Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research


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Dr Axel Klein

Lecturer in Study of Addictive Behaviour

School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research

C1 Darwin College
University of Kent,
Canterbury, Kent CT27PD


I am a Lecturer in the Anthropology of Conflict, Criminal Justice and Policy at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research.

I have a background in African studies and conducted extensive fieldwork in a fishing village in Nigeria. Since then my interests have diversified, and have taken me through a series of encounters into the field of drug and alcohol studies. How people use mind altering substances and how they produce and distribute them are questions I have pursued in a number of projects.

More puzzling still has been the question of policy – the legislative and political framework that has been set up in the UK and internationally to control these aspects of human behaviour. In my work I often cross from academia to practice, working with both the non-governmental and statutory sector, in this country and abroad.

As an “expert” I have had the opportunity of working with UN and EU agencies in more than 30 countries including Afghanistan, Cambodia and Jamaica.

Following the trajectory of drug offenders has led me into the question of penal regimes, offender management and alternative punishments. I have worked in prisons, on restorative justice programmes, and have both researched and managed community punishment projects.

My initial fieldwork took place among migrant communities. These Ewe fishermen were part of a coastal diaspora that was based on their sea faring and fishing skills, and the growth urban centres in West Africa.

Since then, my interest in migration has evolved into a study of the criminalisation of migration and the creation of new populations that are managed and controlled by the state. The way migrants use networks and cultural capital to facilitate their integration, and the different methods and technologies employed to exclude them inform my current work.

Analysis of conflict and the process of conflict resolution in Africa have been a continuous topic of interest. I have developed this in two different directions, looking at the way conflict is carried out and resolved within organisations and businesses on the one hand, and the methods used for framing and defining conflict at macro level. I have recently become involved in looking at piracy by comparing the situation in Somalia and Nigeria in the context of development and moral economy.


I joined the University of Kent in 2005 from DrugScope where I was Director of the International Unit for two years.

I started my career as a Senior Research Officer for the Institute for African Alternatives and became a Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Kent. In 1999, I was a Research Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies and moved the following year to the European Commission as a Drug Control Officer, Caribbean. In 2001, I became Head of Research at Drugscope and then in 2002, Head of UK Focal Point for the EU Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction.


My PhD was titled “Fishing without formality: an economic anthropology of the Ewe along the Lagos – Badagry Seabeach” and was completed at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. I gained my BA in Social Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies. 


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    Klein, Axel (2013) The Moral Economy of Somali Piracy – Organised Criminal Business or Subsistence Activity? Global Policy, 4 (1). pp. 94-100. ISSN 1758-5880.


    Somali piracy is increasingly explained in terms of organised criminal business. This article argues that piracy does not constitute a business and the analogy with organised crime is misleading and can obstruct the search for a long term settlement. Dismissing the underlying grievance, the destruction of Somali fisheries by foreign trawlers, with literalist explanations such as ‘pirates are rarely fishermen’ and ‘most targets are cargo ships’, ignores its function as a ‘legitimating notion’. The concept of ‘moral economy’ is used to explain how along the coast but also within the diaspora the identity of Somalis as victims is used to legitimize pirate activities. International responses should therefore focus actively and symbolically on reconstructing livelihoods along the coast, instead of seeking security sector and criminal justice solution. This is possible and cost effective because Somali piracy is a subsistence activity driven by lack of employment and investment opportunities, and provides a limited economic stimulus for coastal micro economies.

    Martin, Suzanne and Klein, Axel (2013) The presumption of mutual influence in occurrences of workplace bullying: time for change. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 5 (3). pp. 147-155. ISSN 1759-6599.


    Purpose – The self-reports of bullies or victims of workplace bullying appear to result in confused responses that fail to clarify who is doing what to whom. The research reported in this paper aimed to examine how staff from human resources and occupational health conceptualized and assessed cases of alleged bullying. Design/methodology/approach – The research relied on semi-structured interviews with managers, human resource staff, occupational health staff, mediators, trade union representatives, and staff members who were both victims and alleged perpetrators of bullying. The staff contributing came from an NHS trust, two universities and a criminal justice agency. Findings – Staff were reluctant to document or reveal information about the frequency and severity of bullying within their services. Despite this, three key themes emerged from the interviews that seemed to inform individual and organisational responses: the ethos of professionalism, the ambiguous role of human resources and the presumption of mutuality. Research limitations/implications – Reliance on interpretations of workplace bullying that defend both individual staff members and the organization had implications for victims. By not naming reported problems as bullying, the organization could limit its responsibility to act. Failure to identify and document bullying limited the research but also poorly served victimized individuals. Practical implications – Services require training to help them move beyond a presumption that the self-reports of bullies are a reliable source of assessment data. Social implications – Effective identification and assessment of bullying situations would be the first step towards reducing the psychological impact of the problem. Experience of workplace bullying is highly correlated with health and mental health problems of targeted individuals. Originality/value – This paper capitalizes on insights from the field of domestic violence in highlighting the need for clarity about the nature of coercive control. The paper will be valuable to individuals and organisations charged with the task of tackling workplace bullying.

