Influences of Fasting on Stress Response and Withdrawal Symptoms in Habitual Khat Users

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Background: Fasting changes mood and physiological states. Substance use, such as khat use, is prohibited during fasting during Ramadan, a traditional practice among Muslims. Habitual khat use is associated with increased negative affect and altered psychobiological stress responses. Effects of fasting on stress responses, mood, and withdrawal symptoms among khat users have not been examined. Methods: In this study, 80 individuals completed an ambulatory monitoring period and a laboratory assessment session. Participants who completed the study while fasting during Ramadan were matched by gender and khat use status with participants who completed the study while not fasting. This resulted in 40 participants (12 females and 28 males; 25 khat users and 15 nonusers) in each fasting group. Cardiovascular (blood pressure and heart rate) and subjective measures were collected throughout the laboratory stress session. A mental arithmetic challenge was used to induce stress. In addition, self-reported mood and withdrawal measures were collected multiple times during the ambulatory assessment. Results: Khat users reported greater negative affect than nonusers. Results from the ambulatory study indicated that withdrawal symptoms were lower during evening hours in the fasting group than in the no-fasting group. Stress-related changes in positive and negative affects were flattened in the fasting group relative to the no-fasting group. Khat users reported reduced blood pressure responses relative to nonusers. Conclusion: These preliminary results demonstrate that fasting is associated with reduced negative affect and withdrawal symptoms in khat users. Khat use was related to blunted blood pressure stress responses, but this was independent of fasting. Due to the small sample size, these results should be replicated with a large sample and comprehensive stress tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-57
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Addiction Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 17 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a FIRCA grant from the National Institutes of Health/Fogarty International Center (R03TW007219), an R21 National Institute for Drug Abuse grant (DA024626), and a grant from the Office of International Programs at the University of Minnesota. These grants had no role in the study design, collection, analysis or interpretation of the data, writing the manuscript, or the decision to submit the paper for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 S. Karger AG, Basel. Copyright: All rights reserved.


  • Fasting
  • Khat
  • Negative affect
  • Ramadan
  • Stress
  • Withdrawal


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