Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda
A severe epidemic of khat misuse is underway in East African countries leading to escalating rates of many physical and mental health problems. Khat is a natural amphetamine-like plant available and legally consumed in many countries in Africa. Although evidence links khat use to substantial adverse effects on health, no systematic work has been conducted to address its impact on behavioral and mental health. We plan to establish a collaborative, multidisciplinary research partnership with scientists in Kenya where khat is widely used. Specifically, we plan to complete pilot research critical to developing a major R01 grant proposal to determine khat-related biobehavioral and mental health consequences. This collaboration will complement our existing cooperation with scientists in Yemen on the same topic. The project will include the following aims: a) conduct a pilot study at the University of Nairobi using primate, nonhuman model to determine the mechanisms of action of khat, b) conduct a clinical pilot study to examine effects of long-term khat use on neurocognitive functions, and c) convene meetings among program leaders to solidify collaborative relationships, review progress, and plan future proposals. The outcome of this project will include critical preliminary data for future proposals, publishing, and participating in national and international conferences.