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Problematic khat use as a possible risk factor for harmful use of other psychoactive substances: a mixed method study in Ethiopia

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posted on 2023-06-09, 11:40 authored by Awoke Mihretu, Solomon Teferra, Abe WassieAbe Wassie
Background: Substance use disorders along with neuropsychiatric disorders contributed about 14% of the global burden of disease. Harmful alcohol use, is a known contributor for many harms (accidents, suicide, violence, and complication of other psychiatric and medical disorders). In the Western countries, alcohol and nicotine are gateway drugs to cannabis use, and cannabis use is a risky behavior for other illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Khat use is another psychoactive substance which is common in East African and Arabian Peninsula. But there is a knowledge gap regarding the position of khat use or problematic khat use in sequential progression of different psychoactive substances. Therefore, we aimed to understand and investigate the relationship of problematic khat use and other psychoactive substances in Ethiopia. Methods: Exploratory mixed methods study was employed. Quantitative cross sectional survey was done among 102 khat users, and 4 focus group discussions and 11 in-depth interviews were conducted to understand the pathways between khat use and other psychoactive substances use in 2014. Non random sampling (purposive and snowballing) was employed for both quantitative and qualitative studies. Khat users from khat cafeterias, shops, and from other open markets of khat in Addis Ababa were invited to participate. Result: Currently significant majorities of khat users (86.3%) used at least one other psychoactive substance after they started khat use. The prevalence of harmful drinking was 53.9% among khat users. Problematic khat use was a significant predictor of harmful drinking (p<0.05). About one from ten respondents engaged to risky sexual behavior pushed by the effect of khat after chewing. Conclusion: The proportion of psychoactive substances use especially harmful drinking among khat users was observed higher compared to other cross sectional surveys conducted among general population. In Ethiopia, intervention and policy on harmful alcohol use could consider problematic khat use as one possible risky factor. A rigorous methodology which could test gateway hypothesis.


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Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy




BioMed Central





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  • Global Health and Infection Publications

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  • Wellcome Trust Brighton and Sussex Centre for Global Health Research Publications

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