    Klein, Axel (2013) The khat ban in the UK What about the ‘scientific’ evidence? Anthropology Today, 29 (5). pp. 6-8. ISSN 0268-540X.


    Since the 1920s certain psychoactive substances have been controlled by specially created international agencies. More recently, governments have committed themselves to using evidence in policy-making. Yet, as the ban on khat in the UK and other countries shows, the assessment process is a perfunctory rather than a decisive component. The Home Secretary set aside scientific advice and bases the decision to ban on considerations outside the health risk ratio, including crime control and counter-terrorism. However, experience shows that prohibiting substances when demand remains strong is inherently criminogenic. Indeed, the khat ban would appear to play into the hands of radical Islamist organizations. In this article, Axel Klein discusses how political calculations overrule evidence and how this is facilitated by international drug control agencies. Using the term ‘social system’ to explain the relentless extension of bureaucratic remit, he argues that control would now appear inevitable for any substance defined as a drug, regardless of evidence and consequence. As this has implications for other culture-bound peculiar substances or ‘genussmittel’ he suggests ditching the term ‘drug’ altogether.

    Klein, Axel (2012) Policing as a causal factor – a fresh view on riots and social unrest. Safer Communities, 11 (1). pp. 17-23. ISSN 1757-8043.


    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to comment on the outbreak of disturbances in England and other parts of the world. It seeks to argue that in many cases rioting and the breakdown of public order is a direct response to policing practice. While many policy makers argue that a likely rise in public unrest during the economic downturn is an argument for raising funding for law enforcement, an examination of disturbances in England, France, the USA and Tunisia suggests that it is not the absence but the heavy and unrestrained presence of police that sparks disorder. This in turn relates to the functions policy makers have loaded onto the police, which have little to do with public safety but strain relations between law enforcement and the community. Design/methodology/approach – This paper is a policy assessment. Findings – Rioting in England began not because of the absence of police but because of poor police practice. The outbreak of riots at a time of austerity suggests that resources should be focused on core police functions, not the maintenance of public health or public morals. Originality/value – The paper provides a new look at the breakdown in public order.

    Klein, Axel and Saphonn, Vonthanak and Reid, Savanna (2012) Reaching out and reaching up - developing a low cost drug treatment system in Cambodia. Harm Reduction Journal, 9 (11). ISSN 1477-7517.


    Cambodia, confronted by the spread of drug misuse among young people, requested support from international agencies to develop a drug treatment programme in 2000. The initial plan developed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime was to set up a number of conventional drug treatment centres in urban areas. During the planning phase, however, the project was redesigned as a community based outreach programme. Ten Community Counselling Teams have been formed and trained in pilot areas, and within the first year of operation 462 drug and alcohol users contacted. Comprising former drug users, family members affected by drug use and health care staff, they have drug scene credibility, local knowledge and connectivity, and a rudimentary level of medical competence. Crucially, they enjoy the support of village elders, who are involved in the planning and reporting stages. While the Community Counselling Teams with their basic training in addiction counselling are in no position as yet to either provide or refer clients to treatment, they can provide brief interventions, organise self help groups, and most importantly provide an alternative to law enforcement. By taking a development centred approach, with emphasis on community, empowerment and inclusion, it provides a constructive and inclusive alternative to medical approaches and the compulsory drug treatment centres. The paper is based on an evaluation involving interviews with a range of stakeholders and a review of project documents.

    Klein, Axel and Williams, Lucy (2012) Immigration Detention in the Community: research on the experiences of migrants released from detention centres in the UK. Population, Space and Place, 18 (6). pp. 741-753. ISSN 1544-8444.


