Khat – The Crisis Booster

Having a daily motivation is not an easy thing to attain unless one had gradually developed a firm resolve in controlling his character.

To stay motivated, people use different methods; from reading motivational quotes to doing an exercise, and from smoking cigarettes to taking highly stimulant drugs.

Khat (Catha adulis Forsk), also known by different names and spellings like ‘Kat, chat, quat, Catha, tschat, and miraa’, is an evergreen shrub which can grow to the size of a tree.

It has a long history both in the Arabian and African countries, since the 14th century, and is also introducing itself lately to the Western immigrants.

It is very common in East African countries and the Arabian Peninsula. Leaf Khat is one of the stimulants that is widely used in Ethiopia by young people and elders.

In some areas, chewing Khat is like a culture similar to drinking coffee; in others, it is a taboo. Students chew Khat to ‘study’ their subjects when preparing for an exam. Employees chew Khat to ‘facilitate’ their jobs. Taxi and bus drivers and chauffeurs chew Khat to stay awake and ‘alert’ day and night, and others use it just to pass the time or to be in a state of euphoria.

Medical studies have proved that the health ramifications of taking high doses and chronic use of Khat are insurmountable. One study conducted by doctors said that “it can cause serious adverse neurological, psychiatric, cardiovascular, dental, gastrointestinal, and genitourinary effects.”

The worst thing is that the danger of Khat not only lies in chewing it but also in the other bad habits that come along with it.

There is a common trend among those who chew Khat on a daily basis; one who chews Khat, most of the time, spends more than two hours chewing it, smokes cigarettes or hookah while chewing, and drinks beer or some other alcohol to break the state of euphoria so as to come back to a normal state of mind.

For any keen observer of the trend, the amount of time spent during the whole process of chewing Khat until reaching a state of euphoria and then drinking to come back to a normal state is long enough to be able to bring social decay. Imagine the money spent for buying Khat, cigarettes, and alcohol; the health risks taken during chewing, smoking and drinking.

What is the panacea for this? At what level should it reach before we convince ourselves to take severe measures? Though Khat is among those products which Ethiopia exports to gain foreign currency, we need to control the distribution and consumption of Khat in the local market.

Recently, the government of Ethiopia claimed that it has been taking some measures to control the domestic use of Khat, but it seems not enough. The results achieved so far were deemed unsuccessful.

In the capital, Addis Abeba, hidden rooms, coffee houses and bars are still operating with free seats and other necessary ingredients for chewing Khat and smoking hookah. People chew Khat sitting inside cars while parking in residential streets or under shades of trees.

Though not verified with empirical data, people believe that in different parts of the country young people who chew Khat are increasing in number.

The reasons, they say, are because of the growing unemployment rate in the country and because farmers are joining the hot Khat business – planting Khat in their fields and abandoning other crops – and expanding the Khat market.

Unemployed youths usually need something to pass the time until they get a job. It is easy for an idler to get into boredom; hence chewing Khat for long hours would appear as an ideal option.

Once started, it becomes a habit, and they will get addicted to it, then financial and health crises will follow. Students, especially those who study at college or universities, are also the victims of this stimulant. To motivate themselves, to ease the worry and to stay awake the whole night during their study times, they chew Khat.

Forget the health risks, it also affects their learning process and their lifetime career.

First, chewing Khat makes one suffer from loss of appetite. This loss of appetite hinders their mind and body from getting an adequate energy source, hence making them weak.

Second, after they chew and get high, they start cramming – choking too many concepts into their mind within a short period. This doesn’t create conceptual chunks in their permanent memory (as that would need a reasonable mind); hence what they have studied by cramming evaporates shortly after they have taken their exam. What is worse, every time they need to study something, their mind asks for Khat to get motivated.

Khat brings health, economic, and social disadvantages, and the youth, a valuable asset in our country, is its primary victim. Will our government and society act harshly and clean this mess, or shall we remain calm and lose our youth to Khat? It is high time to decide.

By Tsegazeab Shishaye
Tsegazeab Shishaye ( is an electrical engineer by profession and is interested in social issues, Ethiopian history, science and issues that aim at changing the sequel.

Published on Jul 15,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 898]



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