Continuing on our analysis of exotic plants that are used for narcotic purposes (see our blog entry about salvia divinorum from earlier this month) we noticed that khat is in the news again this week after 3 men were arrested for transporting khat in Minnesota a few days ago. The men were transporting the drug to Chicago.
Khat (also known as qat and chad) is a flowering plant native to tropical East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The drug is an amphetamine that is used relatively rarely in the United States but in some countries in Africa it is widely ingested for it’s amphetamine properties.
Khat contains the chemical cathinone, which is an alkaloid and has amphetamine-like stimulant properties in the user once it is orally ingested. The effects of using khat (or qat) are excitement, nervousness, loss of appetite, and euphoria. In 1980 the World Health Organization classified khat as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence. Khat has been targeted by anti-drug organizations like the DEA and it is classified as a controlled/illegal substance in many countries.
We are alarmed by the abuse of these types of narcotic plants because of our twenty three years of treating men and women for alcohol and drug addiction at our drug and alcohol treatment centers here in Southern California. We are also pioneers in the area of meth addiction treatment in California. Our opinion is that drugs like khat foster psychological and physical dependence and can aggravate existing psychological issues like anxiety and mood disorders (ie. depression). We feel that drugs like salvia and khat can be gateway drugs to harder substances like crystal methamphetamine, heroin, or lead to alcohol abuse or dependence on prescription medications like vicodin or oxycontin.
Here at our California Drug Rehab we have noticed a growing trend of the youth drug culture in the U.S. being interested in exotic plants like khat. Using drugs like salvia and khat gives users a sense of exotic adventure and also the substances might carry less of a sentence if they are caught in possession of the drug (as opposed to the strict penalties enforced for drugs like crystal methamphetamine). There is always the growing interest in holistic medicine, and eastern ideas and philosophies which might also fuel users of khat to feel like they are taking something more natural and less damaging than street drugs like heroin or crystal methamphetamine.
Khat makes occasional headlines around the world and the countries in North Africa and the Middle East have a love/hate relationship with Khat. Saudi Arabia has banned the substance. The religious Islamist group that is currently controlling the port town of Kismayu (near Mogadishu) in Somalia have recently banned the substance from entering that port.