The $2 Billion drug raid


There has been a huge seizure of Captagon pills by the Saudi Authorities.  Major General Mansour Al-Turki, spokesman for the Interior Ministry said that 8.35 million narcotic pills worth nearly $70 million have been seized.  There has been close collaboration between the Turkish and Saudi officials in relation to this seizure, raids in Turkey found a further 30 tons of material, enough to produce 200 million Captagon pills with a market value of $1.6 billion. That is over seven pills per head for every Saudi.

Captagon is the brand name for Fenethylline, a stimulant, which was used primarily as a treatment for ADHD. It was scheduled under the Convention on Psychotropic Substances in 1986. Despite being illegal in many countries since then, counterfeits pills are still being produced, due to its popularity in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf.

Even with some of the world’s harshest drug laws, Saudi Arabia has a huge and longstanding appetite for stimulant drugs. Saudi authorities do not shirk using the death penalty for drug traffickers, in 1994 four Turkish smugglers were executed in four days, causing a furore in Turkey. That year Saudi Arabia executed 141 people the majority of whom were drug traffickers. Despite this heavy handed approach, Saudi Arabia accounted for 28 per cent of all global amphetamine seizures in 2006, much of this a result of the market in Captagon. 

A long term poly-drug user said: “It is a horrible drug, one of the few drugs I regret taking and there aren’t many like that.” He went on to detail the rapid onset of auditory hallucinations after taking the drug, which affected both him and his peers. So why are Saudis so attracted to the drug?

Sources within the Kingdom have blamed the high level of Captagon use, on women using it as an aid to dieting. However other sources have indicated that it is popular with men because it can be used to delay orgasm and prolong sex. It seems unlikely given the role women play in Saudi society that many Turkish drug peddlers are going to get anywhere near a middle aged Saudi matron wishing to shed some access pounds. So perhaps the latter explanation is a little more likely.