Captagon was the trade name of a drug initially patented in Germany in the early 1960s. It contained an amphetamine-type stimulant called fenethylline, used to treat attention deficit and narcolepsy, among other conditions. The drug was later banned and became an illicit substance almost exclusively produced and consumed in the Middle East, and is close to what is known in other countries as “speed”.
Most of global Captagon production originates in Syria, spurring a multibillion-dollar industry that has made the drug the country’s largest export by far. The Syrian government itself has been accused of being involved in the Captagon trade.
Saudi Arabia is the largest market for Captagon, a versatile drug popular among partygoers but also used for weight loss and by students under academic stress and workers juggling several jobs. According to an AFP tally, around 250 million Captagon pills were seized worldwide in the first eight months of 2022.