A User’s Guide To Qat, The Grossest Drug In The World

Who wants to look like an obese chipmunk with a mouth full of green, slobbery cancer? No wonder there’s a movement afoot in Yemen to end this rather off-putting practice.

1. Qat (pronounced “cut”), also known a Khat or Gat, is a plant that’s been chewed for centuries in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Penninsula.

MOHAMED AL-SAYAGHI / Reuters

2. Qat is a stimulant with amphetimine-like properties that can induce hyperactivity and euphoria.

Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

3. Although Qat can lead to dependency and abuse, it is not considered as addictive as alcohol or nicotine.

MOHAMED AL-SAYAGHI / Reuters

4. Qat is best chewed fresh from the farm. Dried Qat isn’t nearly as powerful. Vendors will sell Qat with peanuts or bubble gum to make chewing the raw leaves and stems more palatable.

Mohamed al-Sayaghi / Reuters

5. Qat is widely regarded to taste terrible. It is always described as sour. Since it is an evergreen shrub, chewing Qat is frequently likened to chewing pine needles.

Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

6. Qat can lead to loss of appetitie, depression, hallucinations, psychosis, ulcers, constipation, hemorrhoids, strokes and heart attacks.

MOHAMED AL-SAYAGHI / Reuters

7. Qat can also lead to oral and throat cancer.

MOHAMED AL-SAYAGHI / Reuters

8. Qat is chewed by an estimated 10 million people every day, but mostly in Africa and the Middle East. Qat is illegal in most of the western world, including the United States.

Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

9. Qat is especially prevalent in Yemen, where it is chewed by 70–80% of Yemenis between 16 and 50 years old.

Suhaib Salem / Reuters

10. Qat is primarily a male pastime in Yemen. Qat chewing among women is frowned upon.

Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

11. It is estimated that Yemenis spend about 14.6 million hours a day chewing qat.

Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

12. Activists are concerned qat is stifling the potential of Yemen. Poor families spend half their yearly income on qat, the unemployed chew qat up to 8 hours a day and hospitals are filled with qat addicts suffering from cancer and infections.

13. Qat farming and production is dominated by Yemen’s tribal leaders, politicians and military officers.

Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

14. Qat production also consumes most of Yemen’s resources. An estimated 40% of Yemen’s dwindling water supply goes to qat farming. As a result, the Yemeni capital of Sanaa is expected to be the first major city in the world to run out of water.

Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters

15. And lest we forget, this is what you look like when you chew qat.

MOHAMED AL-SAYAGHI / Reuters

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