Khat (Catha edulis): A systematic review of evidence and literature pertaining to its harms to UK users and society

The use of khat (Catha edulis) has been associated with a large number of physiological and societal harms, leading to calls for it to be controlled in the UK. The evidence of these harms is often equivocal, limited by confounding factors, or entirely anecdotal: high-powered, quality-controlled studies are lacking. Regardless, the body of relevant literature indicates that the once socially-regulated use of khat has been eroded. Some individuals have developed excessive consumption patterns, either using khat daily or in binge-sessions, though daily consumption is not necessarily problematic per se. The majority of users seem to use khat in moderation, where the associated harms appear low. For excessive users, harms associated with khat are greater, particularly relating to mental health. Social harms also seem to be largely related to excessive khat use rather than khat use itself. Even in cases of excessive khat use, however, causal relationships between chewing and harms have not been described. More research is required to establish the role of khat in liver disease, coronary problems, cancers of the digestive tract and incidents of domestic violence. Studies should consider the likeliness that certain users are more vulnerable to developing patterns of excessive khat use due to an interwoven set of factors such as social health determinants and pre- and post-migration experiences.

This research was published in the Drug Science, Policy and Law Journal the definitive source of evidence-based information and comment for academics, scientists, policymakers, frontline workers and the general public on drugs and related issues

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