces better outcomes than prohibition would.

    2. But but but… all we have to do is prohibit khat — that will solve the problem, won’t it?

      No, it won’t. It will only add to the problem in ways which have much more profound externalities than the drug abuse we’d like to prevent.

  1. This, actually is one of the easiest drug-related activity to predict around injectible drugs. Successful needle-exchange prgrams have shown you can reduce the disease transmission rates, without ddiscernably increasing the drug user population (other than more drug users living longer lives).

    We have these weird pseudo-moralistic policies around objects used by drug users, and so make the objects difficult to obtain, thus encouraging sharing among addicts. It’s not a cure -all, but we act as though being able to pick up a syringe would make people want to inject drugs. It’s the same magical properties assigned to condoms by the anti-sex contingent.

    I grew up in a household with readily accessible syringes (diabetic in the family) and yet none of us turned into junkies, just because we had a ready supply of the paraphenalia.

    1. Why do syringes have to be illegal anyway? Needle exchange is a lifesaving idea to be sure but giving addicts anything for free is bad political framing. Better if they can just quietly go to the drugstore and buy them.

  2. A chemist colleague of mine who works in law enforcement predicted this a while back. He also pointed out that it would be easy to upgrade the cathinone to methcathinone, which would probably have much the same effects as methamphetamine. I imagine a developing population of paranoid psychotic users might lead to a change of policy. And no, I don’t favour blanket prohibitions, but a tailored approach to drugs (which would include prohibition where appropriate).

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