The Health Impacts of Khat: A Qualitative Study Among Somali-Australians

The Medical Journal of Australia, 195 11/12: 666-669, 2011

Posted: 26 Jun 2015

See all articles by Heather Douglas

Heather Douglas

The University of Queensland - TC Beirne School of Law

Merali Boyle

Independent

Nicholas Lintzeris

Independent

Date Written: 2011

Abstract

Objectives:

To identify patterns of khat use among Somali-Australians in Australia and to explore their views about the links between khat use and personal health.

Design, setting and participants:

Qualitative study using semistructured focus groups among adult members of Somali communities in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth who volunteered to attend focus groups in January and December 2010.

Main outcome measures:

Emergent themes related to Somali-Australians’ understanding of the links between khat use and personal health.

Results:

Nineteen focus groups included 114 participants. Khat use was reported to be common among the Somali community, and more common among men than women. Khat was usually chewed in prolonged sessions, producing mild psychostimulant effects such as increased energy, enhanced mood, reduced appetite and reduced sleep. Khat was widely perceived to be a food, not a drug, and as harmless, or even beneficial, to the user’s health. Many users reported discontinuation effects such as lethargy, sleep disturbances and mood problems after sessions of heavy khat use, and some reported self-medicating with alcohol to cope with such problems. Problems of addiction to khat were identified by some participants, but not all believed it is addictive. Many khat users reported visiting their health professionals for treatment of adverse effects and failing to disclose their khat use.

Conclusions:

Health professionals require greater awareness of khat use and related health problems. Health promotion activities targeting communities with high levels of khat use are required to increase understanding of the potential risks of regular khat use, to promote harm-reduction strategies, and to increase awareness of services available for those experiencing harm. Health professionals should consider targeted screening for khat use among individuals from Horn of Africa communities who present to health services.

JEL Classification: K00

Suggested Citation

Douglas, Heather and Boyle, Merali and Lintzeris, Nicholas, The Health Impacts of Khat: A Qualitative Study Among Somali-Australians (2011). The Medical Journal of Australia, 195 11/12: 666-669, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2623414

Heather Douglas (Contact Author)

The University of Queensland - TC Beirne School of Law ( email )

The University of Queensland
St Lucia
4072 Brisbane, Queensland 4072
Australia

Merali Boyle

Independent

No Address Available
United States

Nicholas Lintzeris

Independent

No Address Available
United States

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