What is Khat?

Khat or Catha edulis is a flowering plant most commonly found in countries of the African Horn and the Arabian Peninsula. The active component in Khatare cathinone is a strong stimulant similar to coffee and Amphetamine. It works on the central nervous system by speeding up the messages going between the brain and the body. This creates a feeling of euphoria and excitement. Due to this effect, people began using it as a drug.

A green plant with a white background.

The history and use of Khat

Khat is widely accepted within the Somali, Ethiopian, and Yemeni cultures where it is considered an old tradition. In western countries, khat use is most prevalent among immigrants from northeast Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The drug is taken orally through chewing. Dried khat leaves can also be brewed in tea or cooked and added to food. Khat has been to take effect in 15 minutes after consumption which is less than Amphetamine which takes up to 40 minutes. Chewing sessions can be anywhere from 30 mins to 4 hours.

 

Legal status of Khat

Cathinone, found in fresh Khat leaves, is classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs, which include heroin and LSD, have a high potential for abuse and are not used for medical purposes. After 48 hours the leaves dry up and the chemical cathine comes into play. It is weaker in effect than Cathinone but can still lead to limited physical or psychological dependence. For this reason and due to potential health effects, khat has been made illegal in several countries like Canada, The United States, and several European countries.

 

Side effects of Khat

Users of this drug experience a surge of energy and increased self-esteem. Khat is known to make people more alert and talkative.

It also creates several unpleasant side effects:

  • increased blood pressure
  • increased heart rate
  • insomnia
  • psychosis
  • suppressed app
  • constipation
  • depression
  • infrequent hallucinations
  • impaired inhibition (similar to alcohol)
  • increased risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Constipation
  • Tachycardia, hypertension
  • Moderate hyperthermia
  • Mydriasis, blurred vision
  • Anorexia(due to appetite loss), dry mouth

Some studies linked psychosis to the use of Khat but only in extreme cases where an individual has a genetic tendency or a family history of psychosis.

Chronic use of Khat results in increased risk for several diseases. These include cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, obstetric, and other diseases. Similar to other drugs; it can cause social and interpersonal complications.

 

Dependency and withdrawal treatment of Khat

Khat is not considered an addictive drug but it can lead to dependency and can create withdrawal symptoms when use is stopped abruptly. The effects of this withdrawal can include agitation, irritability, compulsive need to use the drug, and minor tremors.

Khat research remains very insufficient to answer questions regarding its addictive qualities and long-term health consequences. One significant limitation of Khat prevalence studies is the illegal status of this substance in the region. None the less Khat is considered an unsafe substance. If you or a close person needs help with dependency or addiction treatment, take a look at our website here.

 

References

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Al-Juhaishi, T., Al-Kindi, S., & Gehani, A. (2013). Khat: A widely used drug of abuse in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula: Review of literature. Qatar medical journal, 2012(2), 1–6. https://doi.org/10.5339/qmj.2012.2.5

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khat#Health_effects