    This paper argues that immigration detention results in immigration detainees being treated as anomalies within the liberal, democratic state – not only within detention centres but also post-release. Given that most released detainees remain destitute and without entitlement or resolution of their immigration cases, many report feelings of being continuously ‘detained’ even after release. This paper addresses a gap in the literature on the ongoing experience of released detainees. The authors draw on qualitative interview data from former detainees as a first step towards a better understanding of the issues. We discuss wider questions of why the detention regime fails to prepare detainees for release as well as how this omission can undermine their capacity to lead productive and socially meaningful lives. This paper argues that the lack of concern for the well-being of former immigration detainees has considerable and far-reaching implications for the former detainees and their communities. Finally, we link the situation of former detainees and their liminal states of exception, to discourses of slavery and civil death.

    Klein, Axel and Martin, Suzanne (2011) Two dilemmas in dealing with workplace bullies - false positives and deliberate deceit. International Journal of Workplace Health Management, 4 (1). pp. 13-32. ISSN 1753-8351.


    Purpose – This paper aims to highlight how workplace bullies manipulate services by presenting themselves as victims. In the absence of robust screening and assessment tools to distinguish between bully and victim, personnel staff are at risk of being coerced into perpetuating the abuse of victims. The paper also aims to argue for an in-depth investigation of the psychological motivations of perpetrators to inform the development of a specialised assessment tool. Design/methodology/approach – The paper contains two short case studies drawn from staff attending a workshop on responding to domestic violence in the workplace. Similarities between the coercive behaviour patterns of the domestic violence perpetrator and the workplace bully were striking. The approach taken to discussing the case studies closely follows the approach used in the assessment of domestic violence perpetrators where controlling behaviours and coercive control are captured. Findings – The case studies used in the paper illustrate the dangers of taking a neutral stance in situations where bullying is ongoing. A lack of clarity about who is doing what to whom allows the bully to use any intervention to further abuse. The important issues of victim safety and abuser accountability are absent from the processes employed by personnel staff in the management of these two cases. Research limitations/implications – There are limitations in the process and the scale of the project, but the case studies are indicative of wider issues, and point towards the central dilemma faced by personnel departments generally. Practical implications – The domestic violence field offers many insights into the motivations for abusiveness. This paper draws on those insights and shows how they can be used to think more systematically about accusations of bullying in the workplace. The paper argues for increased caution around accepting the self-reports of bullies who may be presenting as victims. Originality/value – This paper focuses attention on the ways in which bullying individuals attempt to coerce services into perpetuating their abusiveness.


    Khat is a benign substance with an excellent medical safety record. The paper by Corkery et al. seeks to present it as a ‘killer drug’ but can only do so by redefining the term drug related deaths from one of causality to a loose association. In the process, scientific rigour is sacrificed and both the evidence on khat use as a cause of harm, and khat as a culturally integrated psychoactive substance, are grossly misrepresented

    Klein, Axel (2011) Harm reduction - the right policy approach for Africa? African Journal of Drug and Alcohol Studies, 10 (1). pp. 59-70. ISSN 1531-4065.


    African policy makers find themselves confronted by a phenomenon of rising substance use particularly in urban areas. The knowledge base in terms of prevalence rates, medical consequences, patterns and cultures of consumption remains patchy. Responses are largely driven by imported models advocated by drug control agencies and development partners. There are two inherent flaws to this – first, many of the methods from treatment modalities to drug enforcement techniques were designed for completely different social and cultural scenarios. Secondly, the mode of operation is that of a ‘war on drugs’, where the problem is inherent to the drug itself. The consequences of such a policy can be even more devastating than the drug use itself. The harm reduction paradigm that takes drug use as a fact of modern life, but addresses its problems with regulative intervention provides a policy orientation that is more promising. Existing drug cultures – khat, kola, iboga – that originated and are unique to Africa should be understood within both traditional and quickly evolving modern contexts. A system of regulation should be advocated against vested professional and organizational interest.

    Klein, Axel (2010) Drug control in the 21st century: from private passion to systemic confusion. Amsterdam Law Forum, 2 (4). pp. 47-58. ISSN 18768156.


    International drug control has chalked up an impressive record of policy failure, yet it continues to intensify its provisions and expand its remit. This idiosyncrasy is best understood by regarding drug control as a system with separate, but linked elements dedicated to maintaining itself. Inherent to the system is an ideology which is derived from and supported by 'scientific truths'. The survival of the regime depends on the active support of professional groups that benefit from the regime and are its chief proponents.

    Klein, Axel and Metaal, Pien (2010) A good chew or good riddance-How to move forward in the regulation of khat consumption. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 132 (3). pp. 584-589. ISSN 0378-8741.


