Kat or Cat commonly refers to two types of drugs. Although similar, one is the leaf from the shrub catha edulis which contains Cathinone and is also called khat, quat, kat, gat, and tchat. The other is a synthetic powder which contains Methcathinone and also has the street names Jeff in Russia and Cat in the USA. The leaves have been chewed for centuries by the people of eastern and central Africa and parts of the Arabian peninsula. They are bought in bundles which one chews on for a few hours after which you get a speed-like buzz. The active ingredient was isolated in the late 1970′s as Cathinone and it was just a matter of time before a synthesised version was made. Kat powder has been on the dance scene in South Africa for a while, sometimes sold in capsules or pressed into tablets, but most often as powder which is snorted.
Cathinone is a natural occurring amphetamine and ephedrine-like substance, Methcathinone is a much more potent form. Both are psychoactive stimulants and part of the amphetamine family of drugs. Amphetamines work by triggering the release of dopamine molecules from their storage vesicles in the neurons in the brain. This causes them to flow out to the next neuron is massive quantities. They also block the re-uptake of dopamine but it’s understood that this is not the principle mechanism of its effects. Dopamine is the neurtransmitter that regulates motor behaviour.
For leaf chewers, the leaves have to be fresh since during the maturation and decomposition of the kat leaves, Cathinone is converted to the less powerful cathine.
The conversion of Cathinone can occur as early as 48 hours after the leaves are harvested. Stimulation from Kat can occur within first 15 minutes of chewing, though the peak “high” is reached in the third hour. Effects can remain for up to 24 hours. Respiratory and pulse rate are accelerated and blood pressure tends to rise. Following the high, a slight depression, or melancholy, sets in and remains for a few hours.
The Methcathinone powder form is much quicker and stronger; the effects are much more condensed and heightened. Many compare it to crystal meth as well as cocaine. Kat powder is easily made from readily available ingredients.
Kat produces feelings of euphoria, stimulation, heightened awareness, increased confidence, alertness and energy. However some medical research suggests that concentration and judgement are actually impaired. Kat can also result in increased aggression and acts as an appetite inhibitor. Reports are also that the comedown takes long and depression and mood swings are common following use. Regular powder use damages the sinuses and nasal passages.
One of the biggest dangers of using Kat is developing a dependency, especially the Methcathinone powder. This dependency is psychological and similar to cocaine dependency in some ways because often one feels the urge to do another line soon after the first. Daily use is a sure sign of trouble – one has to use it just to chase away the lows and to remain functional. Treating the dependency requires professional counselling and sometimes clinical treatment.
Another danger that regular and heavy users run is the risk of developing amphetamine psychosis. This has a range of symptoms which are similar to schizophrenia and include paranoia and panic attacks, delusions, auditory illusions and often seriously lost plots. Even in mild cases a change in personality is noticeable. The user will also become more paranoid and suffer mood swings. For most people these conditions will go away when they stop using the drug. In the worst case, the psychological damage is permanent and the only treatment is lifetime use of antipsychotic prescription drugs.
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