Khat dependence syndrome: A cross sectional preliminary evaluation amongst UK-resident Yemeni khat chewers

Saba Kassim, Ray Croucher, Mustafa Al'Absi

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37 Scopus citations


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Khat is a natural psychostimulant that has pharmacological effects similar to that of amphetamine. The behaviour of khat chewing is embedded within a cultural context. Meanwhile khat chewing is associated with psychological and physiologically burden, as a 'dependence producing' substance. Aims of the study: To assess the applicability of the construct of substance dependence syndrome (DSM-IV, 1994) to khat chewing and to examine psychosocial and behavioural correlates of this syndrome including tobacco use. Materials and methods: A sample of 204 khat chewers was recruited during random visits to khat sale outlets. A face to face interview that assessed socio-demographic, psychosocial dependence, substance dependence syndrome and behavioural characteristics was conducted. Descriptive, exploratory psychometric and multivariate analyses were employed. Results: Approximately a third (31%) of khat chewers reported symptoms consistent with dependence syndrome including increased khat chewing (13%) and cessation attempts (19%) while 17% reported withdrawal symptoms including depression (61%), increase in appetite (74%) and interrupted sleep (58%). Thirty-eight percent reported continued khat chewing despite impacts on their health. Psychometric assessment of the DSM-IV criteria for khat chewing dependence identified two factors; factor 1 consisted of bio-behavioural items and factor 2 withdrawal items, accounting for 67% of the variance and Cronbach's alpha coefficient at 0.78. In multivariate logistic regression modelling, there was an association between intensity of psychological khat dependence (SDS-Khat) and nicotine dependence with the likelihood of exhibiting khat chewing dependence syndrome (p=0.0005, OR=1.51, 95%CI=1.33-1.71; p=0.043, OR=2.87, 95%CI=1.03-7.98, respectively). Conclusions: The substance dependence syndrome criteria are applicable to khat chewing and associated with increased intensity of nicotine and psychological khat dependence. The applicability of khat dependence syndrome and exploration of its dimensions and associated factors should be extended in future research. Concurrent validation of these findings using specific objective measures for self-report khat chewing is also recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)835-841
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Ethnopharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 19 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by the U.K Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, Sheik Issa Al-Kark, Princess Fadwa Bent Khalid, and Dr. Elham Danish, Head of the cultural Department in Saudi Arabia Embassy-UK. These parties have no role in the study design, data collection, analysis or interpreting, writing of the manuscript or the decision to submit the manuscript for the publication. Professor al'Absi was supported by a U.S. National Institutes of Health grant (R21DA024626; Khat Research Program).


  • Dependence syndrome
  • Khat chewing
  • Tobacco


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