The Saudi driver, Faisal, has been taking the drug Captagon for some time, to provide him with the energy and strength needed to work overtime and achieve a greater income that would help him pay off his marriage debts as soon as possible, according to an AFP report.
He says the addictive little circular pill helped him keep up his job as a night-shift security guard in a private hospital and work during the day as a driver on a taxi app in Riyadh.
“My friends advised me to take pills to keep me awake and work longer hours,” adds the skinny young man, who preferred to give his first name only because of the sensitivity of the matter.
“I finish my first job, exhausted in the early morning hours, but I urgently need to work on the taxi application,” said Faisal, 27, who wore a dark cloak over which a white jacket and the traditional shemagh were worn.
Over the past years, the drug has spread widely in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia being its largest market.
The Kingdom’s authorities confiscated 119 million pills last year, and it announces the confiscation of thousands of pills weekly and sometimes daily.
However, information is scarce about who is taking these pills and why.
Saudi officials sometimes describe Captagon as a party pill, ignoring the fact that the working class has become one of its customers, as men like Faisal use it to increase their working hours and thus their income.
The director of the Al-Sakina Foundation for Addiction Treatment in Cairo, Firas Al-Waziri, confirms that “young and affluent people use it to get happiness and a good mood, especially on vacations, but workers use it more in search of additional working hours.”
“Because of the dual nature of captagon as a recreational drug as well as a productivity booster, it is a drug that is attractive to both the upper classes,” Caroline Rose, an analyst from the Washington-based New Lines Research Institute, who published a detailed study of the Captagon trade months ago, told AFP. and worker.”
Officials of the Saudi National Anti-Narcotics Committee did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment on the matter.
Captagon is basically the commercial name for a drug patented in Germany in the early 1960s, consisting of a type of stimulant amphetamine called phenethylene, intended to treat attention deficit disorder and insomnia, among other conditions.
The drug was later banned into a drug that is produced and consumed almost exclusively in the Middle East.
Syria has now become the main source of the Captagon industry, whose trade in 2021 was estimated at more than $5.7 billion, according to a study recently issued by the New Lines Institute.
Cereals in Saudi Arabia are called “Abu Qusin”, “Abu Zahra” and “Lexus” in relation to the drawings engraved on them, and their price ranges between 25 and 100 riyals, equivalent to 6 to 27 dollars, according to “quality”, according to a promoter in Riyadh, France. Press.
The promoter, who mainly sells to students and workers, explained that the white beans were of higher quality and the yellow and gray beans of lower quality.
As for Faisal, Captagon was a catalyst for facing his marriage debts of more than 120,000 riyals ($32,000), and the young man who spends more than 100 riyals per week, equivalent to $26, on these pills, stated, “I can work for two or three days without stopping, which is what Double my earnings and help me pay off my debts.”
But he explains that negative effects accompany his use of pills, and he says, “Yes, I work for two or three days without stopping, but sometimes I lose my focus and sometimes I need to sleep for a whole day.”
Continuous use of Captagon causes other side effects, including blurred vision, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat and mood swings.
change for the worse
Workers interviewed by AFP gave different accounts of how they relate to the pills.
A Sudanese driver who works on a large truck transporting foodstuffs between Saudi cities explains that he only takes these pills before long trips.
“I take it when I have to drive for at least 10 hours a day,” he says, adding, “I can’t stay awake for that long without pills.”
“The Captagon keeps me alert on the road and makes me able to avoid accidents,” the slender, brown man in his forties continues.
The 30-year-old Egyptian worker, Mohamed, who stipulated the use of a pseudonym, found himself using Captagon against his will.
The young man says that “the employer used to dissolve the Captagon pills in the tea or coffee he served us before and during work,” adding, “We actually worked for extra hours and benefited financially and completed work in fewer days, and the employer benefited.”
Despite changing his job, Mohammed says with a sigh, “My colleagues and I became addicted to these pills.”
According to Caroline Rose, research on Captagon is so limited that experts are puzzled even about the chemical composition of many of its types.
“The taboos related to drug use, as well as the lack of awareness about the health effects and origin of Captagon, contribute, in my view, significantly to the lack of research on this trade,” she says.
As for Faisal, Captagon has become a part of his daily life, despite his varying feelings towards him, and he says, “I will continue to take it until I can pay off my entire debt, despite the fact that it changed my life (routine) for the worse.”