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Saudi Arabia seizes 12.7 million Captagon pills in pomegranate bust

Four people were arrested in a major drug bust, according to the state-owned Saudi Press Agency, including two Egyptians, one Syrian and one Yemeni national.
Saudi Arabia announced a major Captagon bust this week, with more than 12.7 million pills seized.

DUBAI — Saudi Arabian authorities seized more than 12.7 million tablets of amphetamines hidden in a shipment of pomegranates at the Jeddah Islamic port, the kingdom announced on Tuesday.  

Four people were arrested, according to the state-owned Saudi Press Agency, including two Egyptians, one Syrian and one Yemeni national. They have been arrested and charged and await prosecution. 

Why it matters: Captagon is a synthetic stimulant illegally sold across the Arabian Peninsula. 

There is a multi-billion-dollar black market for Captagon, which in recent years has been regionally manufactured along the Syrian-Lebanon border, according to the Washington-based Arab Center. The highly addictive substance travels through Jordan to reach Gulf states, where it has been a drug of choice among disenfranchised youth, particularly in Saudi Arabia. 

Jordan’s King Abdullah II concluded a three-day trip last week to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, where he met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in Jeddah and UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed. The burden of the Captagon trade, experts told Al-Monitor, was likely one of the main topics discussed during this trip along with the normalization with Syria. 

The Arab Center said that large-scale seizures of Captagon are common but have done little to weaken the multi-billion-dollar industry because state authorities tend to pursue the supply side of the issue without much attention to the demand.

The think tank stated that disaffected young people facing high unemployment and few outlets to relieve their frustrations have gravitated toward the drug as a coping mechanism, which offers a temporary feeling of well-being.

Despite the Syrian government's occasional crackdowns on Captagon, it appears to have more recently become the chief manufacturer of the drug along its border with Lebanon, reports the research organization. 


Amphetamines are classified as stimulant drugs that speed up messages between the brain and the body, and are used to treat conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy. They are highly addictive and dangerous when abused.

In March, Saudi Arabia seized 4.6 million amphetamine pills hidden in a shipment of ceramic toilets, sinks and washbasins and arrested a Jordanian national. 

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