There’s no question about it, kat has fucked me up.
In it’s own subtle and seductive way kat has destroyed my health, my business, my relationships with my friends and my girlfriend, as well as my power and will to operate in the world around me.
The past five years have been seriously sleepless. Although I’ve only been off for about six months, I feel like I’m getting better quickly. I just wanted to tell everyone out there who uses it, daily or recreationally, about it’s sly pattern of destruction.
It’s kind of a standing joke in Cape Town about the coke-heads that they will ‘never touch that kat shit!’ and the kat-heads who think cocaine is ‘badly overrated’ and the lolly-poppers who ‘don’t touch Kat or coke’ and the pill heads who can’t understand ‘why we just can’t all love each other’ and the psychedelic freaks who ‘think all other drugs are boring’ and the weed smokers who ‘won’t touch any of that chemical crap’ and the drinkers, divided into two categories, either finding that ‘drugs make me dizzy and puke’ or ‘drugs give me infinite drinking power’ and that’s not even mentioning the buttonkoppe, crackheads, smackheads or airheads. And of course, those that seriously believe in utilizing the full smorgasbord of substances available for their pleasure and recreation. But the point is everybody’s on something, even if it’s yoga and soya milk, and something needs to be done about it.
My journey into kat land started five years ago when some gay friends of mine in Jozi introduced me to ‘their friend’ before going out one night. It soon became my new best friend. I couldn’t believe the effects – I had boundless energy, infinite ability to talk kak, I felt inspired artistically and was generally filled with the joys of life.
You see previously I had always been a bit disappointed with the range of drugs that were commercially available, having worked my way through most of the menu available to us modern urban human beings. Considering the hundreds of interesting combinations and concoctions that pioneers like Alexander Shulgin have synthesized, not to mention the hundreds of psychoactive plants to be found in nature, I’m not quite sure why I got stuck on kat for so long.
But I did, and this is what it did to me.
After my initial experience of using the drug recreationally, I found that it actually suited me much more in my work environment and I began using it for late night studio sessions, maybe once or twice a week in the beginning. And so quickly the pattern of my abuse changed from being a recreational weekend user, to using it at work to finish an important project on time, to eventually speeding through the week, maybe catching a few hours of sleep on Wednesday night and finally crashing out all day on Sunday. I have never seen so many sunrises in a row as I have in the past few years.
Now I found myself stuck in a vicious circle. I was very busy at work and couldn’t find the time to take a few days off to slow myself down and get back into a normal sleeping pattern again. I would work for days behind the computer, starting loads more projects than I could ever finish, maybe go out and party at night, then go back to the studio to put down some new ideas in the morning… work and party… work and party… occasionally some sleep and food. I felt unstoppable. It was impossible to drag me away from my computer once I’d started. My colleagues would find me in the morning still going hammer and tongs from two nights before on some crazy creative idea. They could all feel the drug taking hold of me, but at least I was getting the work done and bringing in the bacon. If I felt tired or uninspired, it was always easy enough to chop another line and carry on… and on. It was all looking good: I had lots of nice work from big clients and I felt creatively happy and highly productive.
I just ignored the persistent bad moods when I woke up from a sleep, when I eventually got there. I ignored the distance that was growing between my girlfriend and I. I ignored the suggestions from my friends that I slow down a little bit on the drugs. I ignored all the things that make life warm and special as a human being – friends, girlfriend, family, home, meals, spiritual and emotional life. I was so focused on my work, happy with my flourishing creativity that my attitude towards everything else was ‘fuck it…’ Basically, I was a typical artist wallowing so deeply in my own creative world that everything else in my life got neglected absolutely.
So round about now, I couldn’t help noticing some of the nastier side effects of the drug: I became extremely over-sensitive, over-reacting to any perceived threat from the outside world, whether it was something someone said, or the way I perceived their actions. I became snappy and bitchy and experienced a complete sense of humour failure. I started to notice that I was suffering from mild to not-so-mild depression after a long stretch on kat. I suppose that everything was starting to catch up with me; the lack of food and sleep, the days that turned into weeks, the pressure from people around me to slow down or stop, and the gnawing feeling that things were about to change for the worse.
And they did.
