Update: Dec. 27 2021 09:02 STI
By Jean Solomou
Nicosia [Cyprus], December 27 (ANI): A counterfeit version of Captagon, highly addictive, has become the drug of choice for young people in oil-rich countries of the Arabian Gulf and mainly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. Since it is much cheaper than cocaine, many people call it “poor man’s cocaine”.
Not a week goes by without it being announced that customs or other authorities in various countries have confiscated millions of counterfeit Captagon pills. It should be noted, however, that, as a rule, drugs seized by authorities represent less than a tenth of the illicitly imported Captagon pills, which have become the new rage in the region.
Captagon was first produced in Germany to treat narcolepsy and depression, among others. It was banned in the 1980s when doctors decided that its addictive effect outweighed its benefits. Asfenethylline, the amphetamine used in the long-banned brand name version, has been a controlled substance for decades and is currently quite difficult to obtain legally, illicit manufacturers use other amphetamines in the counterfeit version.
Unlike cocaine and heroin, the basic ingredients of counterfeit Captagon are easy to obtain and therefore it is much cheaper to produce than the other two drugs. The pills often contain amphetamine and caffeine or, less commonly, methamphetamine and ephedrine.
A Captagon pill costs only a few cents to produce in Syria or Lebanon and can be sold for up to US $ 20. Thus, smugglers and smugglers can earn billions of dollars every year.
In 2020, the value of pills seized from Syria was estimated at $ 3.46 billion. The manufacturing of Captagon pills has become a major, albeit illegal, industry for Syria and Lebanon, which as of 2019 had other combined total exports worth less than $ 5 billion.
On December 1, Saudi authorities seized a whopping 30.3 million tablets of the drug that were hidden in imported cardamom. Dubai police discovered $ 15.8 million worth of captagon pills hidden in a shipment of lemons on December 23.
In November, Dubai Customs foiled an attempt to smuggle around 80,000 Captagon tablets hidden in the body of a car trunk. Earlier this year, Kuwaiti customs officials foiled an attempt to smuggle more than three million Captagon tablets in a container that arrived in the country. In Qatar, customs at the port of Ruwais foiled the smuggling of banned narcotic pills Captagon after an inspector suspected a refrigerated truck engine. A total of 7,330 tablets were seized during the inspection.
The Greek Coast Guard intercepted a Syrian-flagged vessel on December 5 as it passed the island of Crete. After a search, they seized Captagonpills and hashish that were hidden in double-bottomed shipping containers amid spices, coffee and sawdust. The value of the confiscated drugs exceeds US $ 100 million.
The largest transport of the Captagon, amounting to 14 tonnes and a market value of over US $ 1.16 billion, was carried out in July last year in the port of Salerno in containers at Dubai destination.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), between 2015 and 2019, more than half of all Captagon pills seized in the Middle East were in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have insinuated that Lebanese Hezbollah is behind the production and transportation of cannabis and Captagon which find their way into the Kingdom.
Captagon became popular in the Middle East during the Syrian War, as it numbed fear and helped fighters stay awake and endure tough battles. This is why some also call it “the jihadist magic potion”. The BBC said it was âthe conflict fueling drugs in Syria.
The drug provides a boost of energy, improves a person’s ability to do dangerous things, helps people stay awake longer, and produces a feeling of euphoria, which can be helpful in combat conditions. In contrast, Captagon is very addicting.
As the war in Syria dragged on, the various parties to the conflict began to manufacture and traffic Captagon, as it generated considerable income and helped them finance their wars. Eventually, drug trafficking created its own underground economy both in Syria and in the Hezbollah-controlled areas of Lebanon.
Some government officials in these two countries would turn a blind eye to the trafficking of Captagon, as it brings in much-needed foreign exchange and has even become much more important than other exports.
The Saudi government banned exports from Lebanon last October, dealing a heavy blow to the Beirut government, which is facing a crippling political and economic crisis.
Riyadh wants the Lebanese government to put the brakes on Hezbollah, which the Saudis say is behind Lebanon’s drug exports. Saudi Arabia has criticized Lebanon’s failure to “stop the export of the scourge of drugs … to the kingdom, especially in light of the control of all ports by terrorist Hezbollah.”
It must be said, however, that Hezbollah categorically denies being involved in drug trafficking.
Some researchers believe boredom and social restrictions are the main cause of drug use in the oil-rich Gulf states, and suggest that easing these restrictions could go a long way in preventing the creation of new addicts.
Saudi Arabia alone accounts for more than a third of global amphetamine seizures per year, and three quarters of patients treated, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime World Drug Report. for drug problems there are addicts, almost exclusively in the form of Captagon. Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates have reported similar peaks in seizures of several million drug tablets over the past two years.
As Captagon generates huge profits for illicit manufacturers and drug traffickers and is relatively inexpensive, it will continue to be widely used in the wealthy Gulf Arab states and could become a major problem for those states over the years. coming years.
(Disclaimer: The author of this opinion piece is John Solomou, who writes on West Asian politics. Opinions are personal) (ANI)