Khat: a flowering evergreen shrub native to East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula whose leaves, twigs, and shoots are chewed like tobacco and used as a recreational drug in many parts of the world. It can also be smoked, made into tea, or sprinkled on food. The greatest numbers of users are found in the areas where khat grows naturally.
Health effects of khat include hallucinations, hyperactivity, and mania. It can also cause exhaustion, depression, and even suicidal ideation in some users. Chronic (long-term) health effects can include anorexia, fast heart rate, elevated blood pressure, stomach disorders, and insomnia.
Khat is known to be smuggled into the US from its sites of origin. It is illegal in the US, but legal in much of Europe, East Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula.
Medically reviewed by Martin Zipser, MD; Board Certified: Surgery
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Last Editorial Review: 5/12/2014