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    Also known as abyssinian tea, African salad, catha, chat or kat, Khat looks like green and leafy shredded tobacco, and could be mistaken for marijuana or salvia divinorum. It is typically chewed like tobacco — retained in the cheek and chewed intermittently to release the active drug — and can also be smoked.[1]

    What is khat?

    Khat is a stimulant made up of fresh leaves of the Catha edulis shrub found in East Africa and southern Arabia. It contains a number of chemicals, among which are two controlled substances, cathinone and cathine. Methcathinone, a synthetic substance with a similar chemical structure to the cathinone in the khat plant (commonly called ‘cat’) is occasionally confused with khat.[2]

    Understand the risks

    Using khat can cause mild to moderate psychological dependence. Compulsive use of khat may result in manic behavior with grandiose delusions or in a paranoid type of illness, sometimes accompanied by hallucinations. Khat use may also lead to tooth decay and gum disease, gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation and ulcers, irregular heartbeat and heart attack.[2]

    Identify & address use

    Signs of use include irritability, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, high blood pressure and increased heart rate. If you’re concerned your child may be using khat or other substances, the following can help you address the behavior more effectively.

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    Last Updated

    October 2023

    [1]NIDA. “Khat.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, July 2018, Accessed 26 Oct. 2018.

    [2]Drugs of Abuse | A DEA Resource Guide: 2017 Edition. “Khat.” Drug Enforcement Agency, 2017. Web. Accessed 26 Oct. 2018.

    Additional Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA); Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)