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Created Jul 2019 | Updated Nov 2020


  • [FITTON]


DEA CODE 1503: Schedule 1

Captagon is a psychostimulant which is made of a combination of amphetamine and theophylline. It is just one brand name of a group of drugs known as Fenethylline. The drug came into the mainstream in 1961, and was used for around 25 years as a milder alternative to amphetamines. It was used to treat kids with ADHD and, less commonly, for narcolepsy and depression. Unlike amphetamines, Captagon does not increase the patient's blood pressure - meaning it could be used to treat those with cardiovascular conditions. However, it is highly addictive - and became illegal in most countries in 1986.

Captagon keeps users awake for long periods of time. It also makes users feel energetic and happy - which is why it has been dubbed "chemical courage. The drug is said to be used by ISIS fighters in Syria - leading it to be labelled 'chemical courage' or the 'jihadi drug'. Captagon helps ISIS fighters stay energetic and happy.

Captagon was first manufactured in 1961 as an alternative to amphetamine and methamphetamine used at the time to treat narcolepsy, fatigue, and the behavioral disorder "minimal brain dysfunction". Dexamphetamine was already being used by the military to enable soldiers to stay awake for long periods of time and to "enhance courage and bravado". Captagon was supposed to be a milder version of these medicines. But by the 1980's the U.S. government declared it a controlled substance with no currently accepted medical use. Manufacturing of the drug ceased in the 1980's. However, illegal manufacture has continued, and has recently escalated in the past few years in Europe and the Middle East. Some sources suggest Captagon is one of the more popular recreational drugs among affluent youth in the Middle East.

No doubt the "Captagon" used by the Islamic Forces (ISIS or ISIL) and other extremist groups to enhance their soldiers abilities today is far removed from the Captagon of the eighties. Instead of just two main ingredients, illegal manufacturing likely combines several highly addictive stimulants with compounding actions into one destructive little pill. This "new age" Captagon, as with any highly addictive substance, is likely to cause irreversible changes in brain circuitry that govern impulse control and judgement, taking away a person's ability to reason or think rationally. Captagon has been touted by media as "The Amphetamine Fueling Syria's War" or "The Jihadists' Drug".

Captagon is in the family of drugs known as amphetamines. These drugs are human-made but are chemically related to natural neurotransmitters like dopamine and epinephrine (aka adrenaline). When a person takes Captagon, their metabolism breaks the drug down to amphetamine itself. Amphetamine drugs stimulate the central nervous system, increasing alertness, boosting concentration and physical performance, and providing a feeling of well-being. Militants in Syria are said to use Captagon to endure in battle. But it's also popular with wealthy young people in the Middle East. Voice of America reports that students use it to stay awake when cramming for finals, and women use it to lose weight. A Saudi prince was detained last month for trying to smuggle about two tons of Captagon pills onto a plane.

In the 1960s Captagon was prescribed to treat narcolepsy and depression, among other things. But by the 1980s the medical community had determined that Captagon's addictive properties outweighed its clinical benefits. At that point it was banned in most countries.

One analysis of fake Captagon found no fenethylline hydrochloride (the true active ingredient). Instead investigators found amphetamine and caffeine as main ingredients in the fakes.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the three countries reporting the highest Captagon seizures are Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. The huge black market for Captagon means big money for Syria- a major producer of the drug. As Reuters reports, it gives militants the physical energy to keep on fighting, while also giving the economy the fiscal energy it needs to keep war dragging on far longer than it otherwise would.

There's been a lot of news coming out of Syria and the Middle East about a "new amphetamine" that is coming to dominate the war economy. Since most of Syria's infrastructure and economy has been destroyed by civil war, the major moneymaker has become arms deals and drug sales, but specifically sales of a drug called "Captagon". So what is Captagon? In the end, Captagon could be considered to be a time-release pill containing Theophylline and Amphetamine. The effects subjectively would be very similar to taking Adderall XR and drinking tea or coffee.

What was Captagon originally intended for? Captagon was originally designed by Degussa AG, a German pharmaceutical company infamous for being the inventors of Zyklon B, used to gas people during the Holocaust. Captagon was invented in 1961 as an alternative to straight Amphetamine to treat ADHD, to work as an antidepressant, and to treat narcolepsy. It is of lower abuse potential than Amphetamine, and is actually quite comparable to Vyvanse in terms of effects. Essentially while not a nootropic, Captagon was designed to be a "smart drug" with a lower side effect and abuse potential than Adderall.

Why is Captagon currently the drug of choice for the Syrian Civil War? Captagon allows soldiers to fight longer hours without fatigue. It doesn't give the same level of rush or euphoria or mania that straight amphetamine would, but it allows soldiers to function for extended periods of time on little sleep and without significant decreases in alertness or performance. Eventually these soldiers are going to burn out, but it allows them to keep fighting, and potentially even to stay alive.

