Also known as:
Quat, Qat, Ghat, Abyssinian Tea, African Tea, and African
Salad Kus-es-Salahin, Mirra, Tohai, Tschat, and Catha
Khat and the law
The Khat plant is currently not illegal to use, possess or sell in the UK. However, it is a controlled drug in other countries such as USA, Canada, Republic of Ireland, Norway and Sweeden and therefore any UK residents who travel to these countries with khat would be breaking the law.
What is Khat?
Khat is a natural stimulant from the Catha Edulis plant which contains cathinone and cathine. Older members of Somalia, Ethiopian, Kenyan and Yemeni communities are associated with using khat in the UK; however there are reports of younger members and younger people from other communities using khat.
What does it look like?
Khat is a large shrub which can grow to tree size and are grown interspersed between coffee trees . Fresh Khat leaves are crimson-brown and glossy but become yellow- green and leathery as they age. They also emit a strong smell and resemble withered basil. Khat is usually packaged in plastic bags or wrapped in banana leaves to retain its moistness and freshness and it is often sprinkled with water during transport to keep the leaves moist. The most favoured part of the leaves are the young shoots near the top of the plant. However, leaves and stems at the middle and lower sections are also used.
How is it used?
The fresh leaves and stems of the plant are chewed to a pulp and then spat out. It can also be brewed into a tea and may be found in some dried preparations but these are milder as it loses its potency quickly once the plant has been picked. A khat chewing session can last 3-5 hours and is similar to the use of alcohol and caffeine in that it is used to fulfil social functions.
What are the effects?
Khat reduces the user's appetite and makes them feel more talkative, alert and relaxed. To get an effect considerable chewing is needed and the stimulant effects are often described as something in between caffeine and amphetamine and can vary depending upon the freshness of the khat.
What are the risks?
People may feel anxious, irritable, tired and depressed after using the drug. Khat chewing can lead to a sore mouth, infections and there is also some evidence that users can increase their chances of developing heart disease and cancer in the mouth.
Is it addictive?
People who use khat regularly may find that a psychological dependence can occur but there appears to be an abcesnce of physical tolerance (due to limits of how much you can ingest through chewing). There are no reports of physical withdrawal symptoms being experienced.
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