Arab countries wanting to repair relations with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, whose administration is accused of profiting from the trade, have made ending the captagon trade a top goal.
The drug’s past and present uses are shown below.
From Focus to Front Lines
The stimulant known under the trade name Captagon was created in Germany in the 1960s to aid with the treatment of narcolepsy, attention deficit disorders, and other illnesses.
Although production was stopped, an illicit form of the substance was still created in eastern Europe and afterwards in the Arab world. This version had a significant role in the crisis that broke out in Syria after anti-government protests in 2011.
The illegal substance – also known as “the drug of jihad” or “poor man’s cocaine” – is believed to contain a combination of fenethylline, caffeine, and other fillers. It increases concentration and prevents hunger and sleep.
Paying for a State
As early as 2014, it was believed that Syria was a significant supplier and user of the drug, and that combatants, especially ISIS militants, used captagon to remain awake on the battlefield.
Captagon is reportedly still made at tiny plants near the Syrian-Lebanese border as well as bigger ones closer to Syria’s border with Jordan, according to intelligence sources based in the area. According to security sources, Lebanon also produces small amounts.
With Maher al-Assad, the commander of the Fourth Division of the army and the president’s brother, as a significant actor, the United States, Britain, and the European Union have accused the Syrian government of producing and exporting the substance.
Fuelling Gulf Parties and Anger
The Gulf area, notably Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, is one of captagon’s most lucrative marketplaces. Here, party scenes are thriving.
The drug frequently travels there in intercepted shipments, including one from Lebanon that had 10 million pills recently.
Saudi Arabia imposed an import embargo on all Lebanese goods in 2021 due to drug smuggling, and the problem has since become a key worry for Arab nations trying to end Syria’s civil conflict.