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The Dangers of Mixing Khat and Alcohol

The popularity of the drug khat has increased in the U.S., causing a great deal of concern. This stimulant drug can cause physical and psychological damage to users. When people combine khat and alcohol, the dangers increase. 

What Is Khat?

While many people may be unfamiliar with khat, the drug has made its way to the United States, causing concern among those who understand the damage it can cause. Classified as a stimulant drug, khat is derived from a wild shrub indigenous to East Africa called Catha edulis. Khat leaves turn from a greenish color to yellowish-brown and can appear similar to marijuana. The leaves are held in the mouth, chewed on, or made into an edible paste. Some people make tea with the leaves or sprinkle them on their food, while others smoke the leaves. 

Also known as kat, chat, qat, or quaadka, khat has been used in cultures that date back thousands of years. Common in areas such as East Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and the Middle East, khat has entered the U.S. primarily via immigrant groups that live here. These groups, often from Yemen, Somalia, and Ethiopia, and introduced khat to large cities they live in. From there, the drug has made its way into smaller regions of the country. 

Is Khat Dangerous?

People who are new to using khat may believe the fact that this drug has been used for centuries in other parts of the world means that it’s safe. Every stimulant drug carries risks, and khat is no exception. Those who use khat point out that it can help them with increased amounts of energy and feeling more sociable. It can also reduce the appetite, a result people wanting to lose weight often look for when using a stimulant. 

Khat usage can cause a person to sustain dangerous side effects. These include increased breathing and heart rates, elevated body temperature, and high blood pressure. Over time, long-term usage can result in several potentially dangerous side effects, including:

  • Inflamed mouth
  • Mouth cancer
  • Dental damage
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Weight loss
  • Impotence

Psychological problems can develop from using khat, including:

  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Worsening of other mental illnesses a person already experiences
  • Psychological dependence

Combining Khat and Alcohol Is Dangerous

People often combine alcoholic drinks with a narcotic, and khat and alcohol are no exception. How much combining khat and alcohol can affect a person depends on a few things. These include how much of each substance the person takes, their tolerance levels, and their body size and weight. Other factors include the person’s current physical and mental state and whether additional drugs are consumed with the khat and alcohol. 

Alcohol is a depressant, and when combined with a stimulant, such as khat, can put the user in danger. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. As a stimulant, khat also affects the central nervous system by increasing neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These two opposite effects do not cancel each other out but instead, can both become amplified. The alcohol can elevate the concentration level of the khat, which increases the odds that the person may overdose. 

Khat can cause an increase in libido, and both this drug and alcohol can contribute to people engaging in potentially dangerous behavior. Studies show that individuals who consume khat on a regular basis are more likely to indulge in risky behavior, experience unplanned pregnancies, and be predisposed to contracting HIV. A person who drinks too much alcohol sometimes finds themselves facing the same risks. 

While research into the dangers of mixing khat and alcohol continues in the U.S., much more has been done in other countries. A study done using Ethiopian college students showed that the median age they began drinking alcohol was 15.4 years. The median age they began consuming khat was 16.6. The students were more likely to engage in problematic behaviors or situations when using khat or other psychoactive substances combined with alcohol. These include arguments, physical fights, poor school performance, and difficulties in relationships with friends, family, and teachers. 

What to Do if You’re Addicted to Khat and Alcohol

Both alcohol addiction and addiction to stimulants require professional treatment programs in order for the person to have the best chance to stop using them. Residential, outpatient, and sober living homes commonly provide help for those experiencing addiction to more than one substance. Because mental illness co-occurs with about half of all substance use disorders, these types of programs usually offer treatment for both conditions. An assessment by a doctor or other trained clinician can help a person decide which type of treatment will work best for them.

Khat and Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Los Angeles

A person who abuses khat and alcohol, as well as any other substances, needs professional treatment. We treat young adults whose lives have become impacted by drug and alcohol addiction by providing treatment for both their substance use disorders and any co-occurring mental health conditions. Our gender-specific sober living homes offer 24/7 help from staff members and access to multiple types of outpatient therapy. Contact Riviera Recovery today and find out how our program can help you or someone you love to turn over a new leaf.

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