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Introduced to the world in 1961, Captagon was a popular alternative to amphetamine and other associated drugs to help people fight fatigue, narcolepsy, and behavioral disorders with minimal side effects. With an aim to be a milder version of drugs like dexamphetamine, it was shortly declared as a controlled substance only a few years after its international debut, leading to a complete manufacturing ban by the 1980s. Unfortunately, Captagon’s international manufacturing continues to date and has recently escalated in the past, especially in the Middle East and Europe. Some even tout it as one of the most popular recreational drugs among the youth of the Middle East. However, it is crucial to remember that Captagon use has been linked to multiple side effects and very high risks of addiction and withdrawals that may prove life-threatening for the body.
What is Captagon? An Overview of Captagon Addiction in Middle East
The international synthesis of Captagon first began in 1961 in Germany. The core chemical included in this drug formulation is fenethylline, which experts used as an alternative to amphetamine-based pharmaceutical drugs for the management of ADHD-related symptoms. Fenethylline, when consumed, breaks down into the body to form theophylline and amphetamine. The primary benefit of using Captagon was that it did not cause any rise in blood pressure compared to other amphetamine-based medications.
Unfortunately, Captagon never got FDA approval, and soon in 1981, the United States government categorized it as a Schedule I controlled substance. Not too long after, the United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances discussed this drug in 1986, following which its manufacturing was slowly phased out for medical use. By 2009, most of the world acknowledged Captagon as a dangerous drug, and its manufacturing and stocks worldwide began to deplete. Most of the remaining stock for the drug entered the illicit market as people started using it as a recreational drug.
The use of Captagon was particularly high in Europe during the 70s and 80s. It was often called “poor man’s cocaine” as it was easy and cheap to produce, and more people could afford it. The low cost associated with the production attracted even the poorest communities. In the current era, Captagon manufacturing continues in the illicit market despite international bans. Syria remains one of the key producers of Captagon, producing billions of tablets that flood the market and supply it to nearby countries.
Why do People Take Captagon Pills?
To understand why people take Captagon, it is imperative to know how people have been misusing amphetamines over the past decade. The medical uses of amphetamine-based medications remain largely known to most people. Such medications can help people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) along with certain sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy. Experts from across the world have been commonly prescribing amphetamines to keep these conditions under control.
While most people trust prescription medications and believe they are safe to use because only a certified professional can prescribe them, some may lead to potential side effects, especially if not used as originally intended. Because of stimulant medication’s effects on the body, an individual may use them for various reasons. For example, a stimulant can be a convenient yet highly dangerous cure for boredom. Some people may rely on it as they wish to focus more on their everyday tasks. Similarly, others may take Captagon pills to boost their metabolism, decrease appetite, and lose body weight. The pills also have comparatively lower prices which makes them even more accessible. Depending on quality and location, Captagon pills may cost as low as $1 to up to $15, each dose producing the desired effects for 2 to 4 hours.
So far, research has indicated several potential causes that may make a person more vulnerable to using drugs, such as Captagon. For such people, the drug of abuse fulfills a purpose, and uncovering and understanding this can help people help their loved ones overcome their addictions and make positive changes in life. Following are some common underlying causes that may make a person abuse Captagon:
- Self-medicating an undiagnosed psychiatric condition
- Previous trauma
- Environmental stressors
- Adverse childhood experiences
- Family history of Substance Use Disorder (SUD)
- Health-related issues
- Poor attachment
Commonly Anticipated Captagon Side Effects
Captagon belongs to a drug category called amphetamines and is a synthetic drug with a chemical relation to two famous neurotransmitters: epinephrine and dopamine. When someone consumes Captagon, they may experience side effects similar to the ones felt with cocaine or methamphetamine use. The drug breaks down inside the body into theophylline and amphetamine, leading to a stimulating and energetic high. As these byproducts reach the brain, they increase dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine levels and boost mood and certain body functions. However, these components may also produce the following side effects eventually:
- Elevated heart rate
- Difficulty sleeping
- Increased energy and alertness
- Elevated blood pressure
- Decreased appetite
- Rapid breathing
- Increased concentration
As with other types of stimulant abuse and addiction, the continued or long-term use of fenethylline or Captagon may lead to insomnia, lethargy, depressive feelings, cardiovascular disease, heart palpitations, and more. Remember that Captagon can also be highly addictive, making it extremely difficult for people to quit using it despite the damage it is causing.
