Saudi tops in abuse of stimulants in Gulf


Based on a ruling by the Supreme Ulema, drug smugglers and those who receive and distribute drugs from abroad, if caught, would receive the death penalty.

The UNODC report, which uses words like ‘unprecedented’ and ‘dramatic increase’ to describe the abuse of stimulants in the Kingdom, said stimulants from Bulgaria and Turkey are being trucked through Syria and Jordan and distributed throughout the Gulf region.

“More illegal amphetamines are being seized in the Gulf than in the United States, China and Britain combined,” says the 303-page report released last week. It adds that Captagon pills – a mixture of the stimulants fenethylline and caffeine – are available for only a few riyals on the streets of Jeddah, Manama and Doha.

The UNODC report documents how Captagon seizures mushroomed from 291 kgs in 2000 to 12.3 tons in 2006, and reveals how young Saudis and Arabs fall prey to drugs and addiction.

Captagon was originally prescribed for treating severe conditions such as depression and narcolepsy.

The 30mg tablets have become a craze among the Gulf’s sizeable population of teenagers and adults aged 20-25, offering users a sensation of self-confidence that eventually leads to addiction and paranoia. Boys tend to take the drug for its stimulating effect while girls are using it as a combination stimulant/weight loss supplement.

Both sexes use the drug to stay awake as they study for final exams or for recreation at social gatherings.

Omani officials have also confiscated two tons of illegal stimulants recently, while smaller shipments were seized in Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait.

The report also speaks about the lack of enforcement and forensics infrastructure, which have been eluding all attempts to tackle Captagon traffickers.

According to Dr. Mahmoud Abdulrehman Mahmoud, a researcher in drug addiction, teenagers who smoke are eight times more likely to take to drugs. He explained that some teens will experiment and stop while others will develop a dependency or addiction, often moving on to more dangerous drugs causing significant harm to themselves and possibly to others.

The family has to be careful in detecting early signs leading to the habit of using drugs.

According to Dr Mounir Soussi, consultant psychiatrist at Al Amal Hospital in Jeddah, if parents notice any unusual behaviour in teenagers such as an unexplained drop in grades, irregular school attendance, impaired short-term memory or red eyes, they should be on their guard and take remedial measures before it is too late.

Psychologists say that addiction often creates an unstable family environment. Parents may not be able to satisfy their children’s emotions when they feel insecure or unloved. Therefore, the children themselves may also begin to take on responsibilities which are inappropriate to their age that should otherwise be shouldered by adults.

“Children with addict parents can show anti-social behaviour by skipping school, aggressiveness, hyperactivity and eating disorders,” said Eimad Mohsin, a psychologist based in Jeddah.


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