Find a Security Clearance Job!


Daesh is on Drugs [Captagon]

Many Daesh fighters are said to be hooked on Captagon, also known by its generic name Fenethylline. This happy-pill amphetamine makes fighters feel safe and invincible. It makes them feel as if nothing can harm them. Captagon is actually a combination of two drugs, theophylline and amphetamine.

The Captagon trade began growing in the early 2000s. It initially linked Eastern European producers with the Saudi market; Syria and Lebanon were key transit routes. Captagon was increasingly trafficked through Syria from Turkey and Lebanon to the Gulf States. A newer phenomenon, however, was the smuggling of Captagon through Syria to Iraq for use by foreign fighters and insurgents.

It has been clandestinely produced in southern Europe and trafficked through Turkey to the consumer markets on the Arabian Peninsula. It is one of the most popular drugs of abuse among the young affluent populations of the Middle East. Counterfeit Captagon tablets have been reported in Saudi Arabia since the late 1980's. The majority of these tablets have contained mixtures of drugs capable of inducing effects similar to those of fenethylline.

Fenethylline is a central nervous system stimulant with effects similar to amphetamine. In small to moderate doses, it causes elevations in heart rate, body temperature, respiration, and blood pressure. Over the long-term, amphetamine use can have a number of side effects, including, but not limited to, extreme depression, lethargy, sleep deprivation, heart and blood vessel toxicity, and malnutrition.

This stimulant has been used therapeutically in hyperkinetic children and other indications in place of amphetamines and other central stimulants with higher risk levels. In good correspondence with animal data, fenetylline also shows significant qualitative and quantitative differences compared to amphetamine in humans. It has few adverse side effects, a lower abuse potential and little actual abuse compared to amphetamine. Thus its benefit/risk assessment is substantially more favorable than that of other central stimulants.

Captagon drew media attention in late October 2015, when a member of the Saudi royal family - now infamously known as “Prince Captagon” - was detained at Beirut’s International Airport on suspicion of seeking to smuggle nearly two tons of pills aboard a private jet. The pills were of high quality and believed to have a wholesale value of around $110 million.

Syria’s main fighting groups - pro-regime, rebels, jihadists - all regularly accuse one another of dealing in and feeding their soldiers pills; none claim to be doing it themselves.

The short-term advantages conferred by effective doses of amphetamines, methamphetamines and other central nervous stimulants are well known: improved cognitive functions, increased stamina, greater alertness and response time, and increased focus. Users become fearless and lose interest in both food and sleep. Jihadists also likely rely on stimlants to improve performance in physically simple but mentally and emotionally demanding tasks, such as driving an explosives-laden vehicle.

Islamist groups issued several fatwas permitting these pills on the battlefield. The ideological and fighting doctrine of extremist groups like Daesh seems to not be only source of their strength and ability to fight to death, since these drugs provide great strength and zeal while eliminating any doubts the fighter may have before going into battle.

Join the mailing list

Unconventional Threat podcast - Threats Foreign and Domestic: 'In Episode One of Unconventional Threat, we identify and examine a range of threats, both foreign and domestic, that are endangering the integrity of our democracy'

Page last modified: 10-12-2015 19:41:39 ZULU