How Chewing Khat Can Kill You

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Chewing Khat

Khat chewers who are commonly found in Yemen and other East African Countries are in danger: they are bound to suffer from an increased incidence of heart risk, diabetes, cardiovascular risks, heart attacks, and strokes. Khat also induces users to talk a lot, induce manic behavior or hyper-activity.

A whopping 10 million people chew Khat daily, according to Haight-Ashbury Free Medical Clinic, Journal of psychoactive drugs. At least 70-80% of Yeminis spend 14.6 million man-hours per day just chewing Khat within the age group of 16-50.

Dr. Waleed M Ali of Hamad Medican Corp, Qatar, found in a new observational study  that chewing Khat  — stripped leaves of a plant called Catha Edulis also known as qat, chat, mirra, or quaadka — is known to increase risk of death because although it seems to be “herbal” in nature, it consists of norephedrine and cathinone which is similar to amphetamine and cocaine.

It’s interesting to note that it’s more of a “cultural thing” and isn’t considered to be drug use especially in countries such as Kenya, Somalia, Yemen, and Ethiopia. According to a Wikipedia entry, over 40% of country’s water supply is consumed for irrigation of farms producing Khat in Yemen.

The Yemineni habit of chewing Khat certainly doesn’t seem to help mortality rates. Khat chewers (mortality rate of 7.5%) are more like to die than non-Khat Chewers (mortality rate 3.8%).

Suddenly, it’s not even a problem that a few East African countries must learn to deal with. Emigration of native East Africans in large numbers has made Khat chewing an increasingly global phenomenon.

Physicians, doctors, and medical practitioners who might not be familiar with risks associated with chewing Khat stand to make inappropriate prognosis or diagnosis for patients who hail from these countries.  The imperative, hence, seems to be on patients who travel to other countries where use of Khat is uncommon to let their physicians know about their Khat usage and other such habits, if any.

Though there isn’t hard evidence on the perils of chewing Khat and also the fact that there are at least 12 types of Khat trees, research does have a point to prove about the negative ramifications of the herb.






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