Ethiopia Battles Khat, Alcohol Addiction
Ethiopia is battling khat and alcohol addiction. Khat which is commonly used in the country is understood to be an initiation drug for alcohol.
Legally, khat is banned in many countries, but chewing khat is still commonplace in Ethiopia and the wider Horn of Africa region. The World Health Organization (WHO) classified khat as “drug of abuse that can produce psychological dependence” in 1980.
In addition the mental and physical health problem fro khat, there are also significant consequences for the household economy. In Addis Ababa, a khat consumer spends on average $4 per day (€ 3.60), in a country where the annual average income is according to the World Bank of $783 (€ 705).
Khat: gateway drug to alcohol
According to Clinical psychologist Welday Hagos, director of the Mekele Center – the country’s only drug and alcohol detox facility – more than 80% of the 500+ patients he has dealt with since opening the center in 2015 began an addiction to alcohol or other drugs by consuming khat.
In terms of alcohol harm, according to WHO, Ethiopia belongs to the countries in the world that rank highest in years of life lost due to alcohol. Ethiopian men suffer from alcohol use disorder to a greater degree compared to the regional average and among young people (aged 15-19 years) every second alcohol user engages in heavy episodic alcohol consumption.
Khat is problematic beyond Ethiopia. For example, in Yemen, the majority of adult men consume khat on a regular basis. Consumption rates are so high that 40% of the country’s sparse water supply goes towards irrigating it. Prioritizing khat has played a major role in a recent Yemen famine.