Qat or Khat (Catha is a plant that grows mainly in the Yemen and in some African states like Ethiopia, Djibouti and Somalia. It is a shrub about 3 meters high with thick leaves that in over time takes on a greenish-yellow color and give off a quite distinctive smell. Qat is a substance of an amphetamine nature with a strong psychotropic effect, euphorizing and repressing the stimulus of hunger, as well as a remarkable analgesic effect, creates a strong dependence and its enormous use leads, as for many stimulants, it can be quite compared to Cocaine .
Qat is used regularly by a large part of the population of the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. These populations have enormous social significance, being accepted as an integral part of daily life. At the economic level, the Qat has a relevant range in many national economies, specially in Ethiopia which, until recently, saw in the coffee the “national” product par excellence: in fact, the name of the Port of Moka, ( Ethiopia) from which the loads of coffee started, it became very famous precisely because it was tied to this drink. In recent years, given the control of organized crime Qat has replaced coffee as the main crop. To date, in fact, the spread is so wide that one thirds of the arable land in some part of Ethiopia is occupied by Qat plantations, with the exploitation of more than half of the national water reserves, for irrigation purposes.
Qat is more powerful than the coca leaves and the duration of the effect is about 80-90 minutes. Chewing this plant creates irreversible damage to the body: hypertension, insomnia and gastritis are only short-term effects. As is easily understood, the continuous chewing also causes damage to the teeth and gums that take, after some time, a greenish color. The permanent irritating stress of the oral mucosa and of the esophageal tissue produces, as a long-term effect, an increase in the frequency of oral carcinomas, also due to the poisons and anticryptogamics that are widely used by farmers and traffickers. Consumption of Qat is also evidenced by the deformations of the cheeks of the usual chewers, due to the masticatory activity and the retention of the bolus: the typical cheek-swollen cheek in the areas where it is produced attracts the attention of visitors not accustomed to such image.
The narcotic is contained in the buds near the top of the plant which, if chewed, emit a principle called cathinone, which causes effects similar to those of amphetamine. After the harvest, the principle of cathinone remains active in the leaves only for the duration of one day, although, in any case, some types of treatment and conservation allow consumption for 3-4 days after collection. To maintain its effects, therefore, the Qat is chewed fresh, just cut. The supply chain of this drug is completed, therefore, during the same day: collected in the morning, is sent by air and passed off at night. A synthetic derivative, known as metcatinone, has also been created since Qat, widely used in Russia in the 1980s and then spread throughout Europe. Unlike traditional Qat, this drug is snorted or smoked and, even in the case of chemical derivatives, the effects on health, especially on the heart and brain, are intense and devastating. Often the metcatinone is sold to consumers who are not expert in the recognition of substances, so as to even confuse it with cocaine.