    Aims: to review the status of khat, the most recent plant based psychoactive substance to reach a global market, and consider policy making processes in general and the framework of drug control in particular. Materials and methods: Desk review of literature on khat and wider drug policy processes. Results: The risk assessment and classification of psychoactive drugs is a contested arena where political, economic and moral agendas collide, leaving countries that have banned khat, with significant social costs. To best manage the risks arising from the increasing availability of khat it is therefore suggested to draft a regulatory framework with clear objectives and guiding principles. Conclusions: Given the medical risks of khat use are modest, the objective of the regulatory framework should be the protection of consumers and community. This is best achived by establishing processes for the quality control of khat imports, and by regulating access and availability. It should therefore not be considered as a drug to be controlled but as a licit substance that needs to be regulated.

    Odenwald, Michael and Klein, Axel and Warfa, Nasir (2010) Introduction to the special issue: The changing use and misuse of khat (Catha edulis) – Tradition, trade and tragedy. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 132 (3). pp. 537 -539. ISSN 0378-8741.


    Within the last decade the hitherto little known psychoactive substance of khat has emerged as a regional and international issue. In the Horn of Africa khat production has spurred an economic boom, but dramatic increases in consumption have raised public health concerns. Given the complexity of the topic spanning multiple academic disciplines and fields of professional practice, the need for a systematic overview is urgent. To facilitate the exchange of information, prompt interdisciplinary research and alert international organisations and governments, the authors organised an international and interdisciplinary khat conference in 2009. This special issue of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology contains articles written by different conference speakers that present the current state of knowledge and the challenges for future research and politics.

    Klein, Axel (2009) Sentencing for drug offences. Drugs and Alcohol Today, 9 (3). pp. 7-10. ISSN 1745-9265.


    A new offence of 'drug covering' should be created, with penalty ranges of six to 12 months. This would allow sentencers to distinguish between drug mules and principals, as the latter are the principal traffickers and stand to gain the benefits of drug importation.

    Klein, Axel (2009) Consultation paper on sentencing for drug offences. Drugs and Alcohol Today, 9 (3). pp. 7-10. ISSN 1745-9265.


    A new offence of ‘drug covering’ should be created, with penalty ranges of six to 12 months. This would allow sentencers to distinguish between drug mules and principals, as the latter are the principal traffickers and stand to gain the benefits of drug importation.

    Klein, Axel and Beckerleg, Susan and Hailu, Degol (2009) Regulating Khat - Dilemmas and Opportunities for the international drug control system. International Journal of Drug Policy, 20 (6). pp. 509-513.


    The regulation of khat, one of the most recent psychoactive drugs to become a globally traded commodity, remains hotly contested within different producer and consumer countries. As regimes vary, it has been possible to compare khat policies in Africa, Europe and North America from different disciplinary perspectives. Methods Field research was conducted in East Africa and Europe, using a combination of semistructured interviews, participant observation and the analysis of trade statistics. Results The research established the significance of khat for rural producers, regional economies, as a tax base and source of foreign exchange. At the same time, khat as a psychoactive substance is associated with health and public safety problems that in turn are met with often ill-informed legislative responses. Bans have in turn lead to the criminalisation of users and sellers and illegal drug markets. Conclusion The empirical work from Africa provides a strong argument for promoting evidence-based approaches to khat regulation, harnessing the positive aspects of the khat economy to develop a control model that incorporates the voices and respects the needs of rural producers. Ultimately, the framework for khat may provide both a model and an opportunity for revising the international treaties governing the control of other plant psychoactive-based substances.

    Klein, Axel (2008) Khat in the neighbourhood - Local government responses to Khat use in a London community. Substance Use & Misuse, 43 (6). pp. 819 -831. ISSN 1082-6084.


    There is increasing fear among the general public about khat, its use and users, and associated crime. In many English cities, neighborhoods with growing Somali populations and emerging khat-using scenes and markets have to find ways of managing the impact of the negative image of khat. This case study describes and analyzes how a local municipal authority can respond constructively by generating an evidence base, engaging in consultation, and endeavoring to identify the actual relationship between reported criminality and public nuisance and the alleged patterns of use and distribution of khat. It is argued that it is important to frame the khat in the community not as a "drug problem" but as a wider public health issue, for which appropriate solutions can be developed.

    Klein, Axel (2008) Forbud eller laissez faire? Reuleringen af khat i skandinavien og storbritannien. Stof Tidskrift for Stofmisbrugsomradet, 12 (Vinter). pp. 25-29. ISSN 1397-3385.


