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Khat has been popular in Africa and the Middle East for centuries, but what are the effects and the risks of chewing it?

Khat is a leafy green shrub with naturally occurring stimulant properties. It often chewed in parts of East Africa and the Middle East, but use has begun to spread into Europe.

In the UK, khat is occasionally imported in twig-like bunches for sale in some greengrocers and specialist health food shops. The leaves have a withered appearance and lose much of their potency just a few days after being picked.

What are the effects of chewing khat?

  • It increases alertness, confidence and concentration. Khat also makes users more talkative.
  • It takes the edge off appetite.
  • Although khat is a stimulant, users can achieve a state of calm following a few hours of chewing.

What are the risks of chewing khat?

  • Regular use has been linked to increased anxiety and insomnia.
  • Some think that khat use can leave people feeling irritable and prone to aggression.
  • A psychological dependency can develop when the drug is used on a regular basis.
  • Long term use is associated with increased incidence of oral cancer.

The law and khat:

In the UK, the khat plant is not classified as a controlled substance under the Misuse of Drugs Act, so no penalties apply for use or trade. However, taking it to other countries, such as the US, could lead to heavy fines or prison sentences.

Other terms for khat include:

Quat, qat, qaadka, chat, miraa

If you are planning on taking khat:

  • Remember it tends to discolour teeth.
  • Saliva is stimulated by chewing khat, which means users feel the need to spit a lot during use.
  • Avoid mixing with other drugs during or after a khat chewing session, as the combined effects can be unpredictable and even dangerous.  

Updated: 10/11/2009

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