Khat (pronounced COT) is known by over 40 different street names including, kat, qat, chat, gat, graba, tohai, tschat, and mirraa. Khat is a stimulant derived from Catha Edulis, a 6-12-foot flowering evergreen shrub. The fresh young leaves of the shrub have been consumed where the plant is cultivated, primarily in East Africa and the Arabian peninsula. There, chewing khat predates the use of coffee and is used in a similar social context. It is estimated that over 10 million people use and abuse Khat today, primarily in the Middle East. Khat is used for its stimulant effects. The effects are similar to but less intense than those of methamphetamine or cocaine. Fresh leaves are chewed and dried leaves are smoked, made into a paste and chewed, or brewed in tea. Used moderately, khat alleviates fatigue and reduces appetite. Long term use or abuse can cause insomnia, anorexia, gastric disorders, depression, liver damage and cardiac complications. Manic behavior, delusional behavior, violence, suicidal depression, hallucinations, paranoia and khat-induced psychosis have also been reported. Khat contains a number of chemicals among which are two controlled substances, cathinone (Schedule I) and cathine (Schedule IV). As the leaves mature or dry, cathinone is converted to cathine which significantly reduces its stimulatory properties. Cathinone is approximately 10 more times more potent than cathine and is only present in fresh leaves. Cathine, the secondary active ingredient in Khat, does not lose much of its potency with age as with cathinone. Leaves less than 48 hours old are preferred to ensure a maximum potency of cathinone. However, Khat can be preserved by freezing, the same way that vegetables and meats are kept fresh in the United States.
More information about Khat is available in the Khat brochure available here.