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What Is Khat?: Effects, Withdrawal, & Treatment

image of man representing khat

Khat, a stimulant substance, accelerates communication between the brain and the body. The khat plant is central to social customs in Eastern Africa and regions of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The primary use of khat involves chewing the buds and leaves of the Catha edulis plant. This practice is known for producing stimulant and euphoric effects. Historically, khat has been used both for its medicinal properties and as a recreational drug. 

What Is Khat?

Khat, a flowering evergreen shrub, is often misused for its stimulant properties. The primary active ingredients in khat, cathine and cathinone, are responsible for these effects.

The effects of khat are comparable to those of other stimulant drugs like cocaine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine.

Khat Effects

Khat, known for its stimulant properties, produces effects similar to those triggered by other well-known stimulants. 

Physical effects of khat include:

  • Increased alertness: People often experience heightened alertness and energy, similar to the effects triggered by caffeine.
  • Elevated heart rate and blood pressure: Khat can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, much like the effects of other stimulants.
  • Reduced appetite: Chewing khat often suppresses appetite, which is a common characteristic of stimulant drugs.
  • Insomnia: Difficulty in falling asleep or disrupted sleep patterns are frequent side effects, especially when used in the evening.

Psychological effects of khat include:

  • Euphoria: People may experience feelings of well-being and heightened mood.
  • Increased sociability: Khat can lead to increased talkativeness and a feeling of sociability.
  • Anxiety and agitation: In some cases, the substance may provoke feelings of anxiety or make some people feel agitated.
  • Potential for psychotic reactions: Heavy or prolonged use of khat can lead to symptoms resembling psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions.

Regular use of khat can lead to the development of psychological dependence. Discontinuing khat after prolonged use can result in mild withdrawal symptoms, including lethargy, mild depression, and irritability.

Long-term khat effects include:

  • Oral health issues: Chronic use can lead to dental problems and gum disease due to the nature of chewing the leaves.
  • Risk of cardiovascular problems: Prolonged use may increase the risk of developing cardiovascular issues due to its impact on heart rate and blood pressure.
image of man representing the question what is khat

Is Khat Addictive?

While khat may not cause physical dependence in the same way as opioids or alcohol, it may prompt the formation of psychological dependence. This means that people may feel a strong desire or compulsion to continue using khat.

Those who use khat regularly might develop tolerance, requiring increased amounts of the substance to achieve the desired effects. Habitual use, especially in social settings, can lead to a behavioral pattern of regular consumption, which might indicate a psychological reliance on the drug.

The addictive potential of khat is milder than that of stimulants like cocaine or methamphetamine. That said, it shares some addictive properties due to its cathinone content.

How is Khat Used?

Traditionally, khat is consumed by chewing the leaves and then holding them in the cheek. People chew the leaves periodically to release the active substances, which result in a stimulant-like effect. Apart from chewing, dried khat leaves can be used to brew tea or be made into a chewable paste. Additionally, khat can be smoked or sprinkled on food.

Khat Addiction

Khat addiction involves both physiological and psychological dependence on this stimulant. Individuals with khat addiction often experience strong cravings and a compulsion to use the substance, coupled with ongoing use despite the awareness of its negative social, physical, or psychological consequences. 

Long-term use of khat can lead to serious mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and in extreme cases, psychotic reactions. Physically, those who use khat long-term might face digestive problems, cardiovascular issues, and deterioration of oral health.

The treatment and recovery process for khat addiction typically involves several approaches. Professional counseling and therapy play a fundamental role in addressing the psychological aspects of the addiction. Support groups offer a platform for peer support and shared experiences, which is beneficial in the ongoing recovery journey. Additionally, behavioral interventions can help managing the compulsion to use khat and in developing healthier coping strategies.


What is khat drug?

Khat is a plant native to the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa that’s known for its stimulant effects. Khat chewers use the leaves of the plant for their mild amphetamine-like effects. Khat contains the psychoactive ingredients cathine and cathinone.

What does khat do to you?

Khat acts as a stimulant, triggering effects like increased alertness, energy, and talkativeness. It may also cause side effects like appetite loss, insomnia, anxiety, and aggression.

What are khat teeth?

The term khat teeth is used to describe the dental problems caused by the habitual chewing of khat. This can include staining, excessive wear, and damage to the teeth and gums due to the abrasive and chemical properties of the substance.

Is khat illegal?

Khat is illegal in the United States. It contains cathinone, a Schedule I controlled substance.

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Find Treatment for Drug Addiction at Drug Rehabs Centers

If you or someone that you care about needs treatment for drug addiction in California, reach out to Drug Rehabs Center today and begin your recovery tomorrow.

We can connect you with licensed detoxification centers near you, so you can access medications and clinical care throughout the withdrawal process. We can also provide you with referrals to treatment programs at all levels of intensity, from outpatient and intensive outpatient programs through to PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) and inpatient rehab.

All the rehabs that we recommend deliver a blend of holistic and evidence-based treatments to help you move beyond a life constrained by addiction. Call 844.739.2005 for immediate assistance.

Juan Bonnet
Author: Juan Bonnet

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