Side Effects of Gutkha

Gutkha is another name for betel nut. Small doses may bring about euphoria and increased energy flow, while large doses can cause sedation, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Due to its stimulant activity, gutkha is used in many areas of the world as a recreational drug. However, guthka, which is usually chewed, does have some side effects.

Close-up of sliced betel nuts. (Image: siwaporn999/iStock/Getty Images)

Carcinogenic Effects

Betel nut has potentially carcinogenic constituents, according to the NIH. Long-term use can cause oral submucous fibrosis, a condition that makes it difficult to open the mouth. It can also lead to pre-cancerous lesions in the mouth and a cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. Regular use also may increase risk for other mouth cancers, as well as cancers of the liver, cervix, stomach, prostate and lung. Other acute effects can include rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure and worsening of asthma.

Breathing Reaction

Some people report breathing problems after using gutkha, according to the NIH. Some people experience wheezing and an increased breathing rate. While no documented allergic reactions exist in scientific literature, people who have allergies to other members of the Palmaceae, or palm, family theoretically may experience reactions to gutkha.

Body Reactions

Chemicals in the betel leaves can cause skin color changes, along with dilated pupils and blurred vision. Seizures have been reported with high doses, according to Aetna InteliHealth. Gutkha also may cause or worsen conditions that involve muscle stiffness, tremors, difficulty moving certain parts of the body, and involuntary mouth or face movements.

Toxicity

Some people experience toxicity symptoms from gutkha use, according to the NIH. These include increased saliva production, increased tearing, sweating, incontinence, diarrhea, flushing and fever. Other issues can include problems with eye movement, confusion, psychosis, amnesia or feeling euphoric. Withdrawal symptoms like anxiety and memory lapse can occur with long-term use.

Short-Term Effects

Using gutkha can lead to vomiting, nausea, stomach cramps and diarrhea. It also can cause chest pain, either high or low blood pressure, raised skin temperature and irregular heart beat, according to the NIH. Betel chewing can harm gums as well, and people can experience burning and mouth dryness.

Long-Term Effects

Other side effects of gutkha can lead to abnormal thyroid function and kidney abnormalities, advises Aetna InteliHealth, as well as metabolic syndrome, liver toxicity and immuno-suppression. It can also alter blood sugar levels and raise your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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