Captagon, an amphetamine, has dominated the illegal drug market in the Middle East and Syria for years, but now, with the country’s weakened borders and failing security, it is easily being manufactured and distributed to militants.
Captagon was deemed illegal in the U.S. in the 1980s due to its highly addictive nature, although it works similarly to other amphetamines—just like Adderall, it leads to increased alertness, energy, and focus. ISIS soldiers claim this has been the key to helping them fight: “You can't sleep or even close your eyes, forget about it. And whatever you take to stop it, nothing can stop it…There was no fear anymore after I took Captagon,” former soldiers told BBC.
Other users said that, “I felt like I own the world high. Like I have power nobody has. A really nice feeling."
This is troubling to hear, particularly considering these soldiers are already more ruthless and reckless than average fighters. According to Time, trafficking of the substance has increased exponentially within the past few years; Lebanese officials confiscated $200 million worth of pills in only a month. The difficulty with the drug is that it is both cheap to produce and can be created with legal materials—pills are sold anywhere from $5 to $20.
The fact that Captagon not only enhances soldiers’ abilities but also helps fund militant organization only compounds the problem. The drug trade is allowing the different warring factions within Syria to mint money, including ISIS. Although both pro and anti-Assad groups are gaining funding through the trafficking, ISIS is certainly taking advantage of the situation.
The fact that ISIS soldiers are using drugs is not in itself a cause for concern—according to Vox, the United States has also given amphetamines to soldiers in the past to help them stay cognizant, particularly pilots during long flights.
However, these drugs could nevertheless give ISIS an edge in combat when the last thing they need is any form of an upper hand.
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