    Comparison of different regulatory regimes for khat, a naturally occuring stimulant popular with migrants from Northeast Africa, which is prohibited in Scandinavia but legal in the UK.

    Forrester-Jones, Rachel and Hastings, S. and Palmer, Ann P. et al. (2008) Service user involvement: Does it leave people standing on the side-lines? 13th World Congress IASSID. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 52 (8-9). pp. 702-702. ISSN 0964-2633.

    Warfa, Nasir and Klein, Axel and Bhui, Kamaldeep et al. (2007) Khat use and mental illness: A critical review. Social Science and Medicine, 65 (2). pp. 309-318. ISSN 0277-7729.


    Khat has been used as a stimulant plant in many parts of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula for centuries. Its current use among particular migrant communities in Europe and elsewhere has caused alarm among policy makers and health care professionals. In the United Kingdom, the debate over the psychiatric and social implications of khat use has led to a demand for stricter legal control of this stimulant plant. This paper (a) provides a historical overview of khat use, and (b) reviews the evidence for the existence of a causal link between khat use and mental illness. To do so, we undertook a detailed search of social and medical science databases for case reports, qualitative and quantitative articles on khat use and mental illness from 1945 to 2006. The validity and reliability of the studies that met our inclusion criteria were examined. Lastly, although highlighting health concerns about khat use we suggest that the debate about this popular drug in migrant populations carries elements of a 'moral panic'. There is a need for improved research on khat use and its possible association with psychiatric disorders.

    Klein, Axel (2007) Wazobia at Morton Hall: The situation of Nigerian nationals in a medium security female prison. Prison Service Journal, 171. pp. 41-51. ISSN 0300-3558.

    Klein, Axel (2007) Growing cannabis in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. id21 insights (10). pp. 3.


    It is estimated that the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean, with a population of just over 100,000, has more than 2,500 cannabis cultivators, mainly in the foothills of La Soufrière Volcano. After the demise of the banana economy in the early 21st Century, marijuana has become a safety net for many islanders. Marijuana cultivation is initially attractive because three crops can be produced each year, with small holders earning up to US$10,000. After harvest, the marijuana is transported to the coast and sold to exporters, many from nearby islands. This is a risky business, with farmers often cheated by traders, arrested by security forces or robbed by rivals or pirates at sea.

    Klein, Axel (2006) Introducing Community Service as an Alternative to Custodial Punishment in the Caribbean Community and Market. Caribbean Journal of Criminology and Social Psychology, 11 (1&2). pp. 85-99. ISSN 1025-5591.

    Klein, Axel and Day, Marcus (2006) Training in evaluation skills for drug treatment and drug prevention professionals in the Commonwealth Caribbean: How do non-governmental and statutory services compare? Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 13 (1). pp. 33-43. ISSN 0968-7637.

    Klein, Axel (2001) Between the death penalty and decriminalisation: new directions for drug control in the Commonwealth Caribbean. New West India Guide, 75 (4). pp. 193-228. ISSN 0028-9930.


    Klein, Axel (2008) Drugs and the World. Reaktion Books, London, 221 pp. ISBN 9781861893819.


    The use and misuse of psychoactive substances is one of the most widely discussed and yet least understood social processes. It is easy to condemn the use of illicit drugs, as well as alcohol and tobacco, as problems that require the services of professionals and the retribution of the state. Sight has been lost of the contributions that drugs have played in society and culture and the key role they play in ritual, religion and possibly human evolution. Drugs and the World restores the constructive aspect of drug use to the discussion, and reviews the policies and interventions that make up the contemporary web of drug controls. Axel Klein traces the classification of substances to define ‘drugs’, and examines the links with both crime and addiction. He investigates the arguments made concerning the role of drugs, first in human evolution and then in history, to underscore their importance in the development of trade and nation states. Drawing on research from around the world, this book illustrates how global efforts to suppress drugs have had little impact on drug use, but have instead eroded institutions of the state, corrupted law enforcement and courts, and undermined the democratic process. Providing new material from the Caribbean, West Africa and the Caucasus to illustrate the bizarre consequences of an internationally devised drug-control programme, Drugs and the World moves to discussing the contribution of drugs to contemporary society, and ways of regulating their use and distribution. Written by an expert author with more than fifteen years experience in the field of drug use, addiction prevention and drug policy, this book will appeal to a wide audience of readers wishing to know more about the use of illicit drugs in the world today. Axel Klein is Lecturer in Medical Anthropology at the University of Kent.

