CALLS are growing to ban a dangerous recreational drug that is used by large numbers of the borough's Somalian, Ethiopian and Kenyan communities.
Khat, which is illegal in the USA, France, Switzerland and Sweden, is widely available in the Harlesden, Willseden and Wembley areas of Brent, and its long-term use has often been linked with mental illness, paranoia and heart problems.
Members of the Somalian community are now pushing for a change in the law, which would see the chewed, leafbased substance, reclassified as a class A drug and taken off the streets.
Former khat addict Abukar Awale, 39, is supporting the illegalisation. His life was sent into a downward spiral after he became hooked on the drug and he was viciously stabbed by a fellow user.
He said: "I strongly believe that khat is the biggest barrier stopping members of the Somalian community integrating with the rest of society.
"Somalian children are the lowest achievers in Brent schools and a lot of it is down to absent fathers who are affected by the drug and make it culturally acceptable.
"When I was hooked I hardly saw my children because I was chewing khat all through the night and sleeping through the day."
Mr Awale recently told his story to the House of Lords and spoke at a community meeting
at Copland School, in Wembley, to warn youngsters about the dangers of the drug.
"I came to the country as a young man full of energy, but it took me to the lowest point of my life," he said.
"It destroyed my smile, made me lose my confidence, affected my appetite and made me paranoid. It needs to be made a class A drug as soon as possible."
The former addict, who thanks the Local Employment Access Project (LEAP) in Kensal Green for helping him off the drug, estimates that about three quarters of the Somalian community chew khat and said that the main problem is that it is so easily available.
He added: "It is available in almost every high street in Brent and only costs about £3.
"And the shopkeepers don't care who they sell it to. I don't want young Somalians going down the same route I did. There is no light at the end of the tunnel."
Brent Conservative Party is backing Mr Awale and Councillor Bertha Joseph supported him when he took his campaign to parliament.
She said: "What affects one section of our community affects all of us and khat causes devestating problems. I hope that the Government takes on board the problems and does something about it."
Councillor Bob Blackman (Conservative), deputy leader of the council, added: "Drugs such as khat have a debilitating effect on the individuals who take them and we need to give the police powers to arrest those who push these drugs."