Overview of literature and information on "khat-related" mortality: a call for recognition of the issue and further research
Ghodse, A. Hamid
During the past 20 years or so, more has become known about the properties of khat, its pharmacology, physiological and psychological effects on humans. However, at the same time its reputation of social and recreational use in traditional contexts has hindered the dissemination of knowledge about its detrimental effects in terms of mortality. This paper focuses on this particular deficit and adds to the knowledge-base by reviewing the scant literature that does exist on mortality associated with the trade and use of khat. We sought all peer-reviewed papers relating to deaths associated with khat. From an initial list of 111, we identified 15 items meeting our selection criteria. Examination of these revealed 61 further relevant items. These were supplemented with published reports, newspaper and other media reports. A conceptual framework was then developed for classifying mortality associated with each stage of the plant's journey from its cultivation, transportation, consumption, to its effects on the human body. The model is demonstrated with concrete examples drawn from the above sources. These highlight a number of issues for which more substantive statistical data are needed, including population-based studies of the physiological and psychological determinants of khat-related fatalities. Khat-consuming communities, and health professionals charged with their care should be more aware of the physiological and psychological effects of khat, together with the risks for morbidity and mortality associated with its use. There is also a need for information to be collected at international and national levels on other causes of death associated with khat cultivation, transportation, and trade. Both these dimensions need to be understood.