Health

ISIS Is Literally on Drugs

For a little less than a month, it's been known that ISIS fighters are using a certain drug to fuel their battles, so we decided to look into what's going on.

The drug of choice appears to be Captagon, which is an amphetamine based on a synthetic stimulant named fenethylline. The effects of the drug are said to be a lack of need for sleep, less sensitivity to extreme temperatures and an elevated sex drive.

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Captagon in the Middle East

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What is Captagon?

"Suffice it to say, any type of amphetamine will produce increased energy, decreased appetite and decreased need for sleep," Dr. Richard A. Rawson, Co-Director of the UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, told ATTN:. "In higher doses, people go for days without adequate sleep and the sleep deprivation together with the drug effects, create paranoia psychosis, hypersexuality and can facilitate aggression and violence."

Rawson said these drugs can be very addictive, and injecting them will make behaviors "more severe." High doses of the drug are said to be able to produce bouts of extreme aggression and even psychosis.

"As far as its appearance in Syria goes, organized criminal networks in Lebanon and Syria that have been known to engage in the drug trade have dominated the regional Captagon industry both in terms of manufacturing and distribution," Chris Zambelis, a senior analyst who specializes on Middle East affairs with Helios Global, a risk management consultancy, told ATTN:. "Lebanese organized criminal networks based out of the Beqaa Valley have received a lot of attention over the years for their role in the global hashish trade, but some of these networks -- and others centered in different parts of Lebanon -- have also had their hand in the Captagon trade."

Captagon ISIS

Zambelis said it is believed that local pharmaceutical industries in the region have been utilized for their expertise, and that has helped fuel the spread of Captagon. He said the distribution of Captagon is likely being utilized by combatants, in order to help fund their campaigns, and by outside actors who are looking to make money off of the chaos. Combatants in the area besides ISIS appear to be using the drug as well.

"In a conflict zone like what we are seeing in Syria, where critical resources such as food, water, and shelter are in short supply, not to mention opportunities for rest and sleep, it is easy to see why so many combatants, including ISIS, are resorting to Captagon use," Zambelis said. "Some users claim to experience feelings of fearlessness and invincibility, among other things, but there is no evidence as far as I know linking Captagon do these effects. "

It's interesting to note that this is not, historically, the first time that a conflict has been fueled by drugs. It is also known that the Nazis used methamphetamine to fuel many of their war campaigns.

As for how ISIS can justify this, considering that they do not support the use of narcotics, there's an interesting explanation for that. "They would say, number one, that this is a tool for fighting jihad, and that therefore it's acceptable," Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies told CNN last month. "And secondly they would point out that the goal here is not to get high."

Watch this France 24 video to learn more about the history of the Captagon trade:

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