Crime & Justice

The Islamic State’s amphetamine legacy lives on in Iraqi city

By Sofia Nitti

Ramadi, Iraq, Sep 22 (EFE).- The Islamic State terror organization’s occupation of the Iraqi city of Ramadi ended in 2015 but the extremist group left behind a poisonous legacy in the form of the amphetamine-based stimulant Captagon, the so-called jihadists’ drug.

Captagon, a brand name for fenethylline hydrochloride, was once prescribed to treat ailments like depression and hyperactivity until it was widely banned in the 1980s.

Illicit versions of the drug were prized by IS fighters, who used it to dull fear and tiredness on the battlefield when the organization’s self-proclaimed caliphate engulfed parts of Iraq and Syria from 2014 until its bloody demise 2017, in the case of the former, and 2019 in the latter.

The majority of the drug found in the region is produced in Syria and arrives in Ramadi, a city located some 100 kilometers west of Baghdad and that straddles the Euphrates in the central Iraqi desert, through the porous border.

Captain Said from Ramadi’s police forces pulls up images on his phone showing the latest seizure of the drug — hundreds of yellow pills smuggled inside the tires of a truck and inside a gasoline barrel, ready for distribution and sale.

Security forces carry out daily patrols of the region, located in Iraq’s Anbar province, and conduct surprise raids and visits to the city’s industrial complex. They also hand out educational material.

“We began our route here because we captured two ‘camels’ (drug mules). We also give our contact details to people for them to call us if they have any information or see anything suspicious,” he told Efe.


Anbar has long been a point of transit for Captagon in Iraq but, over time, the war-weary and marginalized local population began to consume the drug as well.

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