UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
The natives chewed young buds and fresh leaves of catha edulis (_Celastrus edulis_). This is a large shrub which can grow to tree size. It originated in Ethiopia and spread until its use covered Kenya, Nyasaland [now Malawi], Uganda, Tanganyika [now Tanzania], Arabia, the Congo, Rhodesia [now Zimbabwe and Zambia], and South Africa. The khat trees are grown interspersed between coffee trees.
Khat was used in Yemen even before coffee and it was immensely popular. Lewin described khat markets to which khat was brought in bundles of branches from the mountains.
Khat contains cathine (d-norisoephedrine), cathidine, and cathinine. Cathine is also one of the alkaloids found in _Ephedra vulgaris_. It is fortunate, perhaps, that khat is also very rich in ascorbic acid which is an excellent antidote to amphetamine-type compounds.
In animals, khat produces excitation and increased motor activity. In humans, it is a stimulant producing a feeling of exaltation, a feeling of being liberated from space and time. It may produce extreme loquacity, inane laughing, and eventually semicoma. It may also be an euphorient and used chronically can lead to a form of delirium tremens. Galkin and Mironychev (1964) reported that up to 80% of the adult population of Yemen use khat. Upon first chewing khat, the initial effects were unpleasant and included dizziness, lassitude, tachycardia, and sometimes epigastric pain. Gradually more pleasant feelings replaced these inaugural symptoms. The subjects had feelings of bliss, clarity of thought, and became euphoric and overly energetic. Sometimes khat produced depression, sleepiness, and then deep sleep. The chronic user tended to be euphoric continually. In rare cases the subjects became aggressive and overexcited. Galkin and his colleague observed 51 subjects who had taken khat. Of these, 27 became excited, 18 became somnolent, and 6 remained unchanged. The respiratory rate and pulse rate were accelerated and the blood pressure tended to rise. The subjects also had a decrease in the functional capacity of the cardiovascular system.
Lewin, L. (1931) "Phantastica, Narcotic and Stimulating Drugs." (Translation of 1924, German edition.) Routledge and Kegan Paul, London AUTHOR Weir, Shelagh. TITLE Qat in Yemen : consumption and social change London : Published for the Trustees of the British Museum by British Museum Publications, c1985. CALL NO. HV 5822 Q3 W34x 1985
Khat(pronounced "cot") is a natural stimulant from the Catha Edulis plant, found in the flowering evergreen tree or large shrub which grows in East Africa and Southern Arabia. It reaches heights from 10 feet to 20 feet and its scrawny leaves resemble withered basil.
Fresh Khat leaves are crimson-brown and glossy but become yellow- green and leathery as they age. They also emit a strong smell. The most favored part of the leaves are the young shoots near the top of the plant. However, leaves and stems at the middle and lower sections are also used.
Khat leaves contain psychoactive ingrediants known as cathinone, which is structurally and chemically similar to d-amphetamine, and cathine, a milder form of cathinone. Fresh leaves contain both ingrediants ; those left unrefrigerated beyond 48 hours would contain only cathine, which explains users' preference for fresh leaves. Other names by which Khat is known include: Qat, Kat, Chat, Kus-es-Salahin, Mirra, Tohai, Tschat, Catha, Quat, Abyssinian Tea, African Tea, and African Salad.
EFFECTS OF KHAT AND MODE OF INGESTION
Fresh Khat leaves, which are typically chewed like tobacco, produce a mild cocaine- or amphetamine-like euphoria that is much less potent than either substance with no reports of a rush sensation or paranoia indicated. By filling the mouth to capacity with fresh leaves the userr then chews intermittenly to release the active components. Chewing Khat leaves produces a strong aroma and generates intense thirst. Casual users claim Khat lifts spirits, sharpens thinking, and, when its effects wear off, generates mild lapses of depression similar to those observed among cocaine userrs.
Since there appears to be an absence of physical tolerance, due in part to limitations in how much can be ingested by chewing, there are no reports of physical symptons accompanying withdrawal. Advocates of Khat use claim that it eases symptoms of diabetes, asthma, and stomach/intestinal tract disorders, Opponents claim that Khat damages health, suppresses appetite, and prevents sleep.
