Khat: from traditional usage to risk of drug addiction

by Adam F, Hasselot N
Laboratoire de Biochimie,
Hopital d’Instruction des Armees Laveran,
Marseille, France.
Med Trop (Mars) 1994; 54(2):141-4


In much of East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, the leaves of the qat tree (Catha edulis Forsk) are highly prized for their euphoric effects. Use is deeply anchored in regional customs and traditions. Once controversial, the chemical properties of qat are now well-documented; the active agent responsible for the physical and mental effects observed when the leaves are chewed is cathinone or alpha-aminopropiophenone. According to the definition of the World Health Organization, qat is not classified as an inevitably addictive drug. However recent reports of psychosis related to qat abuse in Great Britain and the United States have raised new alarm in the Narcotics Commission of the United Nations. Should qat be prohibited? International law on this issue is currently highly ambiguous. Importation of qat is illegal in France as in Switzerland, but legal in the United States and Great Britain as in most African countries.