By Dr. Ali Said Faqi
Saturday November 18, 2023
known as Katha Edulis is a plant native to the Horn of Africa and
the Arabian Peninsula. Its leaves and shoots are commonly chewed for their
Khat consumption has a
long history and is believed to have originated from Ethiopia. It has been used
for thousands of years in East Africa and Arabian Peninsula.
Khat consumption is a
prevalent practice in Somalia. An estimated of over 50% of males and around 20%
of females consume it regularly. It is a verifiable fact that also some
security personnel including police and military forces have a habit of
consuming khat on a frequent basis. Khat consumption can lead to decreased
productivity, decreased alertness, and impaired judgment, which can be
particularly problematic for those in high-stress and high-risk jobs such as
the military and security forces. We must also remind ourselves that some
people who chew Khat also use other illicit drugs. Drug abuse is also a growing
concern in Somalia, and it is far-reaching and detrimental to both individuals
and the broader society.
According to a report
published by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2014, Somalia
ranked among the top countries in the world in terms of khat consumption. The
report estimated that the total volume of khat imported to Somalia at that time
was around 400 metric tons per week, with an estimated value of up to $15
million USD per month. Taking into consideration the surge in both price and
quantity of khat imported to Somalia between 2014-2023, it can be estimated
that Somalia spends a minimum of $ 25 million per month equating to roughly 300
million annually. However, alternative estimations project these figures
staggering amount in the billions.
Khat contains several
active compounds, including cathinone, cathine, and norephedrine, which
stimulate the central nervous system and produce effects similar to
amphetamines. Chemically Cathinone is
structurally similar to amphetamines and acts as a central nervous system
stimulant. It increases the release and inhibits the reuptake of certain
neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. This
mechanism of action contributes to the stimulating effects, including euphoria,
heightened, and sociability. Khat is
classified as a Schedule I control substance in many countries due to its
potential for abuse and addiction. It is also illegal in several countries,
including the United States, Canada, and much of Europe. Long-term use of khat
can lead to physical and psychological dependence.
Risks Associated with
Khat consumption in
Somalia has become a looming threat that is gripping the nation's social,
economic, and health fabric. One of the major issues associated with khat
consumption is its devastating impact on the country's economy. Somalia,
already plagued by years of political instability and economic struggles,
cannot afford the drain on productivity caused by widespread khat use. Many
individuals, particularly men, spend hours chewing the leaves, resulting in
tardiness or even absence from work, diminished work performance, and an
overall decline in productivity. Consuming khat can also have negative impacts
on the finances of individuals who use it regularly. Government employees, alongside
other users, are known to spend their income on khat, a habit that compels them to
constantly seek Shaxaad from fellow individuals on a daily basis.
Moreover, the social
consequences of khat consumption are equally alarming. The chewing of khat
leaves often takes place in social gatherings, where individuals spend hours
engrossed in the habit. This has resulted in a neglect of family
responsibilities, strained relationships, and an overall breakdown of social
cohesion. Additionally, the excessive use of khat has been linked to increased
aggression and violence, exacerbating the already fragile security situation in
the country. Research has shown that male consumers of khat tend to have less
quality time with their families than those who do not consume it. Some studies
conducted in Yemen and Ethiopia suggest that khat chewing may be associated
with marital conflict and divorce or is a significant predictor of divorce. This is due to a number of factors related
to the effects of khat on individuals and their relationships: 1) khat
consumption can lead to financial strain on families, as users may spend a
significant portion of their income on the drug. This leads to arguments and
conflicts over money, which can contribute to marital discord and ultimately
leading to divorce.
2) khat users prioritize
spending time with other users over their families. This creates feelings of
neglect and abandonment of the wife and the children which then results in resentment
and ultimately contributes to the breakdown of the marriage. 3) khat users have
increased aggression and irritability, which can create tension and conflict
within the family. This also contributes to a breakdown in communication and
ultimately to a divorce.
On the other hand, the
health implications of khat consumption cannot be ignored. The stimulant
properties of khat can lead to a range of physical and mental health problems.
Prolonged use can cause insomnia, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Moreover,
individuals often experience mood swings, irritability, and paranoia, which can
have severe implications for their mental well-being.
dental problems are a common concern associated with khat consumption. When
chewing khat leaves, users often keep them in their mouths for extended
periods, sometimes several hours at a time. This prolonged exposure to the
cathinone and other compounds in the leaves can have detrimental effects on
oral health. Tooth decay, gum disease, teeth staining, and temporomandibular
joint (TMJ) disorders are prevalent issues that can affect the oral health of
individuals who regularly chew khat.