TRADITIONAL USERS OF KHAT
Khat has been used since antiquity as a recreational and religious drug by natives of Eastern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and throughout the Middle East. In the US, Khat use is most popular among immigrants from Yemen and the East African nations of Somalia and Ethiopia. Traditionally, in those societies that have not evolved cultural or support systems to integrate Khat use into the social fabric, the decreased productivity and diversion of income attributed to its use in a socio-historical context, use is an accepted practice, occuring in environments that give positive reinforcement and meaning to the experience.
PACKAGING AND AVAILABILITY
Khat is usually packaged in plastic bags or wrapped in banana leaves to retain its moistness and freshness. It is often sprinkled with water during transport to keep the leaves moist. Khat also may be sold as dried or crushed leaves or in powdered form. Khat iis becoming increasingly available in the US, especially in cities like NY, DC, LA, Boston, Dallas, and Detroit. It is commonly sold in resteraunts, bars, grocery stores, and smoke shops that cater to East Africans and Yemins--after its importation from Kenya, Egypt, and Arabia. Because Khat in leaf form starts to lose its potency after 48 hours, it is generally shipped to the US on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for weekend use.
CURRENT LEGAL STATUS
Until very recently, Khat was classified as a schedule IV substance by the DEA. Cathinone, an ingrediant present only in fresh-picked leaves, (within 48 hours of harvest) has now been classified as a schedule I narcotic, the most restrictive category used by the DEA. Cathine, an ingrediant that remains in Khat after 48 hours, is still classified as a schedule IV substance (one that has low potentail for abuse and has a current accepted usage in treatment). Law enforcement efforts directed against Khat in the US have been minimal thus far. There is some doubt as to whether khat will become a popular street drug in this country like crack and other drugs. However, illegal labs have been discoverred using a synthetic form or Khat's most active ingrediant (cathinione) which is called "Methcathinone", known on the street as "Cat".
From the perspective of street users, Khat is not considerd to be a "street drug" with a desirability comparable to heroin, cocaine, crack, marijuana, or pills. Media attention given to Khat is probably bringing about an interest in its use, and street adddicts have been observed by the OASAS Street Studies Unit seeking to purchase Khat. Howeverr, street addicts and other non-African/Arab seekers of khat are being turned away by sellers.
Discreet inquiries by field staff of African/Arab sellers of Khat indicate they are not selling it as a "drug" and therefore do not seek outsiders who would bring additional attention to them. Researchers have not observed street sales of Khat. However, a member of the Street Studies Unit was told by an Arab Teenaager, standing in close proximity to an Arab resteraunt, that he was waiting to buy a bundle of Khat for $28 when the shipment arrived "after five." Street researchers have been informed that Khat is being sold for $300-$400 a kilo, with a bundle of leaves selling for $28-$50. From the standpoint of their cultural norms, the African/Arab sellers and users observed by the OASAS Street Studies Unit do not consider Khat to be illegal and often oppenly advertise its availability on signs in resteraunts and grocery stores much as they would any other food product.
TREATMENT FOR KHAT DEPENDENCE
Khat is a sympathomimetic and its pharmacological effects are believed to parallel those of amphetimine. Psychiatric manifestations induced by Khat are similar to the effects of other known stimulants. Giannini Miller, and Turner (1992) described a recent, successful attempt to treat 2 cases of Khat dependency using prrotocols similar to those developed for cocaine. Both patients presented for treatment with psychriatic manifestations and were screened for stimulant and depressant drug addiction since substances other than Khat were involved in each case. Specific procedures for treatment entailed an inpatient detox phase of 1-2 weeks followed by long-term attendance at outpatient recovery programs.
Succesful inpatient detox was facilitated with the use of bromocriptine (ranging in dose from 0.625 mg. gid in one case to 1.25 mg. gid in the second case, and tapered off over a period of 5-12 days.) Continued craving for stimulants by one patient resulted in the use of desipramine (200 mg. a day) for up to 6 months post-detox with dose levels gradually tapered downward. Previous attempts to treat Khat-induced psychosis have employed thioridazine (300 mg. a day) foor 1 week without reccurrence symptoms.
The Above "STREET ADVISORY" was published 2/93 by OASAS
I have noticed an increase in use of Khat in the upstate NY area This is probably due to the return of the drug from Somalia. Military personal that have returned to the Fort Drum and Surrounding areas were introduced to Khat and seek to continue the use of it.
From: Ben.Parker@unep.no Subject: Everything you ever wanted to know about Qat - Hornet Date: Mon, 13 Feb 95 08:38:54 GMT Message-Id: [9502130838.3633C4@extern02.unep.no]