Some 1.5 million Captagon amphetamine pills were reportedly seized by Lebanese customs inspectors at Beirut International Airport before before they could be smuggled to Qatar.
Reuters said 230kg of the drugs were found hidden inside table beams being shipped to Qatar, citing a statement from Lebanon’s Finance Ministry released late Thursday. The report did not mention any arrests, or indicate whether the drugs were intended for distribution in Qatar or meant to be transported onwards to another country.
The number of drug shipments seized at Qatar’s airports has grown in recent years, with hashish being the most commonly intercepted narcotic, officials have said. Cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs have also been seized.
Many of the smugglers arrested in Qatar are transiting through the Gulf country, taking advantage of its growing status as an international aviation hub. However, the Gulf is a popular market for Captagon – the drug seized in Lebanon – and has surfaced in Qatar before.
Initially developed as a legal pharmaceutical product in the 1960s to treat narcolepsy, depression and what is now referred to as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, Captagon – the trademark name for fenethylline – was outlawed in most countries in the 1980s because of its addictiveness.
It’s a stimulant that gives users a burst of energy that helps them stay awake for prolonged periods of time while suppressing their appetite.
While a UAE psychologist has suggested its users may include shift workers trying to stay awake, club-goers and college students trying to stay alert while studying, media reports have also found that combatants in Syria have turned to Captagon to help them keep fighting.
Captagon can be produced cheaply with mostly legal substances. However, a study by Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health found that most seized Captagon pills were made from “random” manufacturing processes and bore only a limited resemblance to the original pharmaceutical product.
Authorities in GCC states have been battling the drug for several years.
Qatar seized some 4 million Captagon pills in 2009, according to The Peninsula. Two years later, the Ministry of Interior found 4.02 million pills in a single shipment aboard a cargo ship.
The drug has continued to turn up in recent years, including 32,000 pills seized in November 2014, according to the US Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
Last week’s discovery of the Captagon consignment destined for Qatar came several days after Lebanese authorities arrested five Saudis for attempting to smuggle two tons of the drug aboard a private plane destined for Riyadh.