The term “narco-state” is used to describe a country where a significant portion of the economy is dependent on the illegal trade of narcotic drugs. Unfortunately, Syria has become one of the world’s foremost narco-states due to its heavy reliance on the production and export of Captagon, also known as the “poor man’s coke”. According to a report by ANI, this highly addictive amphetamine has become the primary lifeline of Syria’s economy, generating more than 90% of its foreign currency.
This pervasive presence and profitability of Captagon in Syria have raised concerns about the devastating impact of drug trafficking on the country’s social fabric, health, and security. Although Captagon was initially introduced by a German pharmaceutical company in 1961 for medical purposes such as treating conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy, and depression, it was later found to be highly addictive and detrimental to mental and physical health, leading to its prohibition.
Despite this ban, Captagon remains popular in the Middle East, particularly among young people in the Gulf states who use it as a recreational drug. It is also favored by armed individuals for the sense of invincibility it can induce, earning it nicknames like “Captain Courage” or “Jihadi magic potion”.
To combat this growing problem, international organizations like the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have been working to raise awareness of the dangers of Captagon and drug trafficking in general. It is crucial to address this issue and take action to reduce the impact of drug trafficking on Syria’s economy and society.
In addition to its use by individuals seeking weight loss and cognitive enhancement, Captagon is popular among those working long hours to make ends meet. Syria is now the leading producer of this drug, primarily exporting to the Gulf region, according to expert analysis.
Following the sanctions and trade restrictions imposed on Syria after President Bashar al-Assad’s crackdown on protesters in 2011, the regime has partnered with Lebanon’s Hezbollah to increase the production and export of Captagon, particularly to Gulf countries.
Reports suggest that al-Assad could potentially use his control over Captagon as a bargaining tool to restore diplomatic ties with the Gulf States, such as Saudi Arabia, by decreasing production and exports of the drug.