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Special Project on the Captagon Trade

The Special Project on the Captagon Trade was created and is led by Director Caroline Rose.

In recent years, a spike in the production, trade, and consumption of the amphetamine-type stimulant Captagon has introduced a new challenge to public health, stability, and human security in the Mediterranean-Gulf zone. The drug’s evolving formula, combined with participation from adversarial actors aligned with the Syrian regime and Iran, exacerbates insecurity and ultimately raises the risk of conflict in the region.

Syria’s decade-long civil war has enabled armed actors, including violent and organized crime groups, to profiteer from various illicit markets – a dynamic like those in Afghanistan, Brazil, and Colombia. The forecast for the impacts of the Captagon trade is serious; the expansion of production and trafficking coupled with the Syrian government’s treatment of people who use drugs and a lack of public health provisions paints a poor picture of Syria moving forward.

The Captagon trade has emerged as a major transnational challenge in the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf. Millions of pills continue to flood overland and maritime ports across the Middle East, southern Europe, and even as far as East Asia, pointing to growing production capacity, sophisticated smuggling tactics, and emerging demand markets. There is also growing evidence that actors aligned with the Syrian government, such as Hezbollah, Iran-backed militias, and others, have participated in the production and smuggling of the drug. These new realities have given rise to new concerns and questions about the Captagon trade’s implications for regional law enforcement, health care, security, and geopolitics.