CNN said, in a report, Friday, that Saudi Arabia has turned into the “capital of the Middle East for drugs”, and has become the main destination for smugglers from Syria and Lebanon.
On Wednesday, the Saudi authorities announced the largest drug seizure in the country’s history, after seizing nearly 47 million amphetamine pills in a shipment of flour in the capital, Riyadh.
According to the network report, experts say that the Kingdom is one of the largest and most lucrative regional destinations for drugs, and this situation is getting worse.
Wednesday’s operation was the largest single smuggling attempt in terms of seized drugs, according to the General Directorate of Narcotics Control.
While the authorities did not mention the Source of the seized drugs, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said earlier that “reports of amphetamine seizures from countries in the Middle East still mostly refer to tablets bearing the Captagon logo.”
Captagon is basically the commercial name for a drug patented in Germany in the early 1960s, consisting of a type of stimulant amphetamine called phenethylline, intended to treat attention deficit disorder and insomnia, among other conditions.
The use of the drug was later banned, turning it into a drug that is produced and consumed almost exclusively in the Middle East.
In an interview with Al-Hurra, the writer and Saudi analyst, Mubarak Al-Ati accused the Lebanese Hezbollah and the Fourth Division in the Syrian regime, which sponsors the cultivation and export of hashish, of targeting Saudi Arabia.
He added that the seized quantities, especially the last shipment, confirm that this war is continuing, as he put it.
Captagon seizures have increased in Saudi Arabia and around the region over time, and the drug was common in the Kingdom about 15 years ago, but it has increased intensely in the past five years, according to “CNN”.
One of the reasons for its spread is “the abundance of supplies mostly from Syria”, as it is produced “on an industrial scale in chemical factories inherited from the Assad regime” and provided by warlords and companies affiliated with the regime, according to the network.
According to CNN, the Saudi Center for International Communication did not respond to the network’s request for comment.
The Saudi analyst, Ahmed Al Ibrahim, told Al-Hurra that Saudi Arabia is targeted by drug dealers, and that “the prices are subsidized, which means that drugs targeting the country are about 30 or 40 percent cheaper than other places, such as France, America and Britain,” according to his expression.
He explains that the country is targeted because 70 percent of its population is under 30 years old, noting that the destruction of this category may threaten the country’s prosperity and its domestic product.
Captagon sells for between $10 and $25 per pill, meaning the latest Saudi shipment, with a street value of up to $1.1 billion, based on figures from the International Addiction Review.
The report notes that hashish and qat are also common drugs in the kingdom, however amphetamines are popular among Saudi youth.
Ahmed Al Ibrahim says, “Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has confiscated about 700 million drug pills from Lebanon, and in the past they came from Syria and Iraq, and strange quantities of drugs were entering significantly from the ports of the Levant to Saudi Arabia.”
In his interview with Al-Hurra, the analyst indicated that the Saudi forces are equipped with the latest technologies to detect these damages, “and that the authorities are conducting awareness campaigns in schools and in all departments, and there is a sudden medical examination in all departments to reduce this problem.”
Analyst Mubarak Al-Ati also said that “Saudi Arabia has taken resolute steps to confront this fierce war by strengthening the specialized security services and by modernizing the devices and training human crews on them,” explaining, “The Saudi intelligence services exchange information with their counterparts to ward off the dangers of drugs.”
Over the past few years, a number of drug rehabilitation centers have sprung up across the kingdom after the government began licensing private institutions.
Khaled Al-Mashari, CEO of Qweem Company, one of the first such centers to open, says that about four or five centers have opened in the past two years. He says this is evidence of the government’s recognition of the importance of rehabilitation, but it also shows that the problem is growing.
During the first months of this year, the Jordanian, Saudi and Iraqi authorities announced the seizure of shipments of Captagon. And last month, Iraqi security forces shot down a glider loaded with one million pills in Basra, in the south of the country.
The Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have long criticized Lebanon for its lack of commitment to combating this smuggling, accusing Hezbollah of being the main driver of these smuggling operations.