What is khat?
Khat is a flowering plant shrubs that grows to height of 20 metres and commonly known as Arabian tea as well as it is known as Mira, qat, gat and ghat and many more terms used to describe the same plant while the Latin name is Catha edulis. The plant is socially spread in Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania, Yemen, Israel. Also it is known by phraos in history and commonly used as mind stimulant for concentration because it can keep a person awake for longer than ordinary hence it shares characteristics with high dose of caffeine.
Khat contains cathinone which is a stimulant that triggers euphoria and can cause addiction. However it is less addictive than tobacco and alcohol and it is socially acceptable in the mentioned countries above. Ethiopia is believed to be the birth place of Catha edulis and then spread to the nighboring countries.
Cathine and cathinone are released to the body through the blood cell of the mouth and stomach, this process metabolizing 98% of the substance to produce norephedrine by the liver. This process takes approximately 15 to 30 minutes to be triggered and it can last to a day or two after intake.
Khat is consumed fresh in most cases but it can be dried up to be served as tea and recently there have been manufacturing efforts of khat tablets and extractions. Khat juice can be produced especially for those who cannot chew it such as the elders who lost thier teeth.
Is khat legal?
Cathinone and cathine that can be extracted from khat are class c drugs under the Misuse of Drugs act, however The Khat plant itself is not covered under the Misuse of Drugs Act therefore possession or supply is not an offence. It is allowed to be sold in UK, according to the home office report in 2005 5 to 7 tons a day arrives the UK to be consumed in the UK and USA market. Recent World Health Organisation study rejected the scheduling of khat under a controlled drugs because there is no clear evidence to link it to health problems.
However Khat is banned in sixteen European union states because it contains alkaloids of which cathine and cathinone is the makeup that became controlled substances under the UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1988. Even though there were no recommendations against the plant itself.
There is no overdose of chewing khat as far as evidence is concerned, thefore there is no evidence of death by khat poisoning. A person is more likely to die from alcohol if consumed in large quantities. The characteristics of highly addictive drugs are by the presence of its misuse and overdose. A person can chew Ghat daily for months and stops for months without real problems. There are withdrawal effects but they last relatively less than any other substance.
A night of nightmares known as Razim in Yemen for those who suddenly stop khat after a long period of consumption is observed. Alcohol is more likely to be harder to give up than khat as reported by various organisations. The addictive nature of qat is not in its drugs but it is in its social parties that bring people together. Example pops in the UK exists because people drink socially, however this social drinking culture can turn to social problems if consumption is increased especially as it the case in the weekend when police resources are diverted to night clubs goers and night parties hence increase of violence and crime.
Khat side effects
It has reported that there are many side effects on human health for the long term use of khat, according cesar.umd.edu khat can have short term side effects such as insomnia, physical exhaustion, hallucinations, constipation and an increase in heart rate while long term effects can be serious such as anorexia, increased risk of heart attacks cancer and liver.
I personally think the above is an overstating the effects of khat without clear evidence by the mentioned organisation. The relation between sleeping and mental health problems is clear. If a person sleeps less then there is a high chance of developing mental problem. To this matter consumion of too much tea or energy drinks can have the same effects that Catha Edulis leaves has in relation to mental health problems.
There is no relation between heart problems and consuming khat from a scientific evidence point of view. The only relation between the plant and heart diseases is the increasing of smoking during the session of chewing leaves. Similarly the relation between alcohol and smoking is that it makes a person wants to smoke more hence the increase of heart attack chances.
There is no enough study nor there do enough data to build a clear argument of the side effect of khat. By far it is less likely to cause mental problems more than alcohol or cannabis. It costs less and it increases alertness and concentration different from other drugs.
Having stated that khat is less harmful that the other drugs does not negate the fact it is still drugs and best to be avoided. The human body and mind should be kept clear and clean at all times. The mind and body need rest in order to perform its functions correctly, therefore substances that keeps a person awake should be avoided including excessive drinking of caffiene, alcohol, tobaco products and somoking generally including necotine and drugs. Offcourse qat should be avoided too.