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Khat: Stats & Facts

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

July 8, 2024 (Originally Published)

July 8, 2024 (Last Updated)

Table of Contents

Khat is a green leafy plant that contains two stimulant drugs, cathinone and cathine. These drugs make your mind and body speed up with similar effects to amphetamine, but less potent.

Khat is mostly used in North East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and by people from these areas who live in other countries.

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This guide explores the short and long-term effects of the khat drug and shows you how to get effective addiction treatment.

What Is Khat?

Khat is a stimulant drug that speeds up messages between the body and the brain. People in Eastern Africa (Somalia) and the Middle East (Yemen and Saudi Arabia) chew khat as part of their social traditions.

The khat plant has buds and leaves that people chew to feel more energetic and happier. Khat contains chemicals called cathinones and cathines, which make these effects happen.

The buds and leaves can be chewed fresh or dry. Khat has a mild smell and a slightly sweet taste. People usually chew 100 to 300 grams of fresh leaves in a session, which can last for 3 to 4 hours. Chewing khat is like holding a wad of leaves in your cheek and swallowing the juice.

Is Khat Addictive?

Khat can be addictive. People who use khat regularly can become dependent on it. This means they might feel like they need khat to do normal activities like working, studying, socializing, or just getting through the day.

When someone is psychologically dependent on khat, they may have trouble stopping even if they want to. They might feel anxious, restless, or unhappy without it. Get help if you or someone you know is having trouble stopping khat.

image depicting people talking about khat drug

Is Khat Considered a Drug?

Khat is considered a drug. It contains chemicals that speed up the brain and body. These chemicals, called cathinones and cathines, make people more alert and energetic. Because of these effects, khat is classified as a stimulant drug.

Using khat can be similar to using other stimulant drugs like amphetamines, but the effects are not as strong. In many countries, khat is controlled by laws because of its potential for addiction and other health risks.

Short-Term Effects of Khat

Using any drug can have risks. Khat can affect people in different ways based on their size, weight, health, whether they are used to taking khat, if they take other drugs at the same time, and how much they take.

Short-term effects of khat may include:

  • Talking more
  • Feeling social and energetic
  • Improved alertness and focus
  • Rapid breathing and heart rate
  • High blood pressure and temperature
  • Loss of appetite

The effects of khat usually start after about 1 hour and last for 3 to 4 hours.

The after-effects of khat last for 24 hours and may include:

  • Irritability
  • Low mood
  • Restlessness

Long-Term Effects of Khat

Using khat regularly can lead to several long-term health problems. Here are some of the possible effects:

  • Mental health problems: Khat can make existing mental health issues worse.
  • Sleep issues: Regular use can lead to trouble sleeping.
  • Liver disease: It can cause damage to the liver.
  • Fertility problems: Khat use in men can lower sperm count and trigger impotence.
  • Digestive problems: Khat can cause constipation.
  • Mouth issues: Chewing khat can lead to a sore and inflamed mouth. Khat use is also associated with mouth cancer.
  • Psychological dependence: People may feel like they need khat to function. Khat has a lower risk of causing dependence than some other drugs, but people who stop using khat after regular use might still experience withdrawal symptoms. These can include low blood pressure, tiredness, and mild depression.

Can Khat Cause Overdoses or Death?

It is possible to overdose on khat. This usually happens to people who have been using khat for a long time and have developed tolerance, meaning they need to take more to feel the same effects. Signs of a khat overdose include:

  • Delusions
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble breathing
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate

A study in Saudi Arabia looked at people who died and were found to have used khat. This study showed that it can be hard to tell if khat caused the death because there is not a lot of information about how much khat’s chemicals, cathinone and cathine, are in the body after death. The study checked 651 cases over four years and found 30 involved khat. Most of the people who died were men aged 23 to 45.

The study found that some people who died had only used khat, while others had used khat along with other drugs, especially amphetamines. The levels of cathinone and cathine were measured in different body parts, like blood, brain, liver, and kidneys.

Most deaths involving khat were due to other causes like injuries, accidents, and poisoning. This study shows that more research is needed to understand how khat contributes to deaths.

image depicting what is khat

Get Compassionate Addiction Help at Renaissance Recovery

If you need addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, reach out to Renaissance Recovery. We treat all types of addiction, including khat addiction, at our luxury rehabs in California and Florida.

Our rehab handles addictions and mental health issues with outpatient treatment programs. This lets you get help without stepping away from your daily commitments. We can also help you find detox centers in California if you need help to stop using khat safely.

All addictions are unique, so all our treatment programs are personalized. Therapies include:

Begin your journey to recovery by calling our friendly team at 866.330.9449.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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