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Drug Trafficking and Terrorism in the Middle East

Map of the Middle East

Date: 24/08/2023

Location: the Middle East (Saudi-Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, UAE).

Parties involved: Syria, Iran, Iraq, the Gulf States, Hezbollah, Bashar Al-Assad, ISIS/L.

What happened?

  • The illegal drug called Captagon, an amphetamine pill, is used throughout the Middle-East and mostly in the Gulf States as a recreational drug. It has names like “cocaine for the poor” and the “terrorist drug”, but it is mostly used as a stimulant in the Arabic nightlife.

  • Captagon is produced and sold on a wide-scale in Syria and Lebanon, providing funding for terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and ISIS/L. The connection between the Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas and Hezbollah is well documented. The smuggling of weapons and other materials from Iran to Hezbollah and other militant groups in Syria and Lebanon is done through the same channels as the drug trade. The infrastructure is solid and drugs and weapons are smuggled by air and by land.

  • Rumors were spread after the Paris attacks of 2015, and the rise of ISIS/L in the Middle-East from 2011 on, that Captagon would give the user superhuman powers, a higher pain threshold and the ability to withstand multiple gunshot wounds. It became popular among terrorists to “enhance” their powers in a fight. It is believed that suicide bombers were given doses of up to 30 pills right before detonation.

  • Captagon has recently been found in drug busts in the south of Europe in countries like Greece and Italy, making it the first time that Captagon seems to be headed towards the European market.

  • Jordan is especially hard on the smuggling and dealing of Captagon and recently attacked several drug barons and drug smuggling convoys with fighter jets, killing over 30 smugglers and dealers.

  • Bashar Al-Assad, President of Syria, is known to have acquired millions, if not billions, of dollars thanks to facilitating the Captagon production in Syria. One of the reasons Syria was allowed back into the Arab League on 07/05/2023 was Assad’s promise to tackle Captagon production and smuggling.


  • The market for Captagon is growing day by day. With the Middle East, and especially the Gulf-States, being known for their low tolerance of the use of stimulants and addictive drugs due to strict Islamic laws, it is almost hard to believe that there is such a big market for Captagon there. The penalties for dealing and using drugs are high, even as high as the death penalty in some states. But this does not seem to affect the Captagon market. Saudi Arabia has especially seen an increase in Captagon being smuggled into the country in the past years. This increase will likely not go down, even with Assad promising the Arab League that he will clamp down on the production of Captagon in Syria. The money coming in from the production and export of the drug is too enticing to ignore. Even with the Gulf States and surrounding countries engaged in a war on drugs it seems that, like in the West, such wars are not easily won.

  • An increase in the use of the drug brings several issues with it. There is of course the individual hardships of people being addicted to Captagon. But there are other consequences of the rise in drug use in the Middle East. Terrorist organizations are making millions upon millions of dollars by producing and smuggling Captagon. That money is used to buy weapons, fund terrorist cells and keep terrorist infrastructures intact. With Hezbollah trying to lure Israel into an open conflict, it is the drug trade that will be funding the use of missiles and rockets being fired from Lebanon and Syria into Israel.

To conclude, the rising popularity of Captagon as a recreational drug in the Middle East means that there is a likelihood that terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and ISIS/L will make even more money from the illegal drug trade. With this money they can buy weapons and even recruit new fighters to their cause.

20230824 Captagon
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