IDF prohibits khat chewing, Freon huffing

IDF prohibits khat chewing, Freon huffing

Army increases restrictions on substance abuse for soldiers on duty; troops who violate rules could face prosecution

Marissa Newman is The Times of Israel political correspondent.

Khat (screen capture: YouTube)
Khat (screen capture: YouTube)

The Israel Defense Forces cracked down this month on its list of illicit substances that could make a soldier liable for prosecution if abused while on duty.

According to Channel 2, the new regulations, which were approved by IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, include chewing the khat plant (Catha edulis), inhalation of air-conditioning gas, as well as other practices that are not classified as drug use per se, but have stimulant or depressant properties.

Furthermore, officers can now try soldiers who arrive at their bases inebriated. Previously, officers only had jurisdiction to discipline troops drinking alcohol on duty, but not those who had become intoxicated elsewhere.

“One of the leading values in the army is the protection of human life, and the combination of intoxicating substances with all the characteristics of military service, such as weaponry and driving, can be devastating,” said the IDF head of discipline, Lt.-Col. Oren Abraham. “There were several instances in the past when this would surface, and there was a decision to start a revolution in this area.

“There were soldiers who were under the influence of intoxicants — and they couldn’t be prosecuted,” he added, since the existing rules did not govern these specific practices.

According to the World Health Organization, “Khat chewing induces a state of euphoria and elation with feelings of increased alertness and arousal. This is followed by a stage of vivid discussions, loquacity and an excited mood. Thinking is characterized by a flight of ideas but without the ability to concentrate. However, at the end of a khat session the user may experience a depressive mood, irritability, anorexia and difficulty to sleep.” The WHO listed the plant as a drug of abuse in 1980, but emphasized that it is not considered highly addictive.

While khat is illegal in several countries — including Germany, France, the Netherlands, the US and Canada — there are no restrictions on its sale or distribution in Israel and it is frequently used by the country’s Yemenite and Ethiopian communities.

Huffing Freon, the gas found in air-conditioning systems, is also widespread among Israeli youth and can be fatal.

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