What is the Khat Drug?

khat drug

What is the khat drug? Every year it seems there is a new drug on the scene to have to learn about, and khat is probably the most recent one to crop up in the United States. Khat is actually a naturally occurring substance, a plant in fact. But when one chews, smokes, or consumes the leaves of the khat plant, the plant produces an amphetamine-like effect on the user. Furthermore, consuming khat leaves, smoking them, chewing them, swallowing them, etc. all increase risk for stroke, for heart problems, and, of course, for addiction.

In spite of all of that, on a worldwide level, about ten to twenty million people consume the leaves of the khat plant every year. A drug that started off as being isolated to the Middle East has now made its presence known all across the world, with the introduction of the drug to North America being a very recent but very concerning phenomenon.

Professional Notes on the Khat Plant

As interest in khat has increased not only in the Middle East but all across the world, more research has been done on the plant to learn its true health consequences. According to Dr. Jassim Al Suwaidi, the senior cardiologist at the Hamad General Hospital in Doha, Qatar:


“We need to be careful about the risk of using ‘herbs’ and ‘natural substances,’ and khat is an example, although it is leaves, which appear ‘harmless.’ It has chemical constituents that are similar to harmful drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamine…”

“We need to be careful about the risk of using ‘herbs’ and ‘natural substances,’ and that is an example, although it is leaves, which appear ‘harmless.’ It has chemical constituents that are similar to harmful drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamine, and may cause a heart attack as well as increase the risk of death and stroke from a heart attack.”

Dr. Suwaidi published research findings on the khat plant in a December issue of Circulation, a cardiology medical journal. According to his team’s findings, the khat plant has both cathine and cathinone in it, which are two highly active ingredients found in synthetic amphetamine drugs. While it is likely that the naturally-occurring effects of the khat plant are not as potent as synthetic amphetamines are, the drug still has its considerable risks.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse clarified Dr. Suwaidi’s research, pointing out in particular that the consumption of khat brought on gastrointestinal problems, coronary artery spasm, tooth decay, increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, depression, irritability, and sleeping and eating problems.

An American doctor who studied Dr. Suwaidi’s research noted the particular risk that consuming the khat plant can have on the heart, which is probably the most prevalent risk with this amphetamine drug. Dr. Kirk Garratt of the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City said that:

ECG khat effect

“We know very well that when you have cardiovascular disease any exposure to any meaningful stimulant would be expected to increase heart risk, by changing the vascular dynamic of the blood vessels that control the blood flow through the brain and heart…

“We know very well that when you have cardiovascular disease any exposure to any meaningful stimulant would be expected to increase heart risk, by changing the vascular dynamic of the blood vessels that control the blood flow through the brain and heart. We also know that these drugs can facilitate or trigger irregular heart rhythms, which can be very problematic. Cocaine, for example, can have a negative impact on people both with and without heart disease. And those with heart disease face an especially elevated risk. So these findings are not really surprising.”

Once again, we have a drug that, just because it is organic, does not in any way reduce its risk and threat to one’s life.

Preventing Drug Use

Every year, the American people have another drug that they can experiment on if they choose too. There is never a shortage of options. Our job is one of informing people, teaching them, and giving them the true data about drugs and alcohol so they are never tempted to experiment with such substances, to begin with.


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AUTHOR

Ren

After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.

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DRUG EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION