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What is Captagon? And What are the Dangers of the Highly Addictive Substance?

Written by Joseph Mcqueen

Is there another drug crisis occurring? Captagon, part of the amphetamine family, is supposedly dominating the middle-east. The opioid crisis is still rife in the US, and now there seems to be another situation in the middle-east involving captagon. Like with all drug crises’, the first step is a demand for the substance. However, the moment it becomes a problem is when the drug in question takes more than it gives.

For instance, opioids were believed to be harmless painkillers, until it was soon revealed that their addictive properties were just as extreme as heroin. Captagon began as an amphetamine that treated concentration, depression and alertness, but has now potentially become a drug used to give militant Syrians the ability to endure warfare. Let’s take a deeper look into the substance that is captagon. 

Drugs are varied, complex, and can be harnessed for many different uses – not all of them good or enlightening. The captagon situations looks a bit grim, but only time will tell how problematic this drug will become. Best stick to cannabis and derivatives. To learn more about marijuana, and for exclusive deals on vapes, edibles, tinctures, and other products, make sure to subscribe to The THC Weekly Newsletter. We’ve also got great offers for cannabinoids, like HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 THCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC which you can find in our “Best-of” lists!

What is Captagon?

Captagon is a more common name for a substance known as fenethylline. It has also been labelled as the ‘terrorist drug’ and the ‘drug of Jihad’. However, before this drug became caught up in politics and warfare, it had a different purpose. The ACS writes:

“Fenethylline is a combination of the drugs amphetamine and theophylline. 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.”

Amphetamines are referred to as psychostimulant drugs because they increase the rate of messages travelling from brain to body. The substance triggers the internalisation of a glutamate transporter, which in turn, increases the activities of these cells. This can lead to the release of adrenaline and dopamine, as well as increased heart rate and blood pressure. It’s these same effects that can also increase the addictive properties of amphetamines, which is why some are illegal. In addition, amphetamines that increase strength, muscle power or endurance are often banned due to their performance-enhancing qualities. 

The now-banned substance of captagon is known to contain a combination of amphetamines, caffeines and various fillers.

What Does Captagon Look Like?

Captagon usually comes in a white or brown powder. However, this can be made into a pill or tablet form. The presentation of captagon or fenethylline varies as the illegal producers have been mixing other substances with captagon, aiming to find cheaper, more addictive and more potent ways of creating it. 

In 2020, Italian police seized 14 tonnes of captagon that was supposedly produced by the Islamic State. 1 billion euros worth of captagon pills were discovered on three container ships docked in Italian waters. ABC news writes:

“Police used electric saws to cut through two-metre-high cylinders, made thick enough to try to elude customs’ scanning devices, to remove the pills in the hollow centres”

The History of Captagon

Fenethylinne was first created in 1961. Back then, it was used and synthesised in order to treat concentration, depression and narcolepsy. However, in the 1980s, the drug was banned after medical professionals decided that its addictiveness weighed more than its benefits. In fact, almost every country in the world has illegalised the drug in 1986. People who tried to wean themselves off – who had used captagon for long periods of time – were suffering from extreme depression, sleep deprivation and blood vessel toxicity. Captagon seemed to be a forgotten drug until recently. The ACS also writes: 

“Fenethylline re-emerged this year because of its widespread abuse by Middle Eastern young adults. It is promoted by terrorist groups such as the Islamic State to enhance what they consider to be desirable characteristics—aggressiveness, alertness, and fearlessness—in their recruits”


Gangs and groups from Bulgaria and Turkey are thought to be responsible for introducing the substance to the Middle East. Captagon then began to flourish in poorer and war-torn countries like Syria and Lebanon. Like any substance, captagon makes you feel a certain way. However, the drugs that are often banned or overused, are the ones that have a short-term beneficial effect. So, the question is: why has captagon come back around to be used in the way that it is now?

How Does It Make you Feel?

In a BBC documentary, the users of captagon described how they felt after taking it. Here’s what some of the people had to say about their experience: 

“There was no fear anymore after I took Captagon.”

 “I felt like I own the world.”

“Like I have power nobody has.”

It seems that the users of captagon are referring to the effects of amphetamines that make you feel happy, alert and less anxious. Let’s take a look at some of the positive and negative effects of the substance.

Positive Effects

  • Boost concentration
  • Improved mood
  • Confidence
  • Awakeness
  • Talkative
  • Energised

Negative Effects

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Blurred vision
  • Aggression
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Vertigo
  • Hallucinations
  • Muscle pain
  • Mood swings
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms

As you can see, this substance is a perfect example of a drug that has short-term benefits but ultimately devastating long-term effects. For first time takers, this substance might feel like magic, but soon the drug takes less effect and your body requires more of it to be that same original experience. It becomes addictive and dangerous, much like opioids. 

Captagon Before & Now

It’s important to note that the captagon that is around now is extremely different from the same substance of the 60s and 80s. Producers in the Middle East are constantly trying to find cheaper and more potent ways of making this drug. Therefore, what captagon actually contains now, is almost nothing like what it contained before. The National News writes:

“Although stamped with the Captagon logo, these counterfeit pills – often white or yellowish brown in colour – are much less likely to contain fenethylline, the chemical first used in the original tablets. They are instead more often made up of a mix of other amphetamine derivatives that are easier to produce, as well as additives such as caffeine, quinine and paracetamol”

Who’s Buying Captagon?

The captagon crisis is taking place mainly in the Middle East. According to the UN, countries which have recorded the most Captagon seizures are Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Reports have shown that these nations are using captagon for two main purposes, and it’s these purposes that have made the substance so popular. The first purpose is for aspiring students during exam season, much like the use of adderall. The second, and less innocent purpose, is for militants in Syria using captagon to help them fight. 


The VOA News has reported that many wealthy students in Saudi Arabia have been using captagon, much like people use adderall, to help with the pressure of exams. The concentration that captagon gives, as well as the alert and awake effects, helps with revision and work load. If you’ve ever dealt with the pressure of examinations, then you’ll understand that desperate desire for something to help you focus. Even if it’s an illegal substance.


Captagon has been labelled the ‘Jihadi drug’ for a reason. Many people believe that ISIS militants, and many involved in the civil war in Syria, were using captagon as a way to improve confidence and morale in the soldiers. Similar to how the British Army rationed rum in the second world war, militants in Syria have been given captagon pills to increase aggressiveness and concentration. However, other reports suggest that this rumour of militant use of captagon has been increased to cause fear. The Guardian writes:

“Fighters from most of the warring parties in the conflict – with the exception of al Qaida-linked groups, which mostly hold to a strict interpretation of Islamic law – are now said to be making extensive use of Captagon, often on night missions or during particularly gruelling battles”

Whatever the truth is, captagon is a druk that – in the wrong hands – has caused a major crisis in the Middle East.


Captagon or fenethylline is an amphetamine drug that has stood the test of time. Whatever anyone believes, this substance has become popular due to its short-term positive effects. However, not only is it addictive, but it can lead to many long-term damages. Captagon is yet again another example of a substance that began as a medication, and has now become an addictive substance abused by certain groups.

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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advice, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.

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About the author

Joseph Mcqueen

Joseph is a cannabis journalist in the UK. His search and love for the truth in the cannabis industry is what drives him to write.