    Anderson, David G. and Beckerleg, Susan and Hailu, Degol et al. (2007) The Khat Controversy: Stimulating the Debate on Drugs. Cultures of Consumption Series. Berg, Oxford, 272 pp. ISBN 9781845202507.

    Debiel, Tobias and Klein, Axel (2002) Fragile Peace: State Failure, Violence and Development in Crisis Regions. Zed Books, 256 pp. ISBN 10:184277171X.


    Several regions of the world are characterized by persistent internal conflict and deeply rooted structures of violence. In this work. the contributors explore why domestic and international efforts to re-establish order, human security, democratic processes, and an economy capable of developing, are proving so difficult to achieve. They look at three regions in particular - the Caucasus, Central America and the Horn of Africa - and investigate the wider questions involved in state failure, the dynamics of economies geared to violence, the roles of outside actors and aid agencies in supporting reconstruction, and what effective judicial reform, decentralization and other changes may achieve. They are all concerned to encourage more effective action, processes and policies to help regions and countries to end, or recover from, endemic warfare and violence. Without such a transition, the prospects for their populations remain bleak and the flight of refugees to more secure and prosperous countries will continue.

Book Sections

    Klein, Axel (2013) Polly and Mono - Reflections on the Validity of Poly drug use. In: Adams, Cameron and Waldstein, Anna and Sessa, Ben et al. Breaking Convention: essays on Psychedelic Consciousness. Strange Attractor Press, Devizes. ISBN 1907222227.

    Klein, Axel (2013) Framing the Chew: Narratives of development, drugs and danger with regard to Khat. In: Labate, Beatriz C. and Cavnar, Clancy Prohibition, religious freedom, and human rights: Regulating traditional drug use. Springer, pp. 131-148. ISBN 9783642409578.

    Klein, Axel and Jelsma, Martin and Metaal, Pien (2012) Chewing over Khat prohibition. In: UNSPECIFIED The globalisation of control and regulation of an ancient stimulant. Legislative Reform of Drug Policies. Transnational Institute, Amsterdam.


    In the context of a fast changing and well documented market in legal highs, the case of khat (Catha edulis) provides an interesting anomaly. It is first of all a plant-based substance that undergoes minimal transformation or processing in the journey from farm to market. Secondly, khat has been consumed for hundreds if not thousands of years in the highlands of Eastern Africa and Southern Arabia. In European countries, khat use was first observed during the 1980s, but has only attracted wider attention in recent years. Discussions about appropriate regulatory systems and the implications of rising khat use for European drug policies4 should take cognizance of social, demographic and cultural trends, and compare the existing models of control that exist in Europe. Khat provides a unique example of a herbal stimulant that is defined as an ordinary vegetable in some countries and a controlled drug in others. It provides a rare opportunity to study the effectiveness, costs and benefits of diverse control regimes. As long as khat is legally produced and traded, it also allows for the views of stakeholders such as farmers and traders to be included in policy discussions.

    Klein, Axel (2012) The Anthropology of Drugs. In: Fardon, Richard and Harris, Oliva and Marchand, Trevor H. J. et al. Sage Handbook of Social Anthropology. Sage, London, pp. 365-376. ISBN 9781847875471.

    Klein, Axel (2012) More Police, Less Safety? Policing as a Causal Factor in the Outbreak of Riots and Public Disturbances. In: Briggs, Daniel The English Riots of 2011: A Summer of Discontent. Waterside Press, pp. 127-146. ISBN 9781904380887.

    Klein, Axel (2011) Peculiar and perplexed – the complexity of ganja cultivation in the English speaking Caribbean. In: Decorte, T. and Potter, Gary R. and Bouchard, M. World Wide Weed. The Globalisation and Localisation of Cannabis Cultivation. Ashgate, London, pp. 23-38.

    Klein, Axel (2011) Khat and the Informal Globalization of a Psychoactive Commodity. In: Costa Storti, Claudia and de Grauwe, Paul Illicit Trade and the Global Economy. CESifo Seminar Series. MIT Press, pp. 179-202. ISBN 9780262016551.


    Over the past decade khat has become a globally available commodity, popular among Eastern African diaspora communities in Europe and North America. At the same time production and consumption are spreading into countries across Africa where it was hitherto unknown. There have been profound implications for rural producers who have benefited from the cash crop, public health and social control. Khat, is the only ‘new’ psychoactive drug that is globally traded and not controlled by international conventions. National bans have engendered trading networks that move from the licit to the criminal. The long term status of khat as either a vegetable (UK) or a class 1 narcotic (US) has serious implications for farming families and national economies in Eastern Africa, but also offers the opportunity for the emergence of a global trading commodity controlled entirely by African interests.

