One of the oldest natural brain stimulants is khat- a plant that is native to many parts of east and central Africa. The plant is widely grown and consumed by natives in these parts of Africa and even exported to some Arabian countries. Khat leaves can be chewed but sometimes the dried leaves can be used to brew tea or even ingested with food. In some parts of Africa, chewing khat is similar to having tea or coffee in North America.
Over the years, khat has been introduced to North America by immigrants, usually in an illegal fashion. Today, however, most of khat in North America is smuggled in through Mexico. Analysis of Khat plant leaves have revealed presence of many potent substances- of which the two most important are cathinone and cathine. Both these substances have potent brain stimulant activities.
To get “high”, one has to chew the khat leaves for least 10-15 minutes and the effects can last for a few hours. People who chew khat claim that it produces a pleasant serene effect, relieves stress, keeps one fully awake and sometimes even boosts the sex drive. While the effects sound good, khat is also addictive and after prolonged use, physical dependence is common. Abruptly stopping khat can lead to severe withdrawal symptoms.
In excess amounts, khat can also cause paranoia and schizoid symptoms like hallucination and aggressive behaviour. Khat is considered to be an illicit plant in USA and is classified as a controlled schedule 4 substance. What this means is that one cannot possess, sale or distribute this plant for anything other than medical use- unfortunately, it has no medical use.
Penalties are severe for those caught in possession of khat.
November 22, 2009