Friday, November 20, 2015

syraq's speed freaks, jihad junkies, and captagon cartels...,

foreignpolicy |  In a dank garage in a poor neighborhood in south Beirut, young men are hard at work. Industrial equipment hums in the background as they put on their surgical masks and form assembly lines, unpacking boxes of caffeine and quinine, in powder and liquid form. They have turned the garage into a makeshift illegal drug factory, where they produce the Middle East’s most popular illicit drug: an amphetamine called Captagon

For at least a decade, the multimillion-dollar Captagon trade has been a fixture of the Middle East’s black markets. It involves everyone from and  gangs, to Hezbollah, to members of the Saudi royal family. On Oct. 26, Lebanese police arrested Saudi prince Abdel Mohsen Bin Walid Bin Abdulaziz at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport for allegedly trying to smuggle 40 suitcases full of Captagon (along with some cocaine) to Riyadh aboard a private jet.

The past  have seen the global trade in illegal Captagon skyrocket, as authorities across the region have observed a major spike in police seizures of the drug. Local law enforcement, Interpol, and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) all agree on the catalyst: the conflict in Syria. Captagon now links addicts in the Gulf to Syrian drug lords and to brigades fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who are funded by the profits, and, after years of fighting, are now hooked on the product.

Captagon began as a pharmaceutical-grade amphetamine called. Patented by German pharmaceutical giant  in the 1960s, doctors used it to treat a range of disorders, from narcolepsy to depression. But the drug fell out of favor in the 1970s, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration deemed it too addictive to justify its use, with the World Health Organization following suit and recommending a worldwide ban in the 1980's. 

This is where the free market history of Captagon ends and the hazier black market story — one told by drug lords, smugglers, and law enforcement — begins.