This overview of fenethylline trafficking and use in the Middle East considers the drug's legal status in the United States, its physiological effects, the prevalence of its abuse, production and trafficking, and emerging trends.
Fenethylline, commonly known by the trademark name Captagon, is a synthetic amphetamine-type stimulant that has been clandestinely produced in southern Europe and trafficked through Turkey to the consumer markets on the Arabian Peninsula. It is one of the most popular drugs of abuse among the young affluent populations of the Middle East. Fenethylline is a central nervous system stimulant with effects similar to amphetamine. In small to moderate doses, it causes elevations in heart rate, body temperature, respiration, and blood pressure. Over the long-term, amphetamine use can have a number of side effects, including, but not limited to, extreme depression, lethargy, sleep deprivation, heart and blood vessel toxicity, and malnutrition. Authorities in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar report that the use of fenethylline is prevalent among their younger, affluent citizens. In the United State fenethylline has been a controlled substance on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act since 1981. It does not have an accepted medical use in the United States and is not approved for distribution. According to open source reporting, counterfeit Captagon tablets have been reported in Saudi Arabia since the late 1980's. The majority of these tablets have contained mixtures of drugs capable of inducing effects similar to those of fenethylline. As available stocks of diverted fenethylline are depleted and the availability of chemicals for the clandestine production of the drug fluctuate, increasing amounts of counterfeit Captagon will likely be the trend.
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