    Klein, Axel (2011) Khat. In: Kleinman, Mark and Hawdon, James Encyclopedia of Drug Policy. Sage Reference. ISBN 9781412976954.

    Klein, Axel (2009) Mules or Couriers: The Role of Nigerian Drug Couriers in the International Drug Trade. In: Childs, Matt D. and Falola, Toyin The Changing Worlds of Atlantic Africa : Essays in Honor of Robin Law. Carolina Academic Press, Durham, North Carolina, pp. 411-429. ISBN 9781594605949.


    Nigerian drug couriers - their recrutiment, integration with the drugs market and the impact of arrest and incarceration.

    Klein, Axel (2007) Khat and the creation of tradition in the Somali diaspora. In: Fountain, Jane and Korf, Dirk J. Drugs in Society: European Perspectives. Radcliffe Publishing Ltd, Oxford. ISBN 9781846190933.

    Klein, Axel and Beckerleg, Susan (2007) Building castles of spit - the role of Khat chewing in Worship, work and leisure. In: Goodman, Jordan and Lovejoy, Paul E. and Sherrat, Andrew Consuming habits: Global and historical perceptives on how cultures define drugs. Routledge, London. ISBN 9780415425827.

    Klein, Axel (2005) Between the Yoruba and the Deep Blue Sea: The Gradual Integration of Ewe Fishermen on the Lagos-Badagry Seabeach. In: Falola, Toyin Christianity and Social Change in Africa. Essays in Honour of J.D.Y. Peel. Carolina Academic Press, Durham, North Carolina, USA, pp. 99-115. ISBN 1594601356.

    Klein, Axel (2002) Regimes in Transition: a review of conflict patterns in the Horn of Africa. In: UNSPECIFIED Der Zerbrechliche Frieden. Stiftung Entwicklung und Frieden, Bonn. ISBN 103801203212.


    Odenwald, Michael and Klein, Axel and Warfa, Nasir (2011) Drugs in Focus. Edition 21. Office for Office Publications of the European Communities, 4 pp. PDF.


    Khat leaves are cultivated in the highlands of the Horn of Africa, Southern Arabia and along the East African coast. In parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen, khat leaves have been chewed for centuries for their mildly stimulating properties and are for many a regular part of social life. Traditionally, khat was used mostly by men during highly ritualised communal ‘khat parties’. Within about one hour, the user experiences physiological excitation and euphoria. This is followed by a quieter, more introvert phase, giving way to a gradual comedown, which may include restlessness, irritability and melancholia.

    Odenwald, Michael and Klein, Axel and Warfa, Nasir (2011) Khat use in Europe: Implications for European policy. EMCDDA, Lisbon, 4 pp. PDF. ISSN 1681-5157.


    Khat leaves are cultivated in the highlands of the Horn of Africa, Southern Arabia and along the East African coast. In many countries, chewing khat is an age-old tradition. More recently, the mass migration of people from the Horn of Africa has been associated with the spread of khat usage to neighbouring countries, Europe and the rest of the world. Exact numbers of regular khat users on a worldwide scale do not exist, however estimates range up to 20 million. This paper presents the challenges associated with the spread of khat consumption.

Conference Items
Edited Books
Research Reports

    Roberts, Marcus and Trace, Mike and Klein, Axel (2004) Law Enforcement and Supply Reduction. The Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme, 16 pp.


    This report looks at the approach to drug policy that has dominated the field for much of the past 40 years, and is sometimes characterised - and, to some degree, caricatured - as the 'war on drugs' approach.

    Trace, Mike and Roberts, M. and Klein, Axel (2004) Objective review of drug strategies: What can be done and what has been done. The Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme

    Klein, Axel and Roberts, Marcus and Trace, Mike (2004) Drug Policy and the HIV Pandemic in Russia and Ukraine. Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme, 4 pp.


    Over the past three years Russia and Ukraine have experienced one of the fastest growing HIV pandemics in Europe. In contrast to other parts of the world, the main driver behind the rate of infection is injecting drug use. Recent government policies have placed a heavy emphasis on reducing availability and on harsh punishments for drug users. This approach has not succeeded in significantly reducing the level of drug use. It has pushed the drug scene underground and increased risky behaviours among vulnerable groups. In the absence of measures to reduce infections and reverse the rate of transmission, the long-term impact of HIV/AIDS on population growth and economic development is likely to be grave.

