Mayo Clinic researchers say khat use has been linked to significantly higher rates of death among people who experience an acute, chest pain episode due to coronary artery disease.
Khat is a shrub that's native to East Africa, including Somalia. The plants leaves are chewed for their amphetamine-like high. Khat is illegal in the U.S., but law enforcement in the Twin Cities region periodically seize smuggled shipments of the drug.
The Mayo Clinic study examined the medical records of more than 8,000 patients in the Middle East. About 1,000 of them were khat users. The analysis showed that chewers were more likely to die after a cardiac episode or develop a stroke or other serious complication than non-khat chewers.
Mayo researchers don't know if the elevated heart risks are related to the chemicals in khat or if they are due to impaired patients delaying their care.
The findings are published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.