What is khat?
Khat is a leafy green plant containing two main stimulant drugs which speed up your mind and body. Their main effects are similar to, but less powerful than, amphetamine (Speed). Khat is used mostly in North East Africa, and the Arabian Peninsual and by expatriate communities from these regions
The key effects and risks of khat include:
- People feel more alert, happy and talkative.
- It suppresses the appetite.
- ACMD highlighted risk of significant liver toxicity from excessive use, noting reports of dependent users (though not physically addictive).It may cause disrupted sleep and make pre-existing mental health problems worse
- It may cause disrupted sleep and make pre-existing mental health problems worse
What does Khat look like?
Khat is a leafy green plant.
How is khat taken?
Most often a small bunch of its leaves are ‘balled up’ and chewed over a number of hours.
What are the effects of khat?
Khat is a stimulant and chewing it can:
- Make people more alert and talkative
- Produce feelings of elation
- Suppress the appetite
- Produce a feeling of calm if it's chewed over a few hours, with some describing it as being 'blissed out'
- Lead to periods of insomnia
What are the risks of khat?
Because khat is a plant, some people think that it is safe to use. But using any drug involves risk. Here’s what it could do to you:
- You may develop insomnia and short-lived states of confusion.
- You can get high blood pressure, heart palpitations and heart problems with heavy use.
- As khat can cause periods of increased libido, care may be needed to minimise the risk of unsafe sex and unwanted pregnancies.
- Khat can inflame the mouth and damage the teeth. It can also reduce appetite and cause constipation, and there is concern about a longer-term risk of development of mouth cancers.
- It can give you feelings of anxiety and aggression.
- It can make pre-existing mental health problems worse and can cause paranoid and psychotic reactions (which may be associated with irritability, anxiety and losing touch with reality).
There is a small risk of significant liver disease, which has the potential to be life threatening.
Because khat comes in recognisable leaf form, it can't easily be cut with anything.
Can you get addicted to khat?
Khat can make a user psychologically dependent (with craving and a desire to keep using in spite of potential harm). When some users stop using they can feel lethargic or mildly depressed and may have a withdrawal period with fine tremors and nightmares.
Khat and the law
On 24 June 2014 khat becomes a Class C drug which means it is illegal to have or to supply khat.
It is also be an offence to bring khat into the country, so if you’ve been abroad to a country where khat is legal you cannot bring it back to the UK with you.
Khat factsheets are available in Amharic, Arabic, English, Somali and Swahili for information on the reasons for the ban, penalties for possession, and where to go for advice and support. They can be used by individuals and local, voluntary or other organisations working in health, prevention, social care and law enforcement.
What if you’re caught?
If you are caught with khat (called possession) you could be arrested and face up to two years in prison and/or get an unlimited fine. If you are caught dealing or supplying (and that could just mean giving some to your mates) you could get up to 14 years in jail and/or get an unlimited fine.