What is khat?

2016-01-28 06:00

Khat (Catha edulis) is believed to have originated in Ethiopia and has been grown for use as a stimulant for centuries and predates the use of coffee.

It can easily be mistaken for a herb picked from a garden. In fact khat, mirra, green grass or Bushmen’s tea as it also is known, is a leaf from a tree and is chewed. Fresh khat leaves contain cathinone - a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act.

However, the leaves typically begin to deteriorate after 48 hours, causing the chemical composition of the plant to break down. Once this occurs, the leaves contain cathine, a Schedule IV drug.

The South African Police have taken a stance that the drug is illegal in terms of Section 3 of the Drug Act and it will be policed accordingly.

Khat is an agent that has been used in social settings to induce feelings of euphoria and pleasure. Medicinally, it has been used to treat depression and to enhance work capacity.

Currently, there are no well-designed clinical trials evaluating khat for any indication.

Two poorly documented trials evaluated khat in cognitive function. One study revealed no difference in cognitive function in the elderly with khat use. In the other study, cognitive functioning was negatively affected by khat use.

Its use in South Africa has increased as a result of the influx of Somalians and Ethiopians into the country.

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