I read another article the other day that said that seizures of amphetamine in Saudi Arabia accounted for almost a third of all the amphetamines seized worldwide.
Amphetamine use rises in region
James Reinl, United Nations Correspondent
June 28. 2008
NEW YORK // A major report from the United Nations’ drugs office says Gulf countries have seen a sharp increase in the use of amphetamines.
Speaking at the launch of the UN’s 2008 World Drug report in New York on Thursday, Antonio Maria Costa, the head of the UN office on drugs and crime (UNODC), said seizures of amphetamines in 2006 in the sparsely populated Gulf exceeded the combined confiscations of the United States, China and Britain.
The report mentioned the use of an amphetamine known as maximo forte as well as methamphetamines, but officials are most concerned about the spread of a synthetic drug called Captagon, which is mass-produced in illegal labs in Bulgaria and Turkey before being trucked through Syria, Jordan and distributed throughout the Gulf via Saudi Arabia.
The report said that a combination of high incomes, state handouts and limited job opportunities for young men across the country was spawning a drugs epidemic on a scale comparable to the cocaine problem in the United States in the 1980s.
Mr Costa said he was “very pessimistic” about the high rates of abuse in Saudi Arabia – the Gulf country with the biggest amphetamine problem.
“Addiction to amphetamines seems to have increased by a very large amount,” Mr Costa said during the launch of the report in New York on Thursday. “I am talking about a 150 per cent to 200 per cent spike in the past six years.”
The report documents how Saudi amphetamine seizures mushroomed to 12.3 tonnes in 2006 from 291kg in 2000. The same year saw Omani officials confiscate two tonnes of stimulants, while smaller shipments were captured in the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.
Captagon pills, a mixture of the stimulants fenethylline and caffeine, change hands for only a few dollars on the streets of such cities as Jeddah, Dubai and Muscat, said Thomas Pietschmann, a researcher for the UNODC.
The 30mg tablets have become a craze among the Gulf’s sizeable population of teenagers and adults ages 15 to 25, mostly young men who think the drug will boost their libidos. Exact figures were unavailable and the report’s authors have called for a greater study of the issue.
“Very often, people have the idea that, when they take amphetamines, they can be sexually more active. There is no scientific proof for this – but it is in the mindset of people,” Mr Pietschmann said.
“People take the drug because it gives them a feeling of self-confidence; but later they become extremely addicted and experience paranoia. The drug can even cause death. It is destroying your brain cells.”
The 303-page report describes the rise in Gulf use as “unprecedented” and a “cause for concern”, highlighting the need for further studies to determine the true breadth of the problem.
It also criticised the lack of “enforcement and forensics infrastructure” to tackle Captagon traffickers, and unwillingness among Gulf officials to admit to having a drugs problem.
Mr Costa criticised the Saudi government for failing to provide the UN drugs body with data for its widely respected annual report, saying researchers were forced
to source statistics from other agencies.
“Saudi Arabia has not provided any statistical information regarding seizures or abuse since 2001. It has not complied with the requirements of providing us with an annual questionnaire,” Mr Costa said.
Captagon was the brand name for the stimulant drug fenethylline, originally prescribed for treating conditions such as depression and narcolepsy. It has been illegal in Gulf countries for several years, but counterfeit versions – containing fenethylline and sometimes other, cheaper amphetamines – continue to be available on the black market.