25 July 2011
The herbal stimulant, khat, which is reportedly being grown in Australia, likely caused the death of a 31-year-old man in western Sydney, specialists say.
The man, originally from Djibouti, had a cardiac arrest after chewing khat, a plant favoured in East Africa and the Middle East that leads to increased alertness, euphoria and wellbeing.
In a letter to the Internal Medicine Journal, specialists said the man had become a heavy user of khat in the months before he died (Intern Med J 2011; 41: 579-80).
"The most likely explanation of events is that [artery spasm reduced the oxygen supply to the heart muscle], which in turn [affected the heart beat]," they said.
They said the use of khat, as a chew or tea, had spread to Australia, being used by immigrants from Yemen, Somalia and Ethiopia.
An annual permit from Customs allows the import of 5 kg per month of khat for up to 12 months, but it is also believed to be grown locally.
Last Reviewed: 25 July 2011