Hamas gunmen were high on drugs when they carried out the October 7 attack on Israel, according to an Israeli news channel. Captagon pills, known as the “poor man’s cocaine,” is a synthetic amphetamine-like stimulant that Israeli forces found in the pockets of some dead terrorists.
The find confirms earlier reports and testimony from survivors who stated that Hamas militants appeared under the influence of substances during the attack. One piece in the New Yorker quoted a survivor as saying the gunmen had “crazy joy in their eyes like they were high on something” while they rampaged through kibbutzim in southern Israel, killing more than 1,400 people.
Notably, Captagon is often referred to as the “jihadi drug,” as it is rife across the Middle East. The UK government says the drug is a cash cow for Syrian President Bashir Assad as most of it is produced in his country. British officials estimate it is worth $57 billion annually – three times the value of the Mexican cartel industry.
When the Arab League welcomed Syria this year after an eleven-year absence, the reason cited was Captagon and the need to bring it under control amid a growing addiction crisis in the region.
Captagon became widespread during the war in Syria as soldiers used it to remain alert and boost their courage. It spread quickly, and Syrian militias spotted a business opportunity and a chance to cultivate their finances, so a new trade blossomed. It is now so widespread that Lebanese officials seized six million tablets last December alone.
Drug experts say Captagon is one of several names for the compound fenethylline hydrochloride, and its production can be traced back to the early 1960s. It is an amphetamine that stimulates the central nervous system, boosting physical strength and confidence. In a BBC documentary in 2015, users described it as providing a sense of “power.” One person said, “There was no fear anymore after I took Captagon.”