NB! Drugs effects vary according to the psychological state and the health of the person concerned, the context in which the drug is taken as well as the quality of the drug and the quantity consumed.


Khat is a plant cultivated in East Africa and in the Arabian Peninsula from which the leaves are chewed. One of the active principles of the khat leaves is cathinone, which has a chemical structure very like that of amphetamines. The effects are active only when the plant is fresh.

Khat is a psychoactive substance which is:

  • illegal
  • natural
  • a stimulant.

Desired effects

  • Feeling of wellbeing, slight euphoria, physical and mental stimulation, increased alertness
  • Increased self-assurance, feeling of self-confidence
  • Increased sociability
  • Insensitivity to hunger and fatigue

Physical symptoms

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure and body temperature
  • Dry mouth, feeling of thirst
  • Dilation of the pupils

Immediate risks

  • Serious cardiovascular disorders (increase in blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate)
  • Hyperthermia (increase in body temperature)
  • Paranoia, suicidal ideas, fits of violence
  • Brain haemorrhages (bursting of an artery in the brain)
  • Infarction (destruction of heart muscle)
  • Pulmonary oedema (accumulation of fluid in the lungs)

Long-term risks

  • Insomnia, undernourishment, depression
  • Sexual disorders (impotence)
  • Intestinal disorders (constipation, ulcers, stomach ache)
  • Cardiovascular disorders (risk of heart attack)
  • Dental caries, periodontal diseases (gums and jawbone)
  • Psychological dependence


Sciensano collects data and analyses the consumption of drugs, the drug market, the consequences for health, requests for treatment and the policies implemented with regard to drugs in Belgium.

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