Khat

Synonyms The most common synonyms are:
  • Catha edulis, Chafta, Chat, Ciat, Gat, Mbugula mabwe, Miraa (Kenya), Qat (Yemen), African salad, Abyssinian tea, Tchat.
Classification Stimulant:
  • Refers to a substance that stimulates mental function and increases the brain's overall activity and alertness.
Visual description
  • Its leaves are lanceolate and have delicately serrated edges. They are tough and measure 8 to 12 cm in length and 5 cm in width. They are reddish but gradually turn yellowish-green.
Mechanism of action
  • Khat, catha edulis, is a shrub. Its leaves contain two active substances: cathinone and cathine. Cathinone resembles amphetamine in chemical structure but is less potent, while cathine resembles ephedrine and has similar effects. That said, cathinone has amphetamine-like effects. When its leaves are kept fresh, the effects of khat can last up to 24 hours. The effects of cathinone decrease substantially after 48 hours, making cathine the only active substance. Cathinone becomes inactive when the leaves dry out.
Routes of administration
  • Mainly oral by chewing khat leaves. Can also be smoked or infused (infrequent).

Effects sought out by the user

  • Ease of communication
  • Euphoria
  • Exaltation
  • Increased attention and energy
  • Increased self-esteem

Common toxic effects

  • Accelerated breathing
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperthermia (increase in body temperature)
  • Increased sex drive
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Moderate increase in blood pressure
  • Mydriasis (dilated pupils)
  • Nervousness
  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate)

Overdose effects

  • Cerebral hemorrhage
  • Constipation
  • Delirium
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Psychosis with hallucinations
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Stroke

Effects associated with chronic use

  • Brown stains on teeth
  • Constipation
  • Damage to the teeth
  • Gastrointestinal disorders (ulcers, tumours, etc.)
  • Irritation of oral mucosa
  • Risk of malnutrition
  • Risk of mouth cancer

Addiction

Regular use may lead to psychological dependence.

Withdrawal

Possible, but milder than with amphetamine. The effects reported during withdrawal are mild tremor, irritability, loss of appetite, listlessness, abnormal fatigue, insomnia, minor depression and nightmares.

Onset and duration of action

Route of
administration
Onset of
action
Peak
Duration of
action
Oralquick (as soon as the khat leaf is chewed)N/A3 hours (effects persist for 2 hours after the end of the chewing session)

Intoxication management

  • No antidote available.
  • Treatment is mainly symptomatic.

Many different street drugs are sold under the same name. Furthermore, nothing guarantees the quantity, purity or even the content of a street drug in spite of the fact that it may, in some cases, look like medication.

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