Khat has been used since antiquity as a recreational and religious drug by the indigenous people of Eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and throughout the Middle East.
Fresh Khat are leaves from the Catha plant and are crimson-brown and glossy, but become yellow-green and leathery with age. They are usually packaged in plastic bags or wrapped in banana skins, to retain their moistness. The leaves are also available dried, crushed or in powder form.
method of use
Chewed in the mouth. Sometimes made into a paste or a tea.
Khat is a stimulant drug with effects, similar to amphetamine, that are much less potent with no reports of a rush sensation or paranoia.
It contains the psychoactive ingredients cathine, cathidine, and cathinine.
Effects vary according to the freshness of the leaves.
Chewing it makes people feel more alert, talkative and suppresses the appetite, though users describe an ensuing calming effect when used over a few hours. Chewing the leaves produces a strong aroma and generates intense thirst.
Regular use may lead to insomnia, anorexia and anxiety. In some cases it may make people feel more irritable and angry and possibly violent.
Regular users may experience breathing difficulties, increased blood pressure and heart rate, stomach irritation and constipation which may raise the risk of hernias.
Use interferes with absorption of iron and other minerals if taken internally. There is some evidence that chewing can lead to mouth sores and increase risk of cancer in the mouth.
Khat plant may be treated chemically which can affect the liver.
Khat reduces appetite and therefore can lead to weight loss.
It is especially toxic to young children and older people.
A minority of people who use regularly — most days of the week — may feel anxious and irritable, tired and depressed after using the drug, and they may experience psychological problems.
The best way to avoid these problems is not to chew. However, if you continue to chew here are some hints on what you can do to reduce the risks.
- Always wash the plant thoroughly.
- Reduce the amount you chew and leave longer intervals of time between chewing sessions.
- After chewing always clean your teeth and use a mouth wash. It is also recommended that shortly after chewing, the material is spat out.
Psychological dependence can result from regular use so that the users feel depressed and low unless they keep taking it.
From June 24th 2014, the Home Office has imposed a ban on khat making it an illegal Class C drug, controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act. It will now be illegal to produce, possess, supply and import or export khat. For more information please visit the Home Office website.
Please see the Frequently Asked Questions below for further information. It's also available to download in Somali here.