(2003; 31 pages) [French] [Spanish]
Khat or qat refers to the leaves and the young shoots of the plant Catha edulis Forsk. It has not previously been reviewed by WHO in the context of international control.
In many countries in Africa and the Arabian peninsula khat is traditionally consumed by chewing the tender leaves and stems. The principal psychoactive substances contained in the khat leaves are cathinone and cathine. Cathinone has been shown to have high abuse potential, and is in Schedule I. Reports of actual abuse of cathine have led to its being placed in Schedule III of the 1971 Convention. The migration of users of khat has resulted in the spreading of khat use to countries in other regions of the world. Khat is consumed at parties where friends gather and hold conversations while smoking cigarettes and drinking tea and soft drinks. The subjective effects of khat are rewarding; however, khat use produces significant toxic effects including increased blood pressure, tachycardia, insomnia, anorexia, constipation, a sense of general malaise, irritability, reactive depression, migraine and impaired sexual potency in men. Khat is believed to be dependence-producing. Cases of toxic psychosis and paranoia due to khat have been described by a number of authors. Other reported acute and chronic effects of khat include low birth weight in babies of khat chewing women, reduced sperm count and motility, increased risk of myocardial infarction and liver problems. In addition to the reported health problems, the regular consumption of khat is also associated with a variety of social and economic problems affecting the consumers and their families. A number of countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and North America have already placed khat under national control.
The Committee considered that there was sufficient information on khat to justify a critical review.