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What exactly is Captagon and why was it banned?

Medically reviewed by Last updated on April 5, 2023.

Official answer


Captagon was first manufactured in 1961 as an alternative to amphetamine and methamphetamine used at the time to treat narcolepsy, fatigue, and the behavioral disorder "minimal brain dysfunction". Dexamphetamine was already being used by the military to enable soldiers to stay awake for long periods of time and to "enhance courage and bravado". Captagon was supposed to be a milder version of these medicines. But by the 1980's the U.S. government declared it a controlled substance with no currently accepted medical use. Manufacturing of the drug ceased in the 1980's.

However, illegal manufacture has continued, and has recently escalated in the past few years in Europe and the Middle East. Some sources suggest Captagon is one of the more popular recreational drugs among affluent youth in the Middle East.

No doubt the "Captagon" used by ISIS or ISI, and other extremist groups, to enhance their soldiers abilities today is far removed from the Captagon of the eighties. Instead of just two main ingredients, illegal manufacturing likely combines several highly addictive stimulants with compounding actions into one destructive little pill. This "new age" Captagon, as with any highly addictive substance, is likely to cause irreversible changes in brain circuitry that govern impulse control and judgement, taking away a person's ability to reason or think rationally.

Captagon has been touted by media as "The Amphetamine Fueling Syria's War" or "The Jihadists' Drug".

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