The finding of captagon, some kind of amphetamine, in the pockets or blood of many jihadists affiliated to Islamic State – including the attackers in Tunisi and Paris – surprised most of the public opinion. Yes, it’s contradictory with the executions of narcotic users in Daesh, by the very same extremists who alter their perceptions. But using drugs in wars is an ancient practice.
First thing first, captagon is one of the names of fenethylline, a mix of amphetamine and theophylline, taken in Germany since the 60’s against depression and narcolepsy, as alternative of pure amphetamine. Since the mid 80’s World Health Organization banned the product, which wasn’t really abused anyway. At least in the Western countries, while in Arab countries was appreciated and Syria, since the beginning of the civil war in 2011, became the first producer. Captagon is safer than amphetamine, because it doesn’t increase blood pressure and isn’t as addictive. But such as amphetamine, calls off inhibition, hunger and sleep, giving a delusion of grandeur. Nothing new, is the combination with a mind made fanatic by propaganda that is lethal. Or else ravers, doctors, truck drivers (pardon for the joke) would kill each other constantly!
And now some history. Ancient Greeks and Romans mixed alcohol and water in their bottles, to attack the enemy lines a bit dizzy – non too drunk though. So the Celts, even in a more massive way. Viking warriors, the fearsome berserkers, fought in a state of trance, called berserkgangs, probably due to the use of psycho-active substances. It’s also supposed the connection between Hashashin, hashish and assassins, from the Shiite faction of the Hashashins which perpetrated political murders between VIII and XIV century, under the influence of hashish. Some populations like Matse, of Amazon Forest, use some weeds also in hunting, to amplify senses and attention. They believe that jaguars too eat this plants, and that’s why they’re so lethal.
In contemporary wars didn’t change much. In World War II nazi soldiers used amphetamine, Japaneses and Americans too, and they remained addicted after the conflict. Same destiny of the marines back from Vietnam, but it’s a different story. They abused marijuana and heroin to release the stress, not to stay awake. Same plot after 9/11, in Iraq and Afghanistan American soldiers used modafinil and classic amphetamine, not without problems. A green beret, under the influence, accidentally shot four allied Canadians.
It’s a paradox how the same Governments who spend billions in the war on drugs or groups that punish the use of narcotics with death penalty, if they have to prevail against the enemy, don’t mind to step on everyone and everything. But as the French taught us, à la guerre comme à la guerre.