The Risk of Acquiring Captagon Addiction
Surveys assessing treatment admission in the United States over the past few years have indicated amphetamine dependence in up to 7 percent of cases. Hence, the risk of addiction to Captagon use is quite high due to its core amphetamine ingredient. Because the drug has been banned in the international market, people still using it are doing it with recreational intent, further increasing the risk of addiction. The criteria to establish a diagnosis for an amphetamine addiction, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), include the presence of the following four primary symptoms:
- Needing more of the substance to get the same effects, a phenomenon called tolerance
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using the drug
- Craving the drug when not using them
- Continuing to use the drug despite facing negative consequences
While the DSM highlights other possible addiction criteria, those mentioned above are the key signs to rule out a possible Captagon dependence and addiction. If you suspect that you or someone you love has developed an addiction to Captagon or similar drugs, the best course of action is to contact a professional addiction expert for guidance and treatment.
Going Cold Turkey to Quit Captagon? What to Expect
Many people who develop an addiction to Captagon may attempt to stop using the drug suddenly without any professional help or plan. Known as quitting cold turkey, this method can be extremely dangerous and quickly bring on the classic signs of amphetamine withdrawal, which may prove life-threatening in some cases. When the body stops taking amphetamines, such as Captagon, the dopamine levels in the brain suddenly increase. This sudden alteration may shock the body and force it to respond by producing withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild to severe and frightening.
Mentioned below are some common withdrawal symptoms associated with Captagon use.
- Feelings of depression
- Problems sleeping
- Severe anxiety
- Vomiting and other digestive distress
- Twitching or shaking
- Slow thoughts
- Severe fatigue
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Changes to appetite
- Vivid or frightening dreams
- Feelings of intoxication
- Slurred speech
Captagon Effect Duration: How Long Does a Withdrawal Last?
How quickly a withdrawal from Captagon begins and how severe the symptoms are depends on a number of factors that vary from one person to another. For instance, a person’s age, weight, genetics, and gender are important in determining their withdrawal effects timeline and duration. However, most people follow the following timeline when it comes to withdrawing from this stimulant drug:
Day One to Three
Between days one to three following the last Captagon dose, most people addicted to this medication begin feeling a physical crash as their dopamine levels begin to plummet. Some may report feeling depressed and a lot more exhausted than usual.
Day Two to Six
The Captagon withdrawal symptoms may come and go for the next two weeks. Some common effects to experience during this time include severe mood swings, strong cravings for the drug, and poor concentration.
Day Seven Onward
After a week following the last Captagon dose, the withdrawal symptoms may start becoming less severe, with most settling on their own. Some people may struggle a bit longer with certain symptoms, such as cravings and sleep-related issues; however, they will likely go away independently.
In rare cases, a person may continue to experience withdrawal symptoms associated with Captagon for longer than anticipated. Known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome or PAWS, these symptoms may include the following:
- Strong drug cravings
- Sleep-related issues
- Problems with short-term memory
- High fatigue levels
- Physical complaints with no true medical origin
- A lack of self-control
- Depressive thoughts
- Suicidal behaviors
- Difficulty focusing, concentrating, or maintaining attention
- An inability to feel happiness
- Lack of self-control
Recovering from Captagon Addiction and Side Effects
Most people experiencing the negative Captagon side effects are likely to suffer from an underlying addiction. Such an addiction can take a toll on the body, and unfortunately, recovering from it without professional help may be highly difficult. In most cases, it takes an in-depth rehabilitation program to help an individual recover from addictions to stimulants, including fenethylline hydrochloride, because it usually leads to strong cravings. The best way to tackle such addictions is to enroll in an appropriate rehab program where a person can find the right support they need through day and night.
A good residential addiction program begins with an in-depth assessment of the ongoing Captagon side effects and designs a plan based on individual needs. All patients receive custom treatment under the supervision of experienced and highly qualified in-house doctors who will keep supporting them while going forward in the program. Different people may respond to these programs differently, with some making a recovery fairly quickly while others requiring longer rehab stays for a better chance at healing. Most programs will also have additional components like advanced medical treatments, group therapy, individual sessions, family aid groups, and recreational time. No matter how severe an addiction is, it is possible to stop using Captagon with a good-quality program and go on to live a sober, productive life.
Who is taking Captagon?
The popularity of Captagon increased due to its association with the ongoing civil war in Syria after reports emerged of soldiers on both sides using it on the battlefield for enhanced concentration. Some reports also indicated its use by terrorist organizations to feel supernatural and invincible; however, experts have discredited such claims. Despite being a banned drug, its main market continues in the Gulf area, where Captagon remains a popular choice for recreational use, especially in the Saudi Arabian region. Unfortunately, the exact data on how widespread its use is throughout the Saudi Arabian Kingdom is scarce. Still, Captagon continues to hold a popular status among students as a party drug and a way to cope with academic stress.
How severe will my Captagon side effects withdrawal symptoms be?
The severity of side effects and withdrawal symptoms secondary to Captagon will vary from one person to another. The following factors may help establish an estimated timeline and severity:
- How long you have been using Captagon for
- If you have any pre-existing physical or mental ailments
- Your age, weight, and gender
- How much and how frequently you have been using
- Whether you are using Captagon alone or in combination with other substances