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Khat factsKhat leaves in bowl. © Australian Drug Foundation 2010.

What is khat?

Effects of khat


Further information




What is khat? 

Khat is a stimulant drug, which means it speeds up the messages going between the brain and the body. The drug is the leaves and buds of the khat plant (Catha edulis Forsk).1

The leaves may be used fresh or dried1.

Other names 

qat, kat or chat

What does it look like?

The leaves and buds of the khat plant. The leafy green shrub that can grow to tree size.

How is it used? 

  • Fresh leaves and buds are chewed
  • Dried khat is chewed, taken as tea or smoked1

The chewing of khat leaves is common in some countries of east Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. It has a deep-rooted social and cultural tradition in some Muslim, Somali and Yemeni cultures. In some Muslim countries in which alcohol is prohibited, khat is commonly used in social situations, although it is often condemned on religious grounds.2

Effects of khat 

There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.

Khat affects everyone differently, based on:

  • Size, weight and health
  • Whether the person is used to taking it
  • Whether other drugs are taken around the same time
  • The amount taken
  • The strength of the drug (varies from batch to batch)

The following effects may be experienced immediately:

  • Fast heartbeat and breathing
  • High temperature and blood pressure
  • Talking more and feeling energetic
  • Reduced appetite3

Long-term effects 

Regular use of khat may eventually cause:

  • Worsening of existing mental health problems
  • Sleep problems
  • Impotence
  • Digestive problems, such as constipation
  • Sore, inflamed mouth
  • Mouth cancer
  • Needing to use more to get the same effect
  • Dependence on khat
  • Financial, work and social problems1



Giving up khat after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it.

It's not clear whether it's possible to become dependent on khat, but there is some evidence to suggest that if it's used heavily, withdrawal symptoms may be experienced for several days after the last time the drug was used. These symptoms may include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Difficulty performing normal daily activities
  • Slight trembling4

Further information


Reducing the risks



ADF SEARCH – Find further credible research and information on khat

ADIN – Find other credible websites and apps on khat


1. Douglas, H., Pedder, M. & Lintzeris, N. (2012). Law enforcement and khat: An analysis of current issues [PDF:481KB].

2. Basker, G. (2013). A review on hazards of khat chewing [PDF:487KB], International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 5 (suppl. 3). 74–77.

3. Fitzgerald, J. (2009). Khat: a literature review [PDF:886KB].

4. Cox, G. & Rampes, H. (2003). Adverse effects of khat: a review.

Last updated: 19 May 2016

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