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Scientific classification
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Binomial name
Catha edulis

Khat (Catha edulis Forsk, family Celastraceae), pronounced "cot" and also known as qat, gat, tschat, and miraa, is a shrubby plant used for centuries in parts of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. There, chewing khat predates the use of coffee and is used in a similar social context. Its fresh leaves and tops are chewed or, less frequently, dried and consumed as tea, in order to achieve a state of euphoria and stimulation. Due to the availability of rapid, inexpensive air transportation, the drug has been reported in London, Rome, Amsterdam, Canada, and the United States. The public has become more aware of this exotic drug through media reports pertaining to the United Nations mission in Somalia, where khat use is endemic, and its role in the Persian Gulf. The khat plant is known by a variety of names, such as qat in Yemen; tschat in Ethiopia, and miraa in Kenya.

In 1965, the World Health Organization Expert Committee on Dependence-producing Drugs' Fourteenth Report noted, "The Committee was pleased to note the resolution of the Economic and Social Council with respect to khat, confirming the view that the abuse of this substance is a regional problem and may best be controlled at that level"[1] ( For this reason, khat was not Scheduled under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. In 1980 the World Health Organization classified khat as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychic dependence.


Licit Uses

Khat has not been approved for medical use in the US. Khat use has traditionally been confined to the regions where khat is grown, because only the fresh leaves have the desired stimulating effects. In recent years improved roads and the availability of off-road vehicles in or close to areas of cultivation and the possibility of air transportation has increased the global distribution of this non-storable commodity. Traditionally, khat has been used as a socializing drug and this is still very much the case in Yemen where khat-chewing is a predominantly male habit. In other countries khat is consumed largely by single individuals and at parties. It is mainly a recreational drug in the countries which grow khat, even though it may also be used by farmers and laborers for reducing physical fatigue, and by drivers and students for improving attention.


The stimulant effect of the plant was originally attributed to cathine, a phenethylamine-type substance isolated from the plant. However, the attribution was disputed by reports showing the plant extracts from fresh leaves contained another substance more behaviorally active than cathine. In 1975, the related alkaloid cathinone was isolated, and its absolute configuration was established in 1978. Cathinone is not very stable and breaks down to produce cathine and norephedrine. These chemicals belong to the PPA (phenylpropanolamine) family, a subset of the phenethylamines related to amphetamines and the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine.

Khat consumption induces mild euphoria and excitement. Individuals become very talkative under the influence of the drug and may appear to be unrealistic and emotionally unstable. Khat can induce manic behaviors and hyperactivity. Several cases of khat-induced psychosis have been reported in the literature. Khat is an effective anorectic and its use also results in constipation. Dilated pupils (mydriasis), which are prominent during khat consumption, reflect the sympathomimetic effects of the drug, which are also reflected in increased heart rate and blood pressure. A state of drowsy hallucinations (hypnagogic hallucinations) may result coming down from khat use as well. Withdrawal symptoms that may follow prolonged khat use include lethargy, mild depression, nightmares, and slight tremor.

Illicit Uses

Khat is used for its mild euphoric and stimulating effects. Because of its anorectic effects, khat is used by some members of the Islamic faith during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Moslem year, which is spent in fasting from sunrise to sunset. Emigrants have now brought the khat habit to the US. Even though khat may help these religious and cultural groups preserve their ethnic identity in their new environments, outsiders and law enforcement agencies (in the US) generally see its use in the same light as those of the other psychomotor stimulants, amphetamine, methamphetamine, and cocaine; but not like the US's sanctioned stimulant caffeine.

User Population

It is estimated that several million people are frequent users of khat. Many of the users originate from countries between Sudan and Madagascar and in the southwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula, especially Yemen. In Yemen, 60% of the males and 35% of the females were found to be khat users who had chewed daily for long periods of their life. The traditional form of khat chewing in Yemen involves only male users; khat chewing by females is less formal and less frequent. In Saudi Arabia, the cultivation and consumption of khat are forbidden, and the ban is strictly enforced. The ban on khat is further supported by the clergy on the grounds that the Qur'an forbids anything that is harmful to the body. This is in sharp contrast to the opinions of the clergy in Yemen. In Somalia, 61% of the population reported that they do not use khat, 18% report habitual use, and 21% are occasional users. The drug has increasingly been brought to the U.S. by these emerging cultural enclaves. Once imported and found on the streets of the US, khat is being used by other populations.

Illicit Distribution

Khat leaves are illicitly bundled and shipped into the U.S. Seizures have occurred at all ports of entry and at courier services like FEDEX and UPS. According to the FDIN data base, over 57,000 pounds (26 t) of khat leaves were seized in 1998 and over 24 metric tons of khat seized in 1999. There were over 1 kilogram of cathine and over 44 kilograms of cathinone analyzed in the DEA laboratory system during 1999.


During 2004, a new pill called "Hagigat" (חגיגת, meaning "celebration") was introduced in Israel (which has some population originated in Yemen). The pill contains powder made from khat leaves, and carries some high levels of cathine and cathonine. It was sold legally as a entheogenic/performance-enhancing drug during most of 2004. However, due to some medical incidents related to the drug, one of them leading to death, it has been outlawed and is now sold illegally.

Control Status

Cathine is in Schedule IV and cathinone is in Schedule I of the Controlled Substance Act.

Taken from the United States Drug Enforcement Agency's Web site, and therefore not necessarily accurate and certainly not NPOV. Copyedited for clarity and (under "illicit uses") NPOV.

The 1993 DEA rule placing cathinone in Schedule I noted that it was effectively also banning khat:

Cathinone is the major psychoactive component of the plant Catha edulis (khat). The young leaves of khat are chewed for a stimulant effect. Enactment of this rule results in the placement of any material which contains cathinone into Schedule I.

In the UK Cathine and Cathinone are Class C drugs. The plant Catha edulis is uncontrolled. Similar levels of control exist throughout most other European countries.

See also

he:גת (צמח) no:Khat


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