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Khat: Early findings on the Neurochemical and Neurobehavioural effects

Author: 
Faiz Mohammed
Subject Area: 
Health Sciences
Abstract: 

The stimulant leaf khat (Catha edulis Forsk) has been consumed by people living around the horn of Africa, East Africa and the Middle East. It contains many different compounds but its psychostimulant property is mainly related to cathinone which is similar in structure and pharmacological activity to amphetamine. Cathinone is mainly found in the young leaves and shoots. It is expected that the concentration of cathinone determines the market price of khat. Khat must be picked and collected in the morning and chewed as early as possible till that afternoon to preserve maximum potency. Cathinone is absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth and subsequently the lining of the stomach. Importantly, since there are no extensive studies on neurobehavioral effect of khat most of the deductions are speculations based on the effect of amphetamine or its derivatives. More importantly, chronic uses of khat associated with brain problems have not been carefully studied. Similar to psychostimulants, khat ingestion produces several central nervous system effects, including increased motor stimulation, euphoria, a sense of excitement and energy. These effects indicate that khat acts through similar central mechanisms as other stimulants. Most of the pharmacological effects of the active principles are suggested to be mediated by the release of biogenic amines such as norephinephrine, dopamine and serotonin.

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