Substance Abuse and Addiction in Northern Syria

Syria did not play a significant role in the manufacturing and cultivation of narcotic substances before the war (before 2011). Still, it was a corridor for these substances coming from Afghanistan, Iran, and Lebanon to the Arab Gulf countries. The use of Captagon pills in Syria spread among fighters after 2011, as the Captagon gives abusers a sense of courage and ecstasy, which helps them survive on the battlefronts. However, that was not the main reason for the high spread of substance abuse and trafficking. The Syrian regime and militias loyal to it are the most involved in the production and trade of narcotic substances, primarily since the areas of cultivation and manufacture of these substances are, as known to all, within the areas of the regime’s control and the militias loyal to it. Key informants confirmed that regime forces and pro-regime militias heavily guard these locations. All exports of such substances are made through the regime’s seaports and land border crossings. Published reports indicated that all shipments of narcotic substances seized in many countries, of which Syria was the origin, carried a legal cover from the regime’s Import and Export Directorate. Through the trade in narcotic substances, the regime has been able to form cells affiliated with it in areas outside its control. These cells obtain military and intelligence information from members of military factions who use narcotic substances. The information shows that all the drug promotion networks arrested are linked to the regime’s Military Intelligence and provided it with periodic reports. After the regime became unable to finance the militias loyal to it, it started turning a blind eye to the illegal actions of this militia in the cultivation and manufacture of narcotic substances on the pretext of obtaining funds from this trade to cover the costs of its fighters. This increased the number of entities affiliated with the regime that cultivate, manufacture, and trade narcotic substances. On 7 October 2021, the International Criminal Police (Interpol) reintegrated the Syrian Regime Government into its system to facilitate the exchange of information, which had been suspended since the suspension of the membership of the Syrian Regime in 2012.

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