Captagon: the drug fueling ISIS

After the horrific scenes showed on all the televisions of the terrorist attacks in Paris, after the enormous numbers of victims of kamikazes in Syria and Iraq, after the killing bombs placed in Tunisia and many other states, after the images of multiple beheadings and tortures, a questions arises:

“How is it possible that a group of people decide to dedicate their entire life to the destruction of others’ life?” 

Many would think that isolation, radicalization, wash braining can push a man to do so, however, thanks to the new researches on ISIS, ideology is not the only that motive to change a man into a psychopath.

ISIS soldiers are high on two drugs: amphetamines and jihad. This articles will focus only on the first one, especially on the word “Captagon”.

The Washington Post called it “the tiny pill fueling Syria’s war and turning fighters into superhuman soldiers.” The BBC said it was “the drug fueling conflict in Syria.”

In 2014 it was widely reported that Syria was manufacturing and trafficking large amounts of amphetamines, primarily a drug called Captagon, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in profits.


Captagon is smuggled to Lebanon which traffics it to the rest of the Gulf region. In 2012 Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces (ISF) seized 0.5 million pills; in 2013 they seized 12.3 million; and in 2014 they seized 55 million pills per year. It is an exponential increase in the production, sale and purchase of this amphetamines.

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Not only is ISIS trafficking drugs to help finance the war, they are giving highly-concentrated and modified Captagon and other drugs to their fighters to increase endurance and feelings of invincibility.

CCN interviewed a 19 year old ISIS prisoner held in a prison run by Kurdish militants in northern Syria who said “They gave us drugs, hallucinogenic pills that would make you go to battle not caring if you live or die.”

And again “when one of the comrades is killed, the fallen fighter’s ‘friends’ will descend on his body, not particularly to pray over it, but to rummage his pockets for his drugs.”

Captagon is a well old-known stimulant drugs especially used in all Middle East, according to U.N. reports.

Its origin dates back in the 1960s when was developed to threat hyperactivity, but was banned in most countries in the 1980s due to its hallucinogenic side effects (can cause users to hear voices, or see things that are not there) and additive side effect.s

Despite those drawbacks, this drug has advantages during an unhuman and bloody conflicts like the Syrian war. The drug can keep you awake for four of five days and provide a sense of invincibility. Moreover it drastically reduce the fell of pain and hunger.

Captagon is actually a combination of two drugs, theophylline and amphetamine. The combination itself is inactive in the body, but when the body breaks it down into the two component parts, each part becomes active. While the first one has similar effects as the caffeine, the second one speeds everything up.

Most of the doctors who study Captagon claim that the drug is not as effective and strong as the media are showing in these days. However it is sure that ISIS soldier are using different drugs, especially the one mentioned. Many researches say that the ISIS’s Captagon is an enhanced, more powerful and modified version of the 1960’s drug.

Even if drugs are part of the ISIS terror state, they cannot explain the brutalities and the atrocities committed in the Syrian conflict.

Saying that amphetamine abuse is the reason of the unhuman actions of ISIS is unfounded and reductionist.


Francesco Stefani





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