What Is ‘Khat’ and Is it Physically Addictive?

What Is ‘Khat’ and Is it Physically Addictive?

Khat is a drug derived from a plant native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. This drug is abused for its stimulant effects, similar to other substances like methamphetamine or cocaine. While khat is more commonly used in the African and Arabian countries where khat grows, immigrants to the U.S. are also likely to be at risk for abusing this substance. While khat is not as physically addictive as similar drugs like meth and cocaine, khat still has a high potential for abuse.

Why Is Khat a Drug?

Khat contains two chemicals that produce stimulating effects when used. The active chemicals in khat are called cathine and cathinone, which can also be found in other natural and synthetic stimulants. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), “Cathine is a Schedule IV stimulant, and cathinone is a Schedule I stimulant under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.”

Like those in other stimulants, these chemicals cause increased alertness, high blood pressure, and a sense of euphoria when used. While stimulants aren’t as addictive as other substances, like alcohol or opioids, they can still cause adverse short- and long-term side effects when used excessively.

The Negative Effects of Khat and Other Stimulants

Some stimulants are prescribed to treat issues like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or a sleep disorder called narcolepsy. Prescription stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin, can help people with ADHD focus by increasing blood flow to the brain. Similarly, these drugs can help those with narcolepsy stay awake throughout the day. 

While some stimulants are prescribed, others are purchased illegally. Both illegal and prescription stimulants have a high risk of abuse due to their euphoric effect. People might abuse stimulants to stay focused while studying during college, stay awake while working long night shifts, or enhance performance in other activities.

Misuse or abuse of stimulants can lead to the following negative side effects. You might experience these effects if you take a large dose at one time or if you abuse stimulants like khat over time:

  • Dizziness and nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Tremors and shakiness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations, possibly leading to chest pain
  • Stomach cramps

While these effects generally wear off after some time, they can cause long-term physical and psychological damage when stimulants are abused.

The Long-Term Effects of Abusing Stimulants Like Khat

Long-term abuse of khat and other stimulants, like cocaine, meth, or bath salts, can cause medical and psychiatric issues. Due to increased circulatory activity, your heart and blood vessels can get overworked and stressed, leading to chronic diseases when khat is used excessively over time.

Physical health conditions caused by stimulant abuse include:

  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat, which can cause a heart attack
  • Increased risk of seizures
  • Abnormally low or high blood pressure
  • Failure of the circulatory system
  • Convulsions, coma, poisoning, and even death

Most of the physical health issues of stimulant abuse are related to issues with the circulatory system. If you quit using khat or other stimulants, you can stop the damage from going any further and recover from some of the damage already done.

Stimulants can also lead to psychiatric issues due to extended hyperactivity in the brain, such as:

  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations and delusional thinking
  • Panic attacks
  • Hostility and increased aggression
  • Agitation
  • Suicidal or homicidal ideation

While the risk of addiction is generally lower for khat than cocaine or methamphetamine, long-term abuse can lead to increased tolerance, meaning that you need more drugs to achieve the same effects. You might begin taking dangerous amounts of khat or move on to more potent drugs, like crystal meth or cocaine.

Treating Addiction to Khat and Other Stimulants

While stimulants do not have the same level of risk of developing a physical dependency as opioids or alcohol, you might be concerned about abusing khat if you experience some of the adverse side effects listed above. Treating addiction or problematic use of stimulants like khat can involve peer support, outpatient services, and holistic treatment, depending upon the level of your addiction.

Often, addiction is caused by an underlying mental health issue. You might be at significant risk of abusing khat if you have depression, trauma, or anxiety. These mental health issues are relatively common and treatable. You might need dual diagnosis treatment when you struggle with an addiction driven by an underlying mental health disorder. 

During dual diagnosis treatment, you can learn how to cope with withdrawal symptoms of khat during detox while also learning healthy ways of coping with underlying issues without the use of stimulants.

Treating Khat and Stimulant Abuse in Denver

If you abuse khat or other stimulants, including prescriptions, you can benefit from the help of a professional drug treatment center. Continuum Recovery Center of Colorado is here to help you or a loved one with our outpatient rehab services. Call us at 844.901.3066or contact us today to start living your life free of addiction.