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Registered: 07/26/04
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Drug of Choice in the Middle East
    #4621644 - 09/05/05 04:33 AM (12 years, 9 months ago)

Drug of Choice in the Middle East
September 5, 2005 - theconservativevoice.com

Fenethylline, commonly known by the trademark name Captagon, is one of the most popular drugs of abuse among the young affluent populations of the Middle East.

Since the cessation of legal production of Captagon, this synthetic amphetamine-type stimulant has been clandestinely produced in southern Europe and trafficked through Turkey to the consumer markets on the Arabian Peninsula.

Fenethylline is a central nervous system stimulant with effects similar to amphetamine. In small to moderate doses, amphetamine causes elevations in heart rate, body temperature, respiration, and blood pressure. In addition, a user initially experiences a dilation of bronchial vessels, extra energy, and appetite suppression. Over the long-term, however, amphetamine use can have a number of side effects, including extreme depression, lethargy, sleep deprivation, heart and blood vessel toxicity, and malnutrition.

The primary market for clandestinely manufactured fenethylline has traditionally been the Arabian Peninsula. According to the United Nations, it is the primary amphetamine-type stimulant consumed in the region. Authorities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar, report that use is prevalent among their younger, affluent citizens.

According to the International Narcotics Control Board, Captagon has not been legally produced since 1986. Despite the cessation of legal production, demand for Captagon has remained strong. The UN maintains that illegal stockpiling and clandestine fenethylline production has continued unabated, primarily in southern Europe and Turkey, for consumption in the Middle East.

Traditionally, clandestine production of Captagon has been reported in southeastern Europe. Over the past few years, the International Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the INCB have reported the seizure of clandestine laboratories in several countries, including Bulgaria and Slovenia. Recently, suspected Captagon laboratories were also seized in Serbia-Montenegro and Turkey. The laboratories vary in production capacity: some produce small quantities, while others are large, sophisticated operations with professional-grade equipment capable of producing large quantities.

Captagon is smuggled along a variety of routes from the primary production areas in southern Europe through Syria and Jordan to the Arabian Peninsula. To date, clandestine production has not been reported in Syria or Jordan.

Sizable seizures of fenethylline tablets are frequently effected en route to the Arabian Peninsula. In September 2002, according to INTERPOL, more than 1.4 million tablets were seized in Syria, while en route to Saudi Arabia. Other examples include 107.5 kilograms seized in Turkey in March 2002, and two separate seizures in Bulgaria in March 2003 of 75.03 and 39.7 kilograms, respectively.

Counterfeit Captagon

Counterfeit synthetic drugs are commonly sold on the illicit market. Throughout Europe and the United States, tablets containing a variety of compounds are regularly sold as MDMA, or Ecstasy, at rave events, night clubs, and other venues. Though the physical appearance of these tablets, emblazoned with logos, etc., resembles Ecstasy, the chemical composition may differ significantly. With dwindling stocks of diverted fenethylline and fluctuations in the availability of precursor chemicals for clandestine production, counterfeit Captagon tablets are appearing in the primary consumption markets.

According the Drug Enforcement Administration, counterfeit Captagon tablets have been reported in Saudi Arabia since the late 1980s. The majority of these tablets contained mixtures of drugs capable of inducing effects similar to those of fenethylline.

Counterfeit Captagon tablets have also emerged in Europe and Turkey. Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration Special Testing and Research Laboratory claim that analysis of counterfeit Captagon tablets seized in Turkey and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have demonstrated the presence of amphetamine, caffeine, quinine, theophylline, and other substances--and the absence of fenethylline.

Clandestine production of counterfeit Captagon tablets is not a new phenomenon; however, several recent examples have been discovered in Serbia-Montenegro and Turkey. While Turkish authorities have traditionally seized Captagon tablets transiting their country en route to the Arabian Peninsula, evidence of production was not detected until July 2002, when Turkish authorities seized the first clandestine laboratory suspected of the production of Captagon. Several million tablets marked with the Captagon logo were also seized at the laboratory site. In January 2003, Turkish authorities seized two additional operational laboratories in Istanbul suspected of Captagon production. Following further scientific analysis of the three production sites and tablets seized, no evidence of fenethylline was found. Rather, amphetamine and amphetamine derivatives were being produced, pressed into tablet form, and marked with the Captagon logo.

Fenethylline is likely to remain popular among the young affluent populations in the Arabian Peninsula States. However, as available stocks of diverted fenethylline are depleted, and the availability of chemicals for the clandestine production of the drug fluctuate, increasing amounts of counterfeit Captagon will continue to emerge.

Sources: US Drug Enforcement Administration, INTERPOL, National Association of Chiefs of Police, US State Department

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