    Roberts, Marcus and Klein, Axel (2004) Towards a Review of Global Policies on Drugs. The Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme, 9 pp.


    This first report from the Beckley Foundation Drug Policy Programme (BFDPP) discusses the global drug control system - particularly the role of the United Nations – and the challenges confronting drug policy. It argues that the current system is not achieving its stated objective: to eradicate completely – or even substantially reduce – illicit drug markets. On the contrary, over four fifths of the 92 countries that reported on progress to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said that drug use in their populations was either not coming down or – in the majority of cases – was still going up. The BFDPP is calling for a fundamental review of the impact of this global framework. The overarching objectives of global drug policy should be to reduce crime and nuisance, death, physical and mental illness, damage to children and families and failure in education and employment resulting from drug use. This report will ask whether these objectives are being achieved and which strategies are most likely to deliver positive results in the future. It is concluded that the drug free world currently sought by the UN is an impossible ideal, but a world in which far less harm is caused as a result of the production, trafficking and consumption of drugs is both an inspiring ideal and an achievable objective.

Total publications in KAR: 51 [See all in KAR]
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Research interests

My research interests include:

  • Drugs – patterns of use, cultures of consumption, the production and distribution of drugs, drug policy (focus on khat and cannabis).
  • Penal reform – alternatives to incarceration, impact and efficacy of community sentencing and restorative justice.
  • Piracy/Conflict – moral economy approaches to conflict analysis and securitization of development.
  • Conflict in the workplace – ways of diagnosis and conflict settlement, especially bullying.


  • 2008 – 2012: Training Services: training and pilot projects for drug treatment and HIV prevention in prisons in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime funded £52,317).
  • 2012 – 2012: Evaluation of Victim Offender Mediation in Medway.
  • 2010 – 2012: Integration of immigration detainees in the community.


If you have a proposal in the above areas and want to study at the University of Kent, please contact me to discuss further. Current research students are working on:

  • “A Qualitative Study: Black Foreign National Women in UK Prisons”


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I convene and teach on courses:

  • SO 628 Drugs and Culture
  • SO 654 Drugs and Crime
  • SO 681 Restorative Justice
  • KI524 Homelessness & Pathways to Social Inclusion
  • KI511  Psychological and Biological Aspects of Dependency
  • KI 531 Drugs and the Criminal Justice system
  • KI536 Research Methods.


I’ve taught the following modules: African Societies, Anthropology of Development, ‘The raw and the cooked’ Anthropology of Food.

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Media Work

  • The Drug Khat Thu, 26 Jan 2012, BBC Radio 4
  • Drugs policy: Let the qat out of the ban. A debate over outlawing a herbal high is really about multiculturalism
  • The Economist Mar 3rd 2012
  • BBC Radio Scotland, Newsweek, 29/05/2010 interviewed by Derek Bateman on the situation in Jamaica
  • ‘Politics and the Media’ programme on the Islam Channel, studio discussion on khat, 22/03/1010
  • Colourful RadioBreakfast Show, interviewed by Henry Bonsu on Mephedrone deaths, 18/03/2010
  • BBC World Service – interviewed by Mark Whitaker on cocaine seizures on cruise ships, ‘World Today’ , 30/04/2009
  • Iconoclasts’ on BBC Radio 4 with Edward Stourton, 29/11/2008 “Illegal Drugs can be good for you”
  • The Independent, 01/03/2007 Dr Axel Klein: 'The message on drugs now is that the law is an ass' Interview by Nick Jackson
  • Thinking Allowed’ Radion 4 with Laurie Taylor , 13/12/2006


  • Royal AnthropoIogical Institute.
  • Independent evaluator for the EU Research Executive Agency.
  • Member of the International Association of Addiction Journal Editors.

Editorial Work

  • Editor of Drugs and Alcohol Today.
  • Editorial board of Safer Communities, African Journal of Drug and Alcohol Studies.

Expert witness

  • For the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs
  • Consultant on drug and criminal justice issues for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, European Commission, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, African Union, CARICOM and GIZ.



  • Advisor to the Department for International Development on alternatives to incarceration for petty offenders in the Eastern Caribbean.
  • Worked with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime on drug treatment in prison settings in the Middle East and North Africa.
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Dr Axel Klein on Post Prohibition Scenarios

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Telephone: +44(0)1227 823072 Fax: +44(0)1227 827005 or email us

SSPSSR, Faculty of Social Sciences, Cornwallis North East, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent CT2 7NF

Last Updated: 29/04/2014