Captagon trade spirals to top $5 billion in 2021: report

Trade in the amphetamine-type stimulant captagon in the Middle East grew exponentially in 2021 to top $5 billion, posing an increasing health and security risk to the region, a report said.

Research by the New Lines Institute, to be released Tuesday and seen by AFP, paints an alarming picture of the impact booming captagon production is having on the region.

"The captagon trade is a rapidly growing illicit economy in the Middle East and Mediterranean," said the report, authored by analysts Caroline Rose and Alexander Soderholm.

"Based on large-scale seizures alone, the potential value of the retail trade in 2021 is estimated at over $5.7 billion," it said.

The figure is a jump from an estimate of around $3.5 billion in 2020 and only reflects the retail value of the pills seized last year, which the think-tank tabulated at more than 420 million.

Many countries have not divulged aggregated seizure figures for the drug, of which Syria is the main producer and Saudi Arabia the main consumer.

The real amount of seized pills is likely higher and still only a fraction of the total amount of captagon produced.

An AFP tally shows seizures continuing at a slightly slower rate than last year, mostly because a record shipment of 94 million pills was intercepted in Malaysia in March 2021.

Captagon was the trade name of a drug initially patented in Germany in the early 1960s that contained an amphetamine-type stimulant called fenethylline used to treat attention deficit and narcolepsy among other conditions.
It was later banned and became an illicit drug almost exclusively produced and consumed in the Middle East.

Captagon is now a brand name, with its trademark logo sporting two interlocked "Cs", or crescents,...

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