What Are the Effects of Khat?

Khat is a naturally-occurring stimulant substance that produces several negative effects that can interfere with one’s wellbeing and livelihood. In this article, we will learn more about what khat is, what these negative effects are, and how to get help for khat misuse or addiction.

What is Khat?

Khat, sometimes spelled qat and pronounced “cot,” is a flowering plant that is found natively from the Arabian Peninsula to the Horn of Africa. Chewing the leaves has been a practice among people living in that area for years because the leaves contain a
stimulant. Cathinones like MDMA are derived, originally, from khat. Khat and the chemical compounds derived from it – cathinone and cathine – are controlled under Schedule I and IV, respectively, per the Controlled Substances Act and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). It is also controlled or restricted in other nations around the world and through the World Health Organization.

Effects of Khat Misuse

Although ingesting khat leaves directly – through chewing, brewing into tea, or smoking – provides 10 times less CNS stimulation than cathinones, the drug can still be very addictive and cause many short-term and long-term side effects.

Desired Effects of Khat

  • Increased Energy
  • Mental Alertness
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Mild Euphoria
  • Sensory Perception Changes
  • Boosted Confidence
  • Lowered Inhibitions
  • Increased Talkativeness

Negative Effects of Khat

  • Aggression
  • Suicidal Ideation
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Manic Behaviors
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Increased Heart Rate
  • Nausea or Vomiting
  • Anoxeria Weight Loss
  • Dental Problems
  • Pulmonary Issues

Khat can produce several effects. These can be broken down by the organ systems affected.

Desired Mental Effects

People who misuse khat typically do so for the following effects:

  • Increased energy
  • Mental alertness
  • Mild euphoria
  • Sensory perception changes
  • Boosted confidence
  • Lowered inhibitions

While these effects may seem desirable, they also come with a set of highly distressing effects.

Mental Effects

Khat’s negative effects on the brain include:

  • Aggression or violence toward oneself or others.
  • Suicidal ideation.
  • Anxiety and restlessness.
  • Paranoia.
  • Manic behaviors.
  • Lowered inhibitions leading to dangerous choices
  • insomnia.
  • Emotional changes during withdrawal like depression or anhedonia.

Cardiovascular Effects

Because khat is a stimulant, it can affect the heart and blood vessels. Small amounts of khat might feel like drinking a lot of coffee, which opens the blood vessels in the brain to allow more oxygen to pass through and causes the heart to pump faster. Larger doses of khat, however, can lead to several cardiovascular effects, such as:

  • Radically increased heart rate.
  • Tachycardia.
  • Increased blood pressure.
  • Heart arrhythmia.
  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.

Gastrointestinal Effects

Khat can affect the stomach and intestines. The continued misuse of this drug can cause the following effects:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Prolonged loss of appetite leading to weight loss
  • Increased risk for anorexia
  • Reduced urine output

Dental Effects

One of the most common ways of ingesting khat is to chew the leaves. This can lead to oral and dental problems, such as:

  • Brown staining or discoloration of the teeth and gums.
  • Cracks in the teeth due to structural damage.
  • Cavities.
  • Gum disease.
  • Oral cancer.

Pulmonary Effects

Smoking khat has been linked to an increased chance of:

  • Pneumonia.
  • Pulmonary embolism.
  • Emphysema.
  • Lung cancer.

Long-Term Effects

Consistent misuse of khat, especially in very large doses over a long period of time, can lead to khat-induced psychosis. This mental illness is rare, although one study published on BMC Medicine found that a random assessment of 4,854 households in North-West Somalia found mental health disorders and khat use co-occurred in 8.4 percent of males ages 12 and older. Although it was difficult to tell whether post-traumatic stress or pre-existing mental illness came before khat misuse, or vice versa, the issues seem closely correlated.

Khat misuse over many years has also been linked to liver damage and failure. This condition is referred to as khat-induced hepatitis. According to LiverTox, some reports show that khat-induced liver damage can lead to fibrosis or cirrhosis.

Frequently Asked Questions

While it is known to lead to addiction, and there are no acceptable medical uses for this substance, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists khan as a schedule IV cathinone drug, so it is not tightly regulated compared to other stimulants, like cocaine or synthetic cathinones (bath salts).

What Drugs Interact With Khat?

Khat is relatively new to the United States, and its interactions with medications and recreational drugs are not well understood. People who take medications for preexisting heart problems, blood clotting issues, lung problems, or liver problems should use extreme caution; khat will make these underlying health conditions worse and is likely to interact with the medications involved in treating these conditions, making them less effective.

Additionally, people who ingest other stimulants, including Adderall, cocaine, or amphetamines can worsen side effects from those drugs if they also take khat.

Can You Overdose On Khat?

It is possible to overdose on khat, although this is not well understood among medical professionals right now. Typically, overdose symptoms are found in people who have struggled for a long time with khat addiction because they develop a tolerance to the drug and use it more frequently in much larger doses. Symptoms of khat toxicity, or overdose, include:

  • Delusions.
  • Appetite loss.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Increased heart rate.

What Are the Comedown Effects From Khat?

As the body metabolizes khat out of the system, the person’s stimulation will decrease and khat’s effects will begin to wear away.

Symptoms of khat comedown include:

  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Nightmares
  • Tremor

What Forms Does Khat Come In?

The most common form of khat is dried leaves, which can be chewed, brewed into a tea, sprinkled on or in food, or smoked. Although the stimulant chemicals in khat are most potent while the leaves are fresh, the leaves are dried or ground into a powder when imported to the US. This may dampen the intense high that fresh khat leaves can induce, so dried versions are not as potent and, thus, may not be as addictive.

Treating Khat Misuse in Lafayette, NJ

If you or someone you love is struggling with khat misuse, reach out to Sunrise House right now by calling . Our admissions navigators can help you begin the road to recovery by answering all of your questions, including how to pay for treatment. You can also right now.

Do not hesitate. Reach out to us today.

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