Even if a mind-altering drug popular in other countries has not yet gained significant penetration in the United States, that doesn’t mean Americans shouldn’t be made aware of its potential dangers. Much of the drug trafficking problem in this country is that drugs are brought into the US from other parts of the world. Medicines that are common in other parts of the world suddenly become available to consumers in the United States as soon as a demand for them develops.
As discussions about khat and interest in this substance become more frequent in the United States, individuals, parents and families should be made aware of the substance. Khat is a mind altering drug that can have harmful effects. It should not be used for any reason.
But what is khat? A plant native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, khat is a flowering evergreen shrub used for its energizing and mind-altering properties. Khat is usually chewed, but the plant leaves can also be brewed into tea, sprinkled over food, or smoked. Common street names for khat are Abyssinian tea, African salad, catha, chat, kat and oats.
Khat has two active ingredients that contribute to the mind-altering effects of taking the drug. These are cathine and cathinone, both chemicals that stimulate the brain and central nervous system.
Side effects of experimenting with khat
As khat finds its way into the international drug trafficking network, law enforcement agencies around the world have begun investigating the substance and learning more about it. According to the American Drug Enforcement Administration, chewing, smoking, brewing, or consuming the khat plant can:
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty breathing
- Increase in blood pressure and heart rate
- Liver damage
- Cardiac complications (myocardial infarction)
- Suicidal ideation
- Grandiose delusions
- Immediate rise in blood pressure
- Increase in heart rate
- Brown discoloration of the teeth
- Stomach discomfort
- Physical exhaustion
Khat is a stimulant drug, so the effects are similar to other stimulants such as cocaine, crack, amphetamine, and methamphetamine.
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Given concerns about khat, the Drug Enforcement Administration banned the chemicals in khat, banning the plant itself Controlled Substances Act controls. Cathine is a List IV stimulant, and cathinone is a List I stimulant under the Controlled Substances Act, which means it has high potential for abuse, currently no accepted medical use in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use has under medical supervision. “
Khat consumption can cause heart failure
Khat-related deaths and life-threatening emergencies are not well reported. However, a group of researchers published results in a 2015 issue of the Oman Medical Journal suggesting that abuse of khat puts users at high risk for heart failure. The results cite: “Khat is implicated in serious cardiovascular problems in its users, including heart failure, through a mechanism of action on the circulatory system similar to that of amphetamine and cocaine.” It seems that when people die from khat, it is likely the result of heart failure.
“Khat is involved in serious cardiovascular problems, including heart failure, through a mechanism of action on the circulatory system similar to that of amphetamines and cocaine.”
The study authors confirmed the DEA information on khat and drew a comparison between khat and other dangerous amphetamine drugs. “Recent reports suggest that 20 million people around the world regularly use khat as a stimulant, although the habit of chewing khat is known to cause serious health problems. The main component of khat is cathinone, which is structurally and functionally similar to amphetamine and cocaine. Several studies have shown that chewing khat has adverse effects on the cardiovascular system. “Most Americans already know how harmful cocaine, meth, and amphetamines are. Khat is similar to these substances and should definitely be avoided. If you have an addiction to this drug you need a qualified substance abuse clinic near you to help get clean.
A 2010 study attempted to document deaths that could be attributed to khat use in the UK. From the study’s authors, “Khat-related deaths are occurring. Thirteen deaths related to khat use are reported in the UK between 2004 and 2009. ”The study described the deaths and how khat contributed to suggesting that khat is an absolutely life-threatening drug. If khat became a widespread substance in the United States, there would almost certainly be more human lives.
Countries that have serious problems with khat
Millions of people around the world use khat. One report found that Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia are the hardest hit by khat addiction. These countries have a history of incorporating khat into community, religious, and cultural events and ceremonies. A report on international problems with khat cited: “The exact number of people using khat worldwide is unknown, but it is estimated at 5 to 10 million, mainly in Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia. Khat is widespread in Yemen, even by children. Studies have estimated a prevalence of 80% for men and 50% for women in the capital, Sana’a, aged 15 and over. Between 15-20% of children under the age of 12 consume khat on a daily basis. These consumers usually spend most of the day buying and chewing khat, and that has a big impact on working hours and national income in general, and on families and society in particular. ”It doesn’t take much imagination to to consider what would happen and what harm would happen to the young American population if khat became a popular drug in that country.
The Drug Enforcement Administration has already documented several cases of khat abuse in the United States, mainly in cities like Boston, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Nashville, New York City, and Washington, DC
The importance of information about khat
Whenever a new mind altering substance emerges, families need to act quickly to obtain accurate data about that substance before misinformation emerges and people (especially young people) hear untrue peer-pressure suggestions about the new substance.
This is exactly what is currently the case with khat. The drug is making its first appearance in the US and could be the next big drug of choice in the 2020s. Because of this, families, parents, educators, public health officials and community leaders must do everything possible to educate people about khat