Police said he was under the influence of shabu, a methamphetamine, according to local newspapers.
The kingdom, they say, is one of the region’s biggest and most lucrative drug destinations, and that status is only escalating.
Captagon was originally the brand name for a drug containing the synthetic stimulant fenethylline. Although it is no longer produced legally, counterfeit drugs bearing the name captagon are regularly seized in the Middle East, according to the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
The drug was popularized in the kingdom about 15 years ago, but has taken off more intensely in the last five years, “possibly becoming on par with cannabis”, according to Vanda Felbab-Brown, a member of the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, who wrote on the subject.
The Saudi Center for International Communication did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.
“Captagon’s amphetamine-like properties are researched as a coping mechanism that may help food-insecure users stave off hunger and induce a euphoric ‘rush’ that users say helps with traumatic stress” said Caroline Rose, a senior analyst at the New Lines Institute in Washington, DC, who has studied the captagon trade. “It has also been said that these same characteristics for captagon have been sought after by foreign workers in wealthy Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, seen as boosting job performance.”
“In wealthier consumer markets, the drug has a different appeal, serving as a recreational activity among its growing population of young people who, despite social reforms…would have struggled with boredom amid widespread unemployment among young people and a lack of opportunities for leisure activities,” says Rose. “Some users have justified captagon as a less taboo substance, compared to ‘harder’ drugs like opiates and cocaine.”
Given that many young people in Saudi Arabia use drugs out of boredom and a lack of social opportunities, the increased freedoms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman could help curb some of that use, Felbab-Brown said.
“The important thing is neither to restrict freedoms, nor to turn concerts into places of raids and raids, but rather to educate young people,” she told CNN.
In recent years, a number of drug treatment centers have sprung up across the kingdom after the government began licensing private facilities.
“We are unfortunately in high demand,” he told CNN. “But at least people now have an option, instead of having to travel to neighboring countries for treatment.”
Despite the presence of rehabilitation centers, Rose says there are few public health messages or campaigns to raise awareness about captagon.
“While this taboo regarding drug use in the kingdom leads nowhere, the government’s tendency to exclusively secure this issue and downplay its role as a destination market will be harder to ignore,” she said.
Felbab-Brown says drug policies in the Middle East have focused on the tougher answers.
“Unlike large parts of the world [that] abandoned these rigid and mostly ineffective or downright counterproductive policies, the Middle East often doubled down on them,” she said. “Imprisoning users is ineffective and counterproductive.
US says Iran’s response to EU proposal to revive nuclear deal ‘not constructive’
- Background: Earlier this week, at a press conference in Russia, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Iran needed guarantees that the United States would not withdraw from nuclear deal and would not apply new sanctions as happened under the Trump administration.
- Why is this important: The United States and Iran exchanged responses to a “final” EU text aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that he hoped the talks could be concluded within a few days. French President Macron also said on Thursday that he hoped to conclude the talks in the coming days. It is unclear how the talks will progress from here as Iran continues to increase its uranium enrichment and break its commitments under the nuclear deal.
Four dead in Shia clashes in Basra, Iraq
Clashes between rival Shiite groups killed four people in Iraq’s Basra on Thursday as the fallout from the country’s worst political violence in years continues, Reuters reported. Basra is the main oil-producing city in Iraq and now the violence has spread from Baghdad to the south.
- Background: The violence began earlier this week in Baghdad when the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced his resignation from political life. The move sparked an intense series of infighting between Iran-backed Shiite groups and al-Sadr supporters. Both sides have been trying to exert control since parliamentary elections in October 2021 saw Iranian-backed blocs lose seats to the Sadrists. Despite his victory, al-Sadr failed to form a government despite opposition from his rivals.
- why is it important: The episode served as a reminder of the fragility of the government in Baghdad, which has remained largely neutral in the crisis, as well as competing domestic and foreign actors seeking to control the country’s politics.
Turkish pop star faces up to 3 years in prison for joking about religious schools
- Background: Last week, Gulsen was jailed pending trial after a video circulating on social media showed her commenting on religious schools in Turkey, according to state-run Anadolu news agency. . During a concert in April, Gulsen said: “[He] graduate of Imam Hatip [religious schools.] That’s where her evil side comes from,” referring to a person on stage. The singer denied the accusation, saying it was a joke, and apologized to those offended by it. her remarks. She has since been released but placed under house arrest. A criminal court in Istanbul will assess the indictment and decide whether to accept or deny it. If accepted, hearings will begin and Gulsen will face trial. before the tribunal.
- Why is this important: Gulsen has previously been targeted by conservative groups in Turkey for her revealing stage outfits and support for the LGBTQ community. His recent arrest sparked outrage and support from fans on social media. Some critics say it is part of a move by Turkish officials to win support from their religious and conservative base ahead of next year’s election.