I started to lose focus at work. I would only get out of bed if I could get high. I was very rude to some special friends who were trying to help me. Other people avoided me because I was likely to be sarcastic or scathing in conversation. I didn’t really care. I was quite thick skinned to what people thought about me, but I noticed that my social life was diminishing to nothing and I suddenly had serious emotional issues with all my friends. I was constantly fighting with my girlfriend about petty issues that would have never bothered me before. She was also stuck in a similar pattern of addiction, but was doing everything she could to break out of it – something I found enormously threatening.
My first big shock came when my girlfriend had an affair. These are the subtle signs that all is not well in your relationship. Now on top of being depressed I was heartbroken and refused to see the part that I had played in the destruction of our relationship. I kinda just stopped functioning.
I didn’t care about my work anymore, or how I appeared to the outside world. I didn’t want to see or speak to people. I was rude to everybody that I know, mostly living in my pain body and moving around with a dark cloud over my head. Still I didn’t stop snorting those lines. I didn’t want to associate the drugs with the pain I was experiencing in my life.
Of course by this time the drugs had stopped working – three lines of kat – enough to keep a horse wired for a day – would be as strong as a cup of tea. I would sit at home for days and days, not leaving my bubble, lost in a world of music, books and DVD’s, not wanting to face the world or anyone inside it… pretty pathetic, huh? Finally my money ran out and I started having to borrow money for drugs – then I ran out of friends to borrow from. Only then did I think of taking a break for a while. It didn’t last long – I was back on the drugs as soon as I had cash again.
I think the final straw was when my girlfriend left me. Then my dealer got arrested moments after I had just bought a few bags from him. This was starting to get nasty and I didn’t want to go to jail. I’ve never suffered from paranoia, but now I felt that the cops were onto me…
So finally I just quit. Just stopped. And haven’t touched the shit since then, and certainly don’t intend to. I got out of town and went to stay with some friends who didn’t even know that kat existed and wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole if they did. It wasn’t that hard really, in retrospect. I’ve had much harder times giving up other drugs in the past.
I did get sick, very sick like food poisoning, when my body finally got the message that I wasn’t getting any more. That seemed to help a lot. I felt better and had more energy immediately afterwards.
It’s only been a few months now. More sleep and good food than I’ve had in the past five years. Slowly I can feel my natural “joie de vivre” returning and most importantly, my sense of humour.
I don’t really have the desire to do any more drugs, which is a first for me. At most, I’ll have a beer or smoke a joint, but they just make me feel slow and de-motivated, so I might have to stop those as well.
It’s been like going to hell and back, but I have learned a lot from it. Now I am busy repairing the damage that I have done to my health, my business and all the relationships in my life. It’ll take a while, but at least I’ve made a start.
What is kat?
Methacathinone (α-methylamino-propiophenone), is a potent CNS stimulant and dopamine re-uptake inhibitor. It was first synthesized by German chemists in 1928, an imitation of the chemical found in the plant Catha Edulis, known all over North Africa as Khat or Qat. It was used in the Soviet Union during the 1930’s and 1940’s as an anti-depressant and was probably part of Hitler’s amphetamine diet during WW2.
In South Africa, it is mostly cooked up by bathroom chemists, some who are masters of their black art, and others who are making household drain cleaners available for commercial nasal consumption. As they say, the good shit is hard to find, so if you are on it, you’re probably snorting domestic cleaning products.
It stimulates the adrenal glands into a frenzy (fight or flight syndrome), leaving you feeling high, inspired and talkative when you’re on it, and the complete opposite when you’re not: low, unimaginative and dull.
It comes with all the usual signs of stimulant abuse: sweating, horniness, talkativeness, loss of appetite, feelings of euphoria, increased sense of empathy and extreme insomnia. The more long-term physical side effects include damage to your digestive system, endocrine system, sinuses, lungs and heart. Usage can cause depression, loss of sense of smell with nasal bleeding, inability to distinguish priorities, and complete sense of humour failure. Metaphysically, it blows shotgun holes through your aura.
My cure was to get out of my normal social environment, get out of town, breath fresh air, sleep loads and eat simple healthy food to get my energy levels back to normal. And of course, just stop snorting the shit! I suppose there had to be the desire for change first.
There’s no hectic cold turkey effect, you just might feel a bit dull, bored, uninspired and generally flat for a while, which is how many people go through their lives anyway.
Break the pattern of your addiction whatever you are on.
Life is much more real and meaningful when you’re not high all the time.
Eventually drugs make you boring, and that’s criminal.