Khat is also unhygienic due to its harvesting
and handling practices. Khat leaves are typically harvested by hand and
transported in bundles, which can lead to contamination with dirt, dust, and
other debris. In the khat market, it is common practice to see consumers touching
bundles and single leaves with their dirty hands when buying, thus increasing
the risk of spreading germs and contamination.
There have been reports
of khat being contaminated with harmful bacteria such as E. coli and
Salmonella, which cause food poisoning and other illnesses. In some cases, khat
has also been found to contain pesticides or other chemicals that can be
harmful to human health as khat is often grown using intensive farming methods,
which can involve the use of pesticides. Harmful levels of pesticides
(depending on the type of pesticide) could potentially impact male fertility.
indicate that there is a correlation between the consumption of khat and a
heightened likelihood of engaging in promiscuous sexual behavior as well as an
increased prevalence of self-reported sexually transmitted infections.
Impact of Khat on Sexual
The topic on the impact
of khat on sexual performance has
generated significant attention and debate. Proponents of khat’s positive
effect on sexual performance often highlight its stimulating properties,
claiming that it increases libido and enhances stamina. Claims that have no
scientific proof include that the plant's active ingredients, cathinone, and
cathine, act as mild aphrodisiacs, leading to heightened sexual desire and
improved performance. Some khat users also claim that khat can delay
ejaculation, prolonging sexual encounters. But most of these individuals when
interviewed admit that they must chew khat to be sexually active.
other hand, critics argue that the use of khat can have detrimental
consequences on sexual performance. The main reason is that the plant acts as a
vasoconstrictor, which can restrict blood flow to certain areas, including the
genital region. This potentially leads to difficulties in achieving and
maintaining erections, negatively impacting overall sexual satisfaction. Khat also
disrupts sleep patterns, potentially causing fatigue and decreased sexual
drive. It is important to note that the impact of khat on sexual performance
may vary from person to person, depending on factors such as amount chewed,
frequency of use, and individual physiology.
More research is needed to fully understand the physiological and
psychological implications of Khat use on sexual function.
Is chewing Khat Haram in
the question of whether Khat is considered Haram (forbidden) or not has been
and still is a topic of debate among scholars. Many scholars argue that khat
should be considered Haram due to its intoxicating effect and the associated
negative consequences. They believe that anything that alters one's state of
mind or impairs judgment is prohibited in Islam. They highlight the potential
for addiction, health risks, and the potential of neglecting or delaying salat
prayers, a religious obligation as reasons for its prohibition.
scholars, on the other hand argue that Khat is not clearly mentioned in the
Quran or Hadith and thus it cannot be definitively labeled as Haram. These
scholars believe that it falls under the category of "Mubah" or
"permissible" unless it can be proven to cause harm or negatively
impact one's religious obligations. However, it is important to point out that
even the scholars who consider khat as permissible, often emphasize moderation
and warn against excessive use.
Addressing the risk of
The threat of khat
consumption in Somalia cannot be underestimated. It requires a collective
effort from the central government, FMS, civil society including media organizations
to address the economic, social, and health consequences that this addictive
substance brings. Only through concerted action can Somalia hope to overcome
this pressing challenge and pave the way for a healthier society. To address this growing threat, a comprehensive
approach is required. It is important for the Somali government to prioritize
public health and launch targeted awareness campaigns to educate the population
about the dangers of khat consumption.
by highlighting the potential spiritual and moral implications of khat use, religious
preachers can effectively discourage their followers from engaging in this
harmful habit. In order to minimize the
potential health consequences, it is of utmost important to conduct
microbiological examinations and thoroughly analyze the existence of pesticides
and heavy metals in khat on arrival in major Somali airports before it is
released to the market. In addition, government regulations and oversight should
play a key role in enforcing consumer measures for khat.
conclusion, while Somalia may not be ready to abolish khat entirely, there are
steps that can be taken to mitigate its risks to our society. Through
education, stricter regulations, alternative livelihood options, and addressing
socioeconomic factors, we can potentially reduce the harmful impact of khat on
individuals and the broader community. It is important to approach this issue
with a comprehensive and holistic strategy that involves all stakeholders,
including government, and society at large to effectively tackle this problem.
Dr. Ali Said Faqi