Signs and Symptoms of Khat Abuse

khat growing on plantation

Khat is an intoxicating plant that grows in the Horn of Africa countries of Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, and nearby countries Yemen, Madagascar and Afghanistan. In this area, social usage by men is widespread. Few women use the drug.

Cathinone, the drug contained in the leaves, causes alertness, euphoria, and increased sociability. It is common for men to gather in the hot afternoons and chew the leaves as they drink tea and talk.

Shipments to Emigrant Populations

In countries where there are dense populations of emigrants from these countries, it is likely that shipments of khat will be found. The UK has a large population and thus sees very large shipments passing through its airports. In 2011, it was estimated that 3,000 tons of khat entered the UK for abuse by Somali living there. Because the channels for transport of khat through UK airports are so well established, the country also serves as a transshipment point for the leaves headed for the US.

The Netherlands and France are also seeing higher seizures of this drug. It is illegal in most European and African countries, and in 2013 it was declared illegal in the UK.

Signs and Symptoms of Khat Use

Those using khat may manifest these symptoms:

  • Euphoria
  • Talkativeness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Artificially heightened mood
  • Sense of well-being

Heavy, frequent use can result in:

  • Mania
  • Aggression
  • Short psychotic episodes

Because of the slow rate at which chewed the leaves releases the drug, these severe symptoms are somewhat rare. The drug is addictive, however, so a person may not be able to stop his chronic use, even if there is harm occurring.

After the Khat High Wears off

As a person comes down off the drug, the symptoms are decidedly unpleasant.

These signs of khat withdrawal include:

  • Emotional ups and downs
  • Inability to sleep
  • Inability to focus
  • Tension
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

If he tries to stop using the drug, the user is likely to experience depression, nightmares, shakiness, and brief hallucinations.

man hallucinating

Recovery from Khat Addiction

As with addiction to any substance, the user will generally suffer some deterioration in their moral character, as the drug must be obtained as a priority over other concerns in life. One’s family usually suffers, as does one’s self-respect and confidence. Returning to sobriety requires that one have a way to restore one’s self-esteem and find new moral guidelines. Through repeated practice, these guidelines can help one learn to walk a sober path after leaving a life of drug abuse.

At Narconon drug and alcohol rehab centers around the world, addictions like a khat addiction are resolved every day, without the use of any substitute drugs in the treatment plan. This is a ten to twelve-week program that focuses on detoxification, brightening one’s perceptions and regaining life skills—each of these points repairs a particular type of damage that is done by addiction.

Whether it is alcohol or marijuana, crack cocaine or methamphetamine, heroin or pain pills that have done the damage, it is possible to recover from the incessant cravings that make sobriety a minute-by-minute challenge. This is the province of the Narconon New Life Detoxification, one phase of the overall recovery. Through the use of a dry-heat sauna, a strict regimen of nutritional supplements and moderate daily exercise, old, toxic drug residues that were stored deep in fatty tissue are flushed out. Those completing this step talk about their improved outlooks and how much lower their physical cravings are. Some people even say they are gone, along with the dreams of using drugs that tortured them every night.

Then a person can focus on learning the skills he (or she) will need to walk a sober path in the future. A series of life skills courses follow the detox, teaching an understanding of the skills first, followed by practical application to life. The result is that not only are the skills learned for future use, but the person has a chance to repair broken relationships and recover his own self-respect.

Learn how the Narconon program can enable you to recover a loved one who has become addicted to khat or any drug.

See also Effects of Khat


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