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Khat use as risk factor for psychotic disorders: A cross-sectional and case-control study in Somalia

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Author(s): Odenwald Michael | Neuner Frank | Schauer Maggie | Elbert Thomas | Catani Claudia | Lingenfelder Birke | Hinkel Harald | Häfner Heinz | Rockstroh Brigitte

Journal: BMC Medicine
ISSN 1741-7015

Volume: 3;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 5;
Date: 2005;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Abstract Background Little is known about the prevalence of khat-induced psychotic disorders in East African countries, where the chewing of khat leaves is common. Its main psycho-active component cathinone produces effects similar to those of amphetamine. We aimed to explore the prevalence of psychotic disorders among the general population and the association between khat use and psychotic symptoms. Methods In an epidemiological household assessment in the city of Hargeisa, North-West Somalia, trained local interviewers screened 4,854 randomly selected persons from among the general population for disability due to severe mental problems. The identified cases were interviewed based on a structured interview and compared to healthy matched controls. Psychotic symptoms were assessed using the items of the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview and quantified with the Positive and Negative Symptoms Scale. Statistical testing included Student's t-test and ANOVA. Results Local interviewers found that rates of severe disability due to mental disorders were 8.4% among males (above the age of 12) and differed according to war experiences (no war experience: 3.2%; civilian war survivors: 8.0%; ex-combatants: 15.9%). The clinical interview verified that in 83% of positive screening cases psychotic symptoms were the most prominent manifestations of psychiatric illness. On average, cases with psychotic symptoms had started to use khat earlier in life than matched controls and had been using khat 8.6 years before positive symptoms emerged. In most cases with psychotic symptoms, a pattern of binge use (> two 'bundles' per day) preceded the onset of psychotic symptoms, in contrast to controls of the same age. We found significant correlations between variables of khat consumption and clinical scales (0.35 to 0.50; p < 0.05), and between the age of onset of khat chewing and symptom onset (0.70; p
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