This is a blog dedicated to a personal interpretation of political news of the day. I attempt to be as knowledgeable as possible before commenting and committing my thoughts to a day's communication.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Superhuman Strength and Courage

"You can't sleep or even close your eyes, forget about it. And whatever you take to stop it, nothing can stop it."
"I felt like I own the world high. Like I have a power nobody has. A really nice feeling." 
Lebanese users

"So the brigade leader came and told us, 'This pill gives you energy, try it. So we took it the first time. We felt physically fit. And if there were ten people in front of you, you could catch them and kill them."
"You're awake all the time. You don't have any problems, you don't even think about sleeping, you don't think to leave the checkpoint."
"It gives you great courage and power. If the leader told you to go break into a military barracks, I will break in with a brave heart and without any feeling of fear at all -- you're not even tired."
ex-Syrian fighter

"Syrian government forces and rebel groups each say the other uses Captagon to endure protracted engagements without sleep, while clinicians say ordinary Syrians are increasingly experimenting with the pills, which sell for between $5 and $20," 
"The breakdown of state infrastructure, weakening of borders and proliferation of armed groups during the ... battle for control of Syria, has transformed the country from a stopover into a major production site." 
A drug control officer in the central city of Homs informed Reuters that he had observed the effects of Captagon on protesters and fighters who had been held for questioning.
"We would beat them, and they wouldn't feel the pain. Many of them would laugh while we were dealing them heavy blows. We would leave the prisoners for about 48 hours without questioning them while the effects of Captagon wore off, and then interrogation would become easier."

Captagon pills are displayed along with a cup containing cocaine at an office of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces, Anti-Narcotics Division, in Beirut in 2010. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images/File)

There's a new weapon being used in Syria, and although it's a chemical by derivation, it does not resemble the other chemicals that the Syrian regime is using in its efforts to destroy its enemies, chemicals of mass destruction, like chlorine gas the regime commonly loads into its barrel bombs for a double-whammy when Syrian citizens of the Sunni variety get hit by government forces. On the other hand, this chemical is also destructive, known to be addictive and capable of breaking down the human body eventually.

Many who have been introduced to it on the battlefield had no idea what it was; could have been caffeine pills to keep them awake, as far as they might have been concerned. But it did work; not only did it keep them awake, but it gave them the courage of their leader's convictions, and it made them feel strong and impervious to harm; it made them temporarily immortal. And that chemical is an amphetamine; the original synthetic drug known as fenethylline: Captagon.

It produces an intense feeling of euphoria, enabling fighters to remain without sleep for days on end as they kill in the line of their duty to the regime, with reckless abandon. The drug, according to one secular ex-Syrian fighter, is perfectly suited for the battlefield, giving soldiers the gift of superhuman energy and the kind of 'courage' that comes with awareness oblivion. The drug has been available in the West since the 1960s, given medically to people suffering from hyperactivity, narcolepsy and depression. Its addictive power eventually led most countries to ban it.

Most countries. It's widely available and has been for years in Saudi Arabia where it sees its largest consumer base. Saudi Arabia is responsible for using great amounts of the chemical; in 2010 about seven tons ended up in the country, representing a full third of the world's supply of the stuff. Estimations are that 40,000 to 50,000 Saudis take to drug treatment each year. Now, production of Captagon is growing in Syria which itself has long been a heavily trafficked highway for drugs, from Europe to the Persian Gulf states.

It's cheap, and it's easy to produce and the materials to do so are perfectly legal. The drug in its finished state can be had for less than $20 per tablet. Cheaper than grenades, rifles, ammunition, and hugely useful to the purpose at hand. It's a must-have for al-Qaeda veterans, Iraqi insurgents, Arab jihadists and Western volunteers, fuelling the incendiary attractiveness of vicious hatreds in Syria and Iraq. The black market economy takes in hundreds of millions annually, attracting new fighters to the conflict, ensuring that the fight goes on.

Psychosis? all to the good, given the brutality of the conflict. Brain damage? those looking in from the outside might contend the drug couldn't possibly inflict any more damage than those using it already suffer through genetic inheritance. "You're talkative, you don't sleep, you don't eat, you're energetic", explained Ramzi Haddad, a Lebanese psychiatrist, describing the stimulant effects of the drug.

"My theory is that Captagon still retains the veneer of medical respectability,” Justin Thomas, an assistant professor of psychology and psychotherapy at the UAE’s Zayed University and author of "Psychological Well-Being in the Gulf States," told Voice Of America in 2010. "It may not be viewed as a drug or narcotic because it is not associated with smoking or injecting." And the additional bonus is that it is so perfectly designed to make killing machines out of those already prepared to conduct themselves like killing machines.

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