A leafy green plant containing stimulant drugs
What does it look like?
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 Peninsula and by expatriate communities from these regions.
By chewing the leaves.
How does it make you feel?
Khat is a stimulant and chewing it can:
- make people more alert and talkative
- produce feelings of elation
- suppress the appetite
- lead to periods of insomnia
- produce a feeling of calm if it's chewed over a few hours, with some describing it as being 'blissed out'
How long the effects last and the drug stays in your system depends on how much you’ve taken, your size and what other drugs you may have also taken.
Physical health risks
Because khat is a plant, some people think that it is safe to use. But using any drug involves risks.
Here’s what it could do to you:
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.
There is a small risk of significant liver disease, which has the potential to be life threatening.
The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs highlighted the risk of significant liver toxicity from excessive use, noting reports of dependent users (though not physically addictive)
Mental health risks
- You may develop insomnia and short-lived states of confusion.
- 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).
What is khat cut with?
Because khat comes in recognisable leaf form, it can't be easily cut with anything.
Can you get addicted?
Khat can make a user psychologically dependent (with cravings 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.
This is a Class C drug, which means it's illegal to have for yourself, give away or sell.
Possession can get you up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Supplying someone else, even your friends, can get you up to 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.
Like drink-driving, driving when high is dangerous and illegal. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you may receive a heavy fine, driving ban, or prison sentence.
If the police catch people supplying illegal drugs in a home, club, bar or hostel, they can potentially prosecute the landlord, club owner or any other person concerned in the management of the premises.