Mechanism of action of cathinone: the active ingredient of khat (Catha edulis)

by Kalix P, Patel NB.
Department of Medical Physiology,
University of Nairobi, P O Box 30197, Nairobi, Kenya.
East Afr Med J. 2000 Jun;77(6):329-32


OBJECTIVE: To review the current understanding of the mechanism of action of cathinone, the active ingredient of khat. DATA SOURCE: Published experimental studies on the nature and action and effect of cathinone on the central nervous system both in animals and humans.

DATA EXTRACTION: Data was taken from work published on the mechanism of action of cathinone and also from work where the action of cathinone and amphetamine was compared.

DATA SYNTHESIS: Data from various studies on cathinone was compared for common themes with regards to its action and similarity with the known mechanism of action of amphetamine.

CONCLUSION: The experimental work shows that cathinone is a liable substance, structually related to amphetamine, and similarly to amphetamine, increases the levels of dopamine in the brain by acting on the cathecholaminergic synaspes. Hence the psychostimulant effect of khat can be accounted for by the mechanism of cathinone, which is considered to be its main active ingredient.