Citation: Spider. "Chat in Ethiopia: An Experience with Catha edulis (Khat) (exp7017)". Erowid.org. Jun 4, 2001. erowid.org/exp/7017
I have been working in Ethiopia since 1994 and using Chat (also called Catha edulis, Khat, or Qat) every time I go. It is a bastion of the culture there, and the intermittent anti-chat campaigns never gain too much steam. 80% of the population there uses it regularly and 40% or so do it daily.
Rather than go into the incredible fabric of ritual that surrounds the drug, which is really interesting in its own right, I will just describe its procurement and effects.
You can buy Chat on almosy every block of the capital, Addis Ababa. It comes in 1-2 foot long, 4 inch diameter bundles of branches and leaves. A one dose bundle costs about $1.00. To use, one begins eating the leaves. Because the leaves are tougher than most salads this requires quite a bit of chewing. Experienced users keep the green cud of Chat in their mouth for some time before swallowing, presumably for the sublingual uptake route.
The definite stimulant effect occurs within 30 minutes, peaks in an hour and a half, and lasts about 4-5 hours. Chewing for an hour produces, if you will pardon the oxymoron, a kind of scattered focus. Concentration is acute, but holding together complex concepts difficult. Conversation is augmented, but sometimes over-zealous. Hangovers from Chat are depressing and really suck.
Chewing all night will produce an altered consciousness that can be likened to a mild, speed-derived hallucinogen. No open eye visuals, but some closed eye ones after serious overindulgence. Frequently, phantom movement will be detected out of the corner of your eye.
Small doses are good for working, large ones mess up your focus too much.
I think Chat is a fun, and relatively safe drug for the visiting traveller. However, Chat does have some addiction potential if it is easily available, Ethiopia a case in point. Nearly all addicts in Ethiopia are functional, but they gotta have their chat every day.
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