There is a great debate in the jurisprudence and legal councils about khat to determine the jurisprudential and legal ruling in it, despite the World Health Organization’s inclusion of it in the list of narcotic substances nearly twenty years ago, and therefore we preferred to single out this plant with a special topic that sheds light on the extent of its abuse and the health, psychological, economic, social and cultural implications. Accordingly, through one of the most popular countries, which is Yemen.
In 1973, the World Health Organization included khat in the list of narcotic substances, after the organization’s six-year research proved that the khat plant contained Norbicido Vedrine and cathine, which are similar in their effect to amphetamines.
The abuse of khat is widespread in Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and South Africa. The khat tree is grown on mountain heights and plateaus with a height of about 800 meters from the sea level, and the length of the tree sometimes reaches six feet, and is considered an evergreen perennial plant. Great ability to withstand the vagaries of weather.
The khat plant consists of organic compounds, the most important of which are “cathine” and “norsido ephedrine,” which are similar substances in composition to amphetamine, and these substances have an effect on the nervous system, as they cause the secretion of some chemicals that work to stimulate nerve cells, which reduces the feeling of fatigue and fatigue, and increases ability Focus on the first few hours of abuse, followed by feelings of depression and anxiety.
A report issued by the World Health Organization in 1979 dealt with khat, in which it stated that its researchers reached an inventory of forty alkaloids in the khat plant, which they classified within the cathidioline group, most of which are similar to cocaine and amphetamines in their effect on the abuser, these substances lead to an increase in heart rate and motor activity And increase the oxygen consumption.
Experts conducted experiments on mice to find out the effect of cathinone, and they found them in a state of loud fun for 24 hours after taking the dose, followed by a state of depression, lethargy, insomnia and anxiety afterward, which are similar to what the addicted khat feels.
In the early eighties, researchers at the World Health Organization discovered a new substance in the papers that they called “cathinone” or “amino propriophenone,” which is similar to that of the amphetamines group in its stimulant effect on the nervous system.
Methods of abuse
The user puts the leaves of khat in his mouth and then chews them and stores them in one of his mouths and absorbs them slowly through the capillaries in the mouth, or the user swallows its juice with a little water or fizzy water from time to time.
This process of rumination lasts for long hours, as chewing (storing) begins after eating lunch, which is often between one and two in the afternoon until before sunset, and then some of them start again until late at night.
Habits associated with abuse
The storing of khat accompanies the smoking of hookah in a collective manner in rooms called “divans” in Yemen, whose windows are closed as thick clouds of smoke multiply in their air.
Packets of khat are placed in front of users collectively or individually, and small vessels are placed in front of them for the spit that comes out of their mouths from time to time, as well as cold water or carbonated water according to the user’s desire.
In the first hours of consuming khat, storekeepers begin to speak actively and energetically about many complex issues that have no link, as ideas jump into their minds very quickly, and in the next two hours a state of silence and calm prevails, after that the addicts feel lethargic, lazy and unwilling to do any muscle or effort. My mind is controlled by a state of anxiety.
Those who abuse qat see it as providing them with mental and muscular activity, documenting their social relationships, a means of entertainment and spending their leisure time, and it is also linked to social occasions, especially in weddings, funerals and reconciliation sessions between tribes.
Others, opposed to this habit, see khat as a cause of family disintegration, as the abuser spends long hours in the abuse session away from his wife and children, and the same is the case if the wife consumes qat as she sits with her friends for long hours away from the husband and children, which weakens Family ties.
The abuse of khat has another negative social dimension, which is represented in the fact that a large part of the family’s income goes to purchase it, which affects the fulfillment of the living needs of the rest of the family, especially in aspects related to food and education, which is ultimately reflected in the general atmosphere of the family.
Difficulty urinating, involuntary secretion of semen, and impotence
One of the most famous physiological effects of khat
Psychological and physiological effects
Doctors believe that khat does not have any health benefits as some drug users fancy, and they list many diseases caused by khat, including difficulty urinating, involuntary seminal secretions after urination and during chewing, due to the effect of khat on the prostate and seminal vesicles, and the congestion and shrinkage it causes. Doctors also cite impotence as a consequence of khat addiction.
Qat addiction also increases blood sugar, which makes its abusers more susceptible to diabetes, and reduces protein in the blood, which affects the growth of the body, and this may explain the wasting and weak structure of the majority of users in Yemen, for example.
It affects the digestive system, and it is a major cause of indigestion and hemorrhoidal diseases, due to the presence of tannin, and the reason is also attributed to it in the loss of appetite and malnutrition among users.
Doctors have noted a correlation between the increase in oral and jaw cancers and the addiction to this narcotic plant, especially in the last five years, as there has been widespread use of internationally unauthorized chemicals sprayed in the form of powder during cultivation.
