Khat: The Adderall Of East Africa

by The Runaway Guide on February 15, 2013

a bag of khatYou’ll never believe it, but you can actually find free Adderall in East Africa. Not only that, they are more addicted to it than kids in the US. To be honest though, it’s not exactly Adderall. In fact, it’s not even a generic rx version. Sorry if I disappointed anyone.

Instead, the East African Adderall is a little more “Whole Foods”. It’s actually simply a plant that thrives in the eastern lowlands of Ethiopia. However, it does produce a very similar effect to that of Adderall. This Adderall is known as “Khat.”

In any case if you’re heading to Ethiopia, Djbouti, Yemen or Somalia, and are thinking about trying some Khat, here’s what you need to know.

The Effects Of Khat

people chewing khat

For those of you who don’t know, Adderall is an amphetamine that is prescribed to 9% of American children ages 5 to 17.  In recent years its popularity among college students has led to a growing black market. It induces feelings of euphoria, energy, loss of appetite and concentration.

Similarly, Khat invokes almost identical feelings. Despite being an alkaloid rather than an amphetamine, it also results in a prolonged release of dopamine (happy chemical) in your brain. It is long lasting, which means chewing Khat after dinner won’t help you get to sleep. Finally, like the name, it makes you very chatty.

Unlike Adderall, the effects of Khat are much more subtle and less intense. In order feel it, you have to chew a handful of bitter Khat leaves. It will leave your mouth parched and very green. Other than that, the feeling of Khat is very enjoyable. It is somewhat like a mixture of a strong cup of coffee, a dash of cocaine, and calming cup of chamomile tea.

However, like any drug, it should be used in moderation. If you take to much, you will experience a come down and will be left wanting for more. Although it is a lot less addictive than say nicotine or alcohol, there is still the potential for addiction and abuse. So be sure to use with caution.

How To Find Khat

an boy in ethiopia selling a drug called khat

Khat grows naturally. If you’re in eastern Ethiopia and know how to identify it, you can chew it for free. However, it’s best to play it safe and buy from local dealers. They usually sell a bag full of chat, enough for two, for less than 3$. Prices do vary depending on the region and availability.

Most of time though, you won’t even need to buy it. Since chewing Khat is a tradition across East Africa, you will almost definitely be invited to chew Khat with locals. When and if this does happen, they will almost always petition you to buy more. So duck out early if you don’t want to be buying rounds of Khat all night.

Is Khat Illegal

confiscated khat at US customs

Despite being less addictive and potent than Adderall, it is ironically illegal in the United States. This is probably in part an attempt by drug companies to maintain dominance in the market. While the US exports Khat in pill form, Ethiopia exports organic Khat. It is actually their fourth largest export, accounting for over 200 million dollars in trade.

On the other hand, Khat is legal in the UK, Israel, the Netherlands, Ethiopia, and Yemen to name a few. However, if you are using Khat primarily for recreation in Ethiopia, there does exist a kind of social taboo . As a result, people tend to be discreet.

Should I Do Khat?

I am all for new experiences. When I was in Ethiopia, I did try Khat a few times. While I enjoyed it, the amount of leaves you have to chew, the bitter after taste and the strange feeling in the pit of the stomach, made it not worth it. However it did make for some good times with locals. Khat really does make you chatty! Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Good luck and safe travels,

Leif

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