Use and perception of the psychostimulant, khat (catha edulis) among three occupational groups in south western Uganda

  • AO Ihunwo Senior Lecturer, Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Faculty of Medicine, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, P. O. Box 1410, Mbarara, Uganda
  • FIB Kayanja Professor of Anatomy Department of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology, Faculty of Medicine, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, P. O. Box 1410, Mbarara, Uganda
  • UB Amadi-Ihunwo Communication Skills Unit, Faculty of Development Studies, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, P. O. Box 1410, Mbarara, Uganda

Abstract

Objective: To examine the use of and perception of the psychostimulant, khat (catha edulis) in three towns in south-western Uganda.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Settings: Mbarara, Kabale and Fort Portal.

Subjects: Three categories of respondents prone to khat chewing habit were selected; One hundred and thirty students, thirty five law enforcement officials and sixteen transporters.

Main outcome measures: Khat chewers existed within the sampled population. The relationship between tobacco smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages and the khat chewing habit was established.

Results: Out of 181 respondents, 164(90.6%) had heard of khat, 126(69.6%) had seen it and 57(31.5%) had chewed khat before. As at the time of this study, 37(20.4%) still chewed khat. Within the three categories of subjects, the use of khat was highest among law enforcement officials (97.1%), followed by transporters (68.8%) and students (9.2%). The majority of khat chewers were in the age range of 16-25 years. There was a clear correlation between khat chewing and the use of stimulants such as alcoholic beverages and tobacco smoking. Those who smoked cigarettes were twenty-eight times more likely to chew khat (OR=28.95% Cl=9.6,83.7). Euphoria, suppressed sleep and increased sexual desire were the most predominant effects experienced by khat chewers.

Conclusion: The knowledge of khat is widespread and its consumption is on the increase among students, law enforcement officials and transporters in south-western Uganda. This calls for attention considering the public health implications.

East African Medical Journal Vol.81(9) 2004: 468-473
Published
2004-11-17
Section
Articles

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