Turkey conducted two massive drug raids along its Syrian border this week.
The raids, AFP reports, netted nearly two tons worth of an amphetamine called Captagon, totaling nearly 11 million pills.
As an amphetamine, the drug functions as a stimulant that greatly increases energy and allows users to stay awake for long periods of time. It’s become popular in Syria and the broader Middle East because of its uses on the battelfield.
Due to Captagon’s effects, the drug has seen its popularity soar throughout Syria as combatants on various sides of the country’s civil war have reportedly used it in order to stay awake during patrols and to suppress their appetites.
According to a Reuters report from 2014, both “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.”
Captagon has effects that go beyond just keeping its users awake — effects that are especially useful in stressful combat situations. Captagon generates a euphoric feeling that allows users to face skirmishes with less fear and an added recklessness, according to fighters within Syria that BBC Arabic interviewed for a documentary.
“You’re awake all the time. You don’t have any problems, you don’t even think about sleeping, you don’t think to leave the checkpoint,” a Syrian rebel told BBC. “It gives you great courage and power.”
Captagon use surged in Syria after the outbreak of the war. Syria’s breakdown of law and order, along with the relative ease of making the drug, has turned the country into a major Captagon production center as well, Reuters reports. Lebanon, where the drug was produced prior to the Syrian civil war, has seen upwards of 90% of their production shift into neighbouring Syria instead.
But despite the rise in Captagon use in Syria, Saudi Arabia, a country that isn’t in the grips of a nationwide civil war, remains the main consumer of the drug, The Washington Post reports.
In 2010, the country was the endpoint for a third of the world’s supply of Captagon. And at the end of October, a Saudi prince was detained in Beirut, Lebanon over an alleged attempt to smuggle two tons of Captagon into Saudi Arabia aboard his private plane.
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