What Are the Properties of Khat and Addictive Potential?

What Are the Properties of Khat and Addictive Potential?

When you hear people chew ‘khat’ or ‘qat,’ you my wonder what it is. Qat or khat is a drug composed of the leaves of a wild, East African shrub called Catha edulis, which contains mild stimulants. Cathinone and cathine are two stimulants in the drug. Eastern Ethiopia has a high rate of use of this drug. It is associated with older age, male gender, and people in a Muslim religion, though not always. Chewing khat can be a common family habit. The properties of it can be addictive over time.


Khat has a stimulant effect when chewed. Similar to the leaves of the coca plant, used for making cocaine, chewing sessions last 3-4 hours, with effects being felt about an hour after chewing starts. The effects are similar to other stimulants like caffeine. People may become talkative, alert, and euphoric. Others may feel an increased sense of self-esteem and self worth. Khat chewing is an important social ritual among people in different countries, as well as those who migrate. An international drug trade has seen an uptick in khat-chewing products being distributed.


Although khat is a low-risk drug, it is associated with medical complications like dental disease, cancerts, heart problems, liver disease, sexual issues, constipation, sleep problems, and reduced appetite. It is not clear whether health risks associated with khat are directly related to cathinone or the inhalation of second-hand smoke in chewing houses. Some problems may be the result of toxic pesticides, which people do not wash off prior to chewing. Some mental health problems may also include:

  • Psychosis
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Violent behavior
  • Relationship issues
  • Financial issues spending money supporting habit


Chewing releases the drug slowly so it is not an immediate high for people. But nearly half of people who use khat will develop tolerance, and dependence on the drug. Women who do chew khat tend to do so alone and in secrecy. They are at high risk of dependence.

The Palmetto Center is based on a Therapeutic Community model. We help people learn how to live free of addiction. Our community support provides structure while trained counselors offer life skills training and therapeutic techniques to help you move past addiction. Our program provides special focus for professionals including chiropractors, nurses, doctors, lawyers, and more who need help with addiction recovery. Call us to find out more: 866-848-3001.