Amphetamines (Captagon) Use Rampant In Conservative Saudi Arabia

by
Fatimah Mazhar
Although it seems to have an extremely efficient counternarcotics security force, Saudi Arabia could well be turning into a breeding ground for illicit drug users.

Although it seems to have an extremely efficient counternarcotics security force, Saudi Arabia could well be turning into a breeding ground for illicit drug users.

According to the World Drug Report 2013, prepared by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the highest amphetamine seizures, almost 11 tons, were registered by Saudi Arabia this year, shortly followed by the Syrian Arab Republic (4 tons) and Jordan (4 tons).

One of the most common forms of amphetamine drug used in Saudi Arabia is “Captagon” which was virtually banned in 1986, according to Emergency Physicians International (EPi), a medical research journal.

Drug trafficking is a capital offence in Saudi Arabia. However, the illicit trade of banned substances such as marijuana, cocaine and homegrown psychedelic drugs is becoming rampant through alternate underground channels.

Intoxicants of any kind, including alcohol, are prohibited in the Islamic state, yet increasing volumes of Captagon are seized by anti-narcotics police each year.

Time magazine reported that “nearly 70 million tablets were confiscated last year by Saudi authorities,” according to Abdulelah al-Shareef, from the Drug Addiction, Prevention and Control Department at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior.

A possible reason behind drug abuse in Saudi Arabia, Time noted, is “ignorance” and many use it to “energize” the body. An anti-narcotics official was quoted as saying, “A lot of people think of Captagon as a treatment, not a drug. They have a headache, a friend gives them a tablet, and suddenly they feel full of energy,”

Truck drivers in Saudi Arabia reportedly use Captagon to cover long and exhausting road trips.

Role Of Saudi Government:

In 2008, UNODC stated that seizures of illicit drugs began to rise sharply in 2004 and reached 12.3 tons in 2006 in KSA.

This is equivalent to the sum of all UK seizures – the biggest amphetamine market in Europe – from 2000 to 2006,” the report said.

In 2009, the Saudi regime pledged to fight transnational crime, human trafficking and the illicit drug trade. The number of seizures, however, continued to rise in Saudi Arabia.

Another associated problem is the lack of acknowledgement and admission of drug abuse problem by the government of the Islamic state. CNN reported in 2010 that there wasn’t sufficient data available on drug use in Saudi Arabia. Time also stated that information on Captagon use in KSA is largely “anecdotal.”

Capital punishment laws for smugglers of banned substances are not enough. Adequate measures to curb the problem “at home” are equally important for which the Saudi government is supposed to maintain official records of drug use and abuse.

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