Is Khat Addictive?

Parents of young men need to be aware of different substances that could potentially lead to dependence and addiction. Today, there is a wide range of new substances parents are not fully aware of, such as Khat. If you’re just finding out about it, you may wonder is Khat addictive?

What is Khat?

Khat is a plant-based drug, like marijuana, which comes from the Catha edulis shrub. The shrub is commonly found in Eastern Africa. However, the popularity of khat dates back thousands of years throughout African and Arab countries. 

Khat chewing was originally a cultural tradition enjoyed in the Muslim community, primarily among males of all ages. In African cultures, chewing khat was also enjoyed by adolescent boys to men of all ages. Even though khat is legal in many African and Arab countries, it is considered an illegal substance in the United States. Because of its stimulant properties and relative novelty, the illegal khat drug market has grown immensely. 

What Are the Effects of Khat Use? 

For young men, the appeal of Khat is that it is often viewed as not being any more dangerous than consuming large quantities of caffeine or energy drinks. Khat is a natural stimulant that has various effects, including:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Feeling energized
  • Sensations of euphoria
  • Becoming very talkative
  • Increased alertness
  • Feeling elated
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Willingness to take risks

How Is Khat Used?

Khat is usually chewed, much like chewing tobacco. Chewing causes the release of cathinone, the stimulant found in the leaves of the Catha edulis shrub. The leaves have a glossy green appearance when they are fresh. Then, they start to turn yellow, then brown as they dry out. 

Most khat users will chew fresh leaves because the stimulant deteriorates as the leaves dry out. This is not to say that some users may try to smoke dried Khat leaves. Although, the effects of dried khat will not be as intense as fresh khat.

What Do Khat Leaves Look Like?

Khat leaves look similar to marijuana leaves. To keep the leaves fresh, users typically keep them bundled and wrapped inside banana leaves and stored in a plastic bag or airtight container. The banana leaves help retain moisture to slow the drying of the khat leaves.

Signs of Khat Use

Parents of young men need to watch for specific signs that could indicate khat drug abuse. Aside from the effects mentioned previously, other signs to watch for include:

  • Dizzy Spells
  • Frequent Headaches
  • Blurred Vision
  • Gum Disease
  • Noticeable Weight Loss
  • Constipation
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Mood Swings
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Sadness

Many of these signs are associated with withdrawal as Khat passes out of the body. Since it is a stimulant, as it wears off, your son can experience a quick downward “crash.” To avoid these unwanted symptoms, khat usage can and does increase. 

How Addictive Is Khat?

Is Khat addictive? The answer is yes. Young men can develop a dependence on khat that is more psychological than physical. They often have a hard time regulating khat usage because they may already be drinking energy drinks, caffeinated beverages, etc. The increased stimulation they experience from khat use can quickly develop into a bad habit that can be difficult to stop without help. 

The primary concern is when their khat use goes from dependence to addiction, where they cannot function unless they are under the influence of the drug. Dependence usually indicates a mental addiction to the substance, much like needing that first cup of coffee in the morning to jump-start your day. 

Physical addiction can develop as khat usage increases from once in a while to daily, to once every several hours. Furthermore, khat use could lead to experimenting with other illegal substances to enhance the stimulant’s effects. 

How Severe Is Withdrawal from Khat?

Withdrawal symptoms will vary based on the amount of Khat being used, the frequency of use, and whether the young man is abusing other substances. The severity of withdrawal can range from mild to requiring supervised detox with these common symptoms:

  • Cravings for stimulants
  • Headaches
  • Perceived body aches
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Aggression
  • Anger
  • Violent behaviors
  • Depression

How Hard Is It To Stop Using Khat?

Depending on how long your young man has been using Khat — and if he has been combining it with other drugs — it may be quite challenging to give up. When young men have developed a dependence or addiction to Khat, stopping can be much more difficult without professional help. 

Addiction Treatment for Young Men in Southern California

If you are a young man, or a concerned parent, help is available to overcome addiction through our customized treatment programs geared specifically for young men at New Life House in Southern California. Our unique approach to sobriety allows young men to work on their addiction surrounded by peers their own age. We have found peer support can be the motivation needed to achieve long-term sobriety. 

To learn more about our substance abuse and addiction treatment programs or to get the help you need, call us at 888-357-7577 or contact us today!

Last Updated on February 22, 2024


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