Separate investigations by the news agency Reuters and Time magazine have found that the growing trade in Syrian-made Captagon - an amphetamine widely consumed in the Middle East but almost unknown elsewhere - generated revenues of millions of dollars inside the country last year, some of which was almost certainly used to fund weapons, while combatants on both sides are reportedly turning to the stimulant to help them keep fighting. Syria has long been a transit point for drugs coming from Europe, Turkey and Lebanon and destined for the wealthy Gulf states. But the breakdown of law and order, collapse of the country's infrastructure and proliferation of armed groups have now turned it into a major producer.

Captagon, the trademark name for the synthetic stimulant fenethylline, was first produced in the 1960s to treat hyperactivity, narcolepsy and depression, but was banned in most countries by the 1980s as too addictive. It remains hugely popular in the Middle East; Saudi Arabia alone seizes some 55m tablets a year, perhaps 10% of the total thought to be smuggled into the kingdom. The drug is cheap and simple to produce, using ingredients that are easy and often legal to obtain, yet sells for up to $20 a tablet.

Fenethylline (generic name Captagon) is a codrug of amphetamine and theophylline. In the fenetylline molecule, theophylline is covalently linked with amphetamine via an alkyl chain. It was formerly used to treat conditions such as ADHD, narcolepsy, and depression, but its use has been banned because of the potential for abuse. Amphetamine, an agonist for trace amine-associated receptor 1 (TAAR1) with enhancing dopamine signaling (an increase of irritability, aggression, etc.), is the main cause of Captagon addiction. Theophylline, an antagonist that blocks adenosine receptors (e.g. A2aR) in the brain responsible for restlessness and painlessness, may attenuate the behavioral sensitization caused by amphetamine. Fenethylline is included in a list of compounds to be considered by a World Health Organization (WHO) Expert Committee in April 1985 for possible international scheduling under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971. Fenethylline re-emerged because of its widespread abuse by Middle Eastern young adults. Terrorist groups such as the Islamic State to enhance what they consider desirable characteristics - aggressiveness, alertness, and fearlessness - in their recruits, promote it.


Fenethylline was first synthesized by the German Degussa AG in 1961 and used for around 25 years as a milder alternative to amphetamine and related compounds. Although there are no FDA-approved indications for fenethylline, it was used in the treatment of "hyperkinetic children" (what would now be referred to as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and, less commonly, for narcolepsy and depression. One of the main advantages of fenethylline was that it does not increase blood pressure to the same extent as an equivalent dose of amphetamine and so could be used in patients with cardiovascular conditions. Abuse of fenethylline of the brand name Captagon is most common in Arab countries and counterfeit versions of the drug continue to be available despite its illegality. In 2017 captagon was the most popular narcotic in the Arabian peninsula. 40% of the drug users who fall in the 12 - 22 age group in Saudi Arabia are addicted to fenethylline.

Drug dealer killed, Captagon seized in Iraq - Captagon, the trademark name for the synthetic stimulant fenethylline, was first produced in the 1960s ... successive Iraqi governments from effectively addressing the threat of drugs. In May 2023, ...
Friday March 01, 2024 - china.org.cn

Captagon: Italy seizes €1bn of amphetamines 'made to fund IS' - Captagon is a brand name for the synthetic stimulant fenethylline. It was originally ... story of Hooligan X Saudi prince charged over drugs haul Now, counterfeit Captagon is reportedly one ...
Tuesday June 30, 2020 - bbc.com

banned stimulants - Guess what we don't need: How about an inexpensive, addictive drug called fenethylline (aka captagon) that's pouring out of Syria and addicting hordes of people in Saudi Arabia and neighboring ...
Saturday April 24, 2021 - acsh.org

Hamas terrorists took Captagon to help them murder and torture victims - As available stocks of diverted fenethylline are depleted and the availability of chemicals for the clandestine production of the drug fluctuates, increasing amounts of counterfeit Captagon will ...
Sunday October 22, 2023 - msn.com

‘The Equalizer 3’ Ending Explained - Quaranta had been trafficking Fenethylline to terrorists using Vitale’s vineyard. He also sent his brother Marco to coerce the citizens of Alamonte for money to transform the town into casinos ...
Thursday January 04, 2024 - forbes.com

Four Arab Nations Unite to Combat Increasing Drug Proliferation - In a recent meeting in Amman, Jordan, interior ministers from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq have come together to address the escalating issue of illegal narcotics trafficking in their countries.
Saturday February 17, 2024 - msn.com

Drugs & Pharmaceuticals - That ignores the fact that these drugs are all made from just that. Nope, no kindness or farms. Just another misleading ad campaign. In 2017 I did an extensive search of Cochrane Reviews that ...
Wednesday December 19, 2018 - acsh.org

Hooligan X - The drug dealers peddling ecstasy scurry into ... Lebanon is also a significant producer of fenethylline - an amphetamine-like pill better known as captagon - and a transit hub for cocaine and ...
Wednesday January 30, 2019 - bbc.co.uk

Captagon trade in Middle East topped $5bn in 2021 - Captagon was the trade name of a drug initially patented in Germany in the early 1960s that contained an amphetamine-type stimulant called fenethylline used to treat attention deficit and ...
Thursday December 15, 2022 - middleeasteye.net

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