Captagon the Drug of Jehad from Rajesh Khatri's blog

Here is what you need to know about the drug and why it has been so important recently:

Where was Captagon invented?

Captagon was the brand name of a psychoactive medicine produced in the 1960s by the German company Degussa Pharma Gruppe. It was mainly prescribed as a treatment for attention deficit disorder, narcolepsy and as a central nervous system stimulant.

Captagon tablets contained fenetylline, a synthetic drug of the phenethylamine family to which amphetamine also belongs.

But production didn’t really stop, did it?

As official production ceased, some of the remaining stocks were smuggled out of Eastern Europe, in particular Bulgaria, to the Middle East.

Eventually, new counterfeit tablets labelled Captagon were produced in the 1990s to early 2000s in Bulgaria, according to a 2018 report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drugs Addiction. The drugs were then smuggled out of the country by Balkan and Turkish criminal networks to the Arabian Peninsula.

Strict crackdowns on production by Turkish and Bulgarian authorities, which included the closure of 18 mostly large-scale laboratories involved in amphetamine synthesis, resulted in a drastic reduction in trade from the Balkans.

captagon BulgariaA customs officer displays Captagon pills, part of the 789kg (1,739 pounds) of confiscated drugs, before its incineration in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2007 [Nikolay Doychinov]Why is Syria now making so much Captagon?

In 2011, after a brutal government crackdown on anti-Assad protesters, Syria descended into civil war. Internationally isolated and racked by fighting, the country was plunged into an economic crisis.

Although Damascus denies any involvement in the trade, observers say production and smuggling of the drug have brought in billions of dollars for al-Assad, his associates and allies as they looked for an economic lifeline.

According to a New Lines Institute report, the Syrian government uses “local alliance structures with other armed groups such as Hezbollah for technical and logistical support in Captagon production and trafficking”.


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By Rajesh Khatri
Added Oct 25

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