As for its psychological effects, a tendency for qat chewers to be observed in mental laziness after hours of addiction, then soon begins a feeling of anxiety accompanied by depression, and interrupted sleep.
Khat and the economy
The use of khat has a great impact on the economies of the countries in which it is spread. Its cultivation occupies large areas of arable land and consumes quantities of water that can be used in other beneficial crops that these peoples need in their food.
In Yemen, for example, the cultivation of khat has affected most of the important crops, especially coffee, which has been famous for many years. In the estimates of the Food and Agriculture Organization, the area planted with qat in Yemen is estimated at a quarter of the area of irrigated land, and the following table shows a slight increase in the cultivation areas of some crops compared to qat.
Area of qat growing compared to some crops / area in hectares
Year / crop null
Percentage of increase
As for the volume of spending on the use of khat, according to official statistics, it is approximately 25 billion Yemeni riyals annually (approximately 156 million dollars).
A study by the European Commission office in Sana’a states that the number of Yemenis who are unable to secure the necessary food reached three million in 1996, and in light of current development rates it is expected that this number will reach four million in the current year (2001), and that qat is wasted on the Yemeni state of twenty million At least one hour of work per day, as stated in a study conducted by the Yemeni government. Official statistics show that khat wastes 1,460 hours per person. Qat is consumed by large groups of the poor with low incomes who are unable to meet their basic needs, which increases their suffering and deprivation.
In the general report of the family budget survey conducted by the Yemeni government in 1998, it showed that spending on tobacco and khat ranks first among spending on a group of food commodities among the urban population, as these families consider khat a food commodity for which a major part of the family budget is determined. Spending on qat purchases came second, after spending on grain in the countryside.
Statistics of the Yemeni Central Organization indicate that half a million families depend on their basic income on the cultivation and trade of qat, meaning that more than 20% of the population in Yemen has been linked to the cultivation and trade of khat, which makes resistance to this drug a complicated matter.
Khat and water
As for the effect of qat on water consumption, the available statistics on the Yemen model indicate that qat in farms surrounding Sana’a city, for example, consumes half of the 60 million cubic meters of water allocated to it.
Religion, Law and Qat
The spread of khat in the aforementioned countries increases the lack of legal legislation prohibiting its use or trafficking in it, compared to countries that considered it a banned narcotic substance, such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for example, and where the use of khat appeared in some of its provinces bordering the Yemeni border, especially in the Jizan region.
In Yemen, several governmental decisions were issued between 1972 and 1976 prohibiting its cultivation or abuse, but the fate of those decisions was failure, as there is no effective mechanism to implement them.
In the past two years, the Yemeni government has taken several measures in an attempt to curb this phenomenon, including preventing its abuse in the military and security institutions and within government institutions, and has worked to increase working hours so that abusers miss the opportunity to buy it or go out near 12 noon to the market looking for it, but until Now these measures have not found a benefit in reducing the use of khat, which is widespread among Yemenis of all social classes and cultural levels.
Some NGOs have been established to fight khat, the most famous of which is the National Society to Combat the Damages of Qat, which was established in 1992, and has branches in some governorates, and is concerned with spreading awareness of the harms of this narcotic plant. In addition, a non-periodical newspaper was established, entitled “Yemen Without Qat”, specialized in raising awareness of its health, psychological and economic harms.
As for Islamic scholars in Yemen, it is noticed that they are divided in opinion about this plant. Some believe that it is permissible because its anesthetic effects are not proven to them, and therefore they cannot measure it on intoxicants that take away the mind, while others see its prohibition on the grounds that it leads to a waste of time and money and what confirms Doctors believe that it is the cause of many diseases.
Given this difference in the jurisprudential and social view of this narcotic plant, this problem is likely to continue for long periods despite the scientific consensus on its negative physiological and psychological effects.
1- National Information Center, Yemen, citing the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bureau of Statistics. Noting that the table did not include the statistics of khat for the years 1990, 1991 and 1992.
2- Food and Agriculture Organization
3- University of Pennsylvania, Evrything about QAT, Qat
4- Drugscope, KHAT
5-National Library of Medicine, subject QAT.
6- Al-Jazeera Channel, a guest program and a case, Qat in Yemen: Evolution of the Phenomenon and Treatment.
7- Drugs, the tragedy of the contemporary environment – previous reference – pp. 669-695.
8- Saeed Thabet – Al-Mustaqila Newspaper – Issue 344 – The Ninth Year – 3/26/2001 – Interviews with a number of gastroenterologists in Yemen
Al-Jazeera channel prepared by Mohamed Abdel Aty