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Khat
Arabic: qāt
Other spellings: qat; qaat; quat; gat; chat; chad; chaad; miraa



Fresh khat leaves.
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Fresh khat leaves. Photo: CIAT.

Khat ready for sale.
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Khat ready for sale.

People in Yemen chewing khat.
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People in Yemen chewing khat.

A shrubby plant, where the leaves and tops serve as a mild narcotic when chewed. Khat can at also be dried and used in tea. The latter form is often called Abyssinian Tea.
The first reaction to khat is unpleasant and marked by feeling of dizziness an intense thirst. This is gradually replaced by pleasant feelings, leading to a state of euphoria and the removal of fatigue and the feeling of hunger. People become very talkative, enthusiastic but it might also tip over into hyperactivity and emotional instability. As the intoxication wears out, hallucinations may occur or the user is left with a feeling of slight depression.
Khat can cause mild to moderate psychic dependence. Long time use of khat may cause constant euphoria, lethargy, depressions, nightmares, tremor or constipation
There are those who defend the use of khat, claiming that there are important positive health effects. Khat is supposed to have a distinct easing effect on symptoms of diabetes, asthma and stomach and intestinal tract disorders.
The stimulant effect is attributed to two substances, cathine and the slightly similar, but stronger alkaloid cathinone.
Among the countries of North Africa and Middle East, Yemen is the one where the use of khat is most widespread. Here it is reported that 60% of all men and 35% of all females are regular users of khat, male consumption often in public, female consumption generally at home.
Neighbouring Saudi Arabia enforces a ban strictly on both cultivation and use of khat.
In Yemen, khat was used before the introduction of coffee, and since then its use is often closely linked to coffee drinking or the use of khat follows similar social patterns as with drinking coffee.
The khat shrub can over time grow to tree size. Often, the khat shrubs are grown interspersed between coffee trees.




By Tore Kjeilen