What’s Captagon, the addictive drug mass-produced in Syria? | Medicine Information


Captagon has featured giant in regional diplomatic discussions as some Arab international locations look to normalise relations with Syria.

The addictive, amphetamine-type stimulant mass-produced in Syria and smuggled to the Gulf states gave the impression to be a bargaining chip for President Bashar al-Assad in talks on reinstating Syria’s Arab League membership as nations appeared to curb the illicit drug commerce.

At a Might 1 assembly of Arab overseas ministers in Amman, Damascus agreed to cooperate with Jordan and Iraq to establish sources of drug manufacturing and smuggling, in keeping with a press release from Jordan’s overseas ministry.

Every week later, a high-profile Syrian drug smuggler and his household had been killed in an air raid attributed to Jordan in southern Syria.

Here’s what it’s worthwhile to know concerning the drug and why it has been so essential lately:

The place was Captagon invented?

Captagon was the model identify of a psychoactive medication produced within the Nineteen Sixties by the German firm Degussa Pharma Gruppe. It was primarily prescribed as a remedy for consideration deficit dysfunction, narcolepsy and as a central nervous system stimulant.

Captagon tablets contained fenetylline, an artificial drug of the phenethylamine household to which amphetamine additionally belongs.

In 1986, fenetylline was included in Schedule II of the United Nations Conference on Psychotropic Substances 1971, and most international locations discontinued the usage of Captagon. The Worldwide Narcotics Management Board stated in 2011 that no nation had produced fenetylline since 2009.

However manufacturing didn’t actually cease, did it?

As official manufacturing ceased, among the remaining shares had been smuggled out of Japanese Europe, specifically Bulgaria, to the Center East.

Finally, new counterfeit tablets labelled Captagon had been produced within the Nineties to early 2000s in Bulgaria, in keeping with a 2018 report by the European Monitoring Centre for Medicine and Medicine Habit. The medicine had been then smuggled overseas by Balkan and Turkish legal networks to the Arabian Peninsula.

Strict crackdowns on manufacturing by Turkish and Bulgarian authorities, which included the closure of 18 largely large-scale laboratories concerned in amphetamine synthesis, resulted in a drastic discount in commerce from the Balkans.

captagon Bulgaria
A customs officer shows Captagon drugs, a part of the 789kg (1,739 kilos) of confiscated medicine, earlier than its incineration in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2007 [Nikolay Doychinov]

Why is Syria now making a lot Captagon?

In 2011, after a brutal authorities crackdown on anti-Assad protesters, Syria descended into civil warfare. Internationally remoted and racked by preventing, the nation was plunged into an financial disaster.

Though Damascus denies any involvement within the commerce, observers say manufacturing and smuggling of the drug have introduced in billions of {dollars} for al-Assad, his associates and allies as they appeared for an financial lifeline.

Based on a New Strains Institute report, the Syrian authorities makes use of “native alliance constructions with different armed teams akin to Hezbollah for technical and logistical assist in Captagon manufacturing and trafficking”.

Consultants say most of worldwide Captagon manufacturing is now in Syria, with the rich Gulf states as the first vacation spot.

What are Jordan and Gulf states doing about it?

Since final yr, international locations that had giant quantities of Captagon go by way of their borders have ramped up efforts to stem the circulation from Syria.

In February 2022, Jordan’s military stated it had killed 30 smugglers for the reason that begin of the yr and foiled makes an attempt to smuggle 16 million Captagon drugs into the dominion from Syria – surpassing all the quantity seized all through 2021.

In late August 2022, Saudi authorities made their largest seizure as they uncovered 46 million amphetamine drugs that had been being smuggled hidden in a cargo of flour.

A spokesperson for the Suadi Basic Directorate of Narcotics Management stated it was the “greatest operation of its sort to smuggle this quantity of narcotics into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a single operation”.

In February 2023, a person was arrested at Abu Dhabi airport within the United Arab Emirates after he tried to smuggle 4.5 million Captagon tablets in cans of inexperienced beans.

What’s the remainder of the world doing?

Though the drug is comparatively unknown outdoors of the Center East, international locations like the UK and the US have raised issues over its manufacturing in Syria.

Each international locations imposed new sanctions on Syrians related to the commerce this yr. A UK authorities assertion stated 80 p.c of the world’s Captagon is produced in Syria and is a “monetary lifeline” for al-Assad’s regime “price roughly 3 instances the mixed commerce of the Mexican cartels”.

It additionally said that Hezbollah and different Iranian-backed militia facilitate the trade “and in doing so gas regional instability and making a rising dependancy disaster throughout the area”.

In December 2022, the US additionally launched The Captagon Act, which mandates US companies to focus on the illicit commerce amid fears that the drug might seem on US shores.

How did Captagon get Syria again into the Arab League?

Arab League members’ need to cease Captagon manufacturing and commerce out of Syria seems to have been a vital bargaining chip for Damascus.

A Jordanian official on the Arab overseas ministers’ assembly on Might 1 stated Syria would want to point out it’s severe about reaching a political answer as a result of this could be a situation to foyer for the lifting of Western sanctions, a vital step for funding reconstruction in Syria.

Saudi Arabia, which stays the most important marketplace for the drug, additionally sought assurances because it mentioned the normalisation of ties with Damascus.

The dominion supported insurgent teams preventing authorities forces within the early years of the warfare. However, extra lately, it has proven a need to melt relations as a part of a wider shift in regional diplomacy, together with a rapprochement with Iran.

After the assembly in Amman, the overseas ministers of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria stated Damascus had agreed to “take the mandatory steps to finish smuggling on the borders with Jordan and Iraq”.

So who was the drug kingpin killed in Syria?

International ministers from the 22-nation Arab League voted on Sunday for Syria’s return at a gathering in Cairo.

Only a day later, Marai al-Ramthan, a suspected Syrian drug smuggler, and his household had been killed in an air raid in southern Syria, an assault attributed to Jordan, in keeping with a warfare monitor.

Al-Ramthan was thought of “essentially the most outstanding drug trafficker within the area, and the primary smuggler of medicine, together with Captagon, into Jordan”, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) stated.


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