A Syrian war drug is turning fighters in Syria into soldiers with almost superhuman abilities. The drug is call Captagon. Captagon is a potent amphetamine tablet and is considered highly addictive. When taken, Syrian fighters are able to stay awake for multiple days, and it also allows them to kill with recklessness. The drug also affects the mind in such a way that Syrian fighters feel nothing when they kill someone. Captagon essentially makes the person numb to any of the feelings a person would get when killing another human. The BBC was doing a documentary in September, and three men who have used the drug spoke about how it made them feel.
“You can’t sleep or even close your eyes, forget about it. And whatever you take to stop it, nothing can stop it.”
“I felt like I own the world high. Like I have power nobody has. A really nice feeling.”
“There was no fear anymore after I took Captagon.”
In 2014, Reuters did a report on how the Syrian war has turned Syria into a major drug producer in the region. An excerpt from the Reuters report is below.
“Syrian government forces and rebel groups each say the other uses Captagon to endure protracted engagements without sleep, while clinicians say ordinary Syrians are increasingly experimenting with the pills, which sell for between $5 and $20.”
A drug control officer spoke about what he has seen in people who have used the drug.
“We would beat them, and they wouldn’t feel the pain. Many of them would laugh while we were dealing them heavy blows. We would leave the prisoners for about 48 hours without questioning them while the effects of Captagon wore off, and then interrogation would become easier.”
Captagon started to be used medically in the 1960s. The drug was used in treating hyperactivity, sleep disorders, and depression. Due to the potency and addictiveness of Captagon, a ban was placed on it only 20 years later. In the United States, Captagon is considered a Schedule I drug.
Masood Karimipour, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime regional representative, spoke with Voice Of America about the Syrian drug.
“Syria is a tremendous problem in that it’s a collapsed security sector, because of its porous borders, because of the presence of so many criminal elements and organized networks. There’s a great deal of trafficking being done of all sorts of illicit goods — guns, drugs, money, people. But what is being manufactured there and who is doing the manufacturing, that’s not something we have visibility into from a distance.”
The illegal drug trade, specifically, Captagon, has enabled millions of dollars to be brought into Syria. The money from the illegal drug business has allowed Syrian fighters to get access to better weapons. Turkey has put a dent in the Captagon trade. On the border of Turkey and Syria, Turkey officials were able to obtain 11 million tablets of Captagon. The 10.9 million tablets hold a value of between $55 million and $220 million. The 10.9 million tablets were confiscated in two different raids. In the first raid, Turkey was able to capture 7.3 million tablets while Turkey captured 3.6 million tablets in the second raid. The pills were going to be smuggled out to the countries in the Persian Gulf.
Even though the drug is becoming popular among Syrian fighters, Saudi Arabia is still the main importer. According to Reuters, seven tons of Captagon were imported into Saudi Arabia in 2010. It is said that up to 50,000 Saudis end up in drug treatment each year from the use of Captagon.
Is this Syrian war drug going to become a bigger problem in the Syria conflict? With Syrian refugees flooding into Europe, will we begin to see Captagon use increase there?