Khat Drug Abuse
Khat, pronounced “cot”, is a plant native to East Africa. It has been grown for centuries in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, where it is used for its stimulant properties. People chew the leaves for its mild stimulant and euphoric effects. Other names for the drug include Abyssinian tea, African salad, oat, kat, chat, catha, qat, tschat, and miraa.
Khat drug abuse has typically been confined to the areas where it is grown, because only the fresh leaves have the desired effect. Improved roads, vehicles and air transport have increased the global distribution of khat in recent years. Traditionally, khat drug abuse has been used as a recreational, social drug, but it can be used by farmers to fight fatigue or by drivers and students to improve attention.
Khat Drug Abuse: How is khat used?
Khat is typically chewed like tobacco. The fresh leaves, twigs and shoots are chewed and then pressed against the cheek and chewed from time to time to release the drug. Khat can also be smoked or sprinkled on food.
Khat Drug Abuse: What are the health side effects?
Khat drug abuse produces a mild euphoria and excitement, similar to the effects of strong coffee. The effects of khat start within 15 minutes and can last up to 2 hours. Khat drug abuse commonly results in insomnia, loss of appetite, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and gastric problems. Chronic khat drug abuse can result in exhaustion, violence, depression, and thoughts of suicide. There have been reports of khat induced psychosis, similar to the psychosis induced by other stimulants like methamphetamines and cocaine. Long-term heavy users can experience liver damage and heart problems as a result of khat drug abuse. It can also permanently darken the teeth and lower sex drive. Long term khat drug abuse sometimes results in the development of ulcers.
Khat Drug Abuse: Who uses khat?
Khat drug abuse is common in the Middle East and Africa. It is not a very common drug in the United States. Individuals of East African and Middle Eastern descent are most often responsible for the importation, distribution, possession, and use of khat in the United States. Khat is usually shipped in plastic bags or banana leaves to retain freshness and is either smuggled in luggage, sent through overnight mail, or shipped as air cargo and labeled as vegetables. Because it is expensive and perishable, its world distribution is pretty low.
Khat Drug Abuse: Is it addictive?
Khat drug abuse can result in dependence and addiction, but its addictive potential is relatively low. The World Health Organization reported that khat drug abuse can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence, but it’s less addictive than tobacco and alcohol.
Khat Drug Abuse: What is the active chemical?
Khat contains both cathine and cathinone, which are phenethylamine-type substances. Cathine is a schedule IV drug in the United States and cathinone is a schedule I drug. Khat drug abuse can result in dependence, and withdrawal symptoms can include lethargy, depression, nightmares, and mild tremors.