Concurrent use of khat and tobacco is associated with verbal learning and delayed recall deficits

Authors


Correspondence to: Mustafa al'Absi, Department of Biobehavioral Health and Population Science, University of Minnesota Medical School, Duluth, MN 55812, USA. E-mail: malabsi@d.umn.edu

Abstract

Aims

The present study assessed whether cigarette smokers who are also regular khat users would demonstrate greater impairments in verbal learning and recall compared to both non-smokers who are khat users and control subjects.

Design

An independent-measures, between-subjects design with two covariates.

Setting

An out-patient, university research center in Taiz, Yemen.

Participants

Subjects were 175 Yemeni college students (90 men, 85 women) ranging in age from 18 to 38 years. Seventy-five subjects were self-reported chronic cigarette smokers and khat users, 48 non-smoking subjects were self-reported to be chronic khat users and 52 non-smoking subjects reported no current use or history of khat use.

Measurements

Verbal learning and verbal memory recall was assessed by subject performance on the Arabic version of the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT).

Findings

Statistically significant differences (P < 0.05) were observed in RAVLT acquisition learning trials 2–5 and on delayed recall measures between concurrent khat and cigarette users compared to both the khat-only group and the control group of non-users of khat and cigarettes. On each of these trials, concurrent users recalled fewer words, demonstrating a slowed rate of verbal learning. This same pattern of performance was also seen on delayed recall measures. Khat use alone did not affect immediate or delayed recall of previously learned words.

Conclusions

Khat users who smoke cigarettes have a lower rate of verbal learning and delayed recall of previously learned verbal material than khat users who do not smoke cigarettes. This may be due to pre-existing differences between these groups of subjects.

Ancillary