Khat (Catha edulis) is a flowering plant native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Among communities from these areas, khat chewing has a long history as a social custom dating back thousands of years.
Khat contains a monoamine alkaloid called cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant, which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria. In 1980, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderatepsychological dependence (less than tobacco or alcohol), although the WHO does not consider khat to be seriously addictive. The plant has been targeted by anti-drug organizations such as the DEA.It is a controlled substance in some countries, such as the United States, Canada and Germany, while its production, sale and consumption are legal in other nations, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Yemen.
Man chewing khat in Sana’a, Yemen, January 2009
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