Syria becomes world’s largest ‘narco-state’

Syria becomes world’s largest ‘narco-state’

Syria has become the biggest narco-state in the world, as the horribly addictive amphetamine it produces, which is known as Captagon or “poor man’s coke”, has turned out to be the country’s economic lifeline and its biggest export product, earning more than 90 per cent of the country’s foreign currency.

Notably, Collins Dictionary defines a “narco-state” as a country in which the illegal trade in narcotic drugs forms a substantial part of the economy.

Captagon is a synthetic stimulant composed of amphetamine and caffeine, and it is an internationally-recognized illegal drug (UNODC, 2021).

In 1961, a German pharmaceutical company first introduced Captagon to treat health conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, narcolepsy and depression. However, after a few years, scientists realized the drug’s addictive properties and its adverse effects on mental and physical health and so the drug was banned.

Captagon is one of the most popular recreational drugs (party pills) among the youth in the Gulf states. It is also, used by armed men for the feeling of invincibility it creates and for this reason, it is sometimes called “Captain Courage” or “Jihadi magic potion”. Moreover, it is used by dieters, students cramming for exams and people who have to work double shifts or at night or take two jobs to make ends meet.

The price of the pill at the time of manufacture can be just USD 1, but as it has to pass various routes and checkpoints to reach buyers, a lot of bribes have to be paid by the smugglers, soldiers, the secret police, various warlords, and corrupt customs officials and so its price goes to up USD 14- 20.

According to experts, Syria is the country currently producing the largest quantities of Captagon which is exported primarily to the Gulf region. As many countries have imposed sanctions or stopped trading with Syria following the brutal crackdown on protesters by President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, the regime, in collaboration with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, stepped up the production and export of the drug mainly to Gulf countries.

Captagon pills have been found hidden in packages of milk, cardboard rolls, egg cartons, crates of fresh fruit and machinery. They have also been found buried in shipments of tea and milk, while the smugglers constantly surprise authorities as they hide the pills in quite unlikely places.


Syria, officially the Syrian Arab Republic, is a Western Asian country located in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Levant. The capital of Syria is Damascus.