Surge in Use of Stimulant Fuels Concern in Saudi Arabia

The recent arrest of a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family for attempting to import 2 tons of an illegal drug has dragged Saudi Arabia’s underground drug culture into the spotlight.

Use of fenethylline, more commonly known by its commercial name Captagon, is on the rise in Saudi Arabia and especially among the youth. The drug is a chemical linkage of amphetamine and theophylline, and produces a stimulating effect.

Captagon pills are the most popular among young people with drug addictions, a Saudi anti-drug official told local Saudi media.

Captagon pills.

Captagon pills.

The drug is less dangerous than amphetamene, commonly known by its commercial name Adderall, which is widely prescribed in the United States. One of the main reasons is that it does not increase blood pressure to the same extent as amphetamine and so could be used in patients with cardiovascular conditions. It is thought to have fewer side effects and less potential for abuse.

Separate investigations by Reuters and Time Magazine revealed that the manufacture of fenethylline in Syria was helping to fuel the war there, generating millions in revenue. 

The arrest of the prince and 4 others in Beirut is bringing to the fore the disparity in punishment doled out by Saudi officials for drug smuggling, particularly in Western media outlets.