Don’t fight sober

Mike Jay

  • Shooting Up: A History of Drugs in Warfare by Łukasz Kamieński
    Hurst, 381 pp, £25.00, March 2016, ISBN 978 1 84904 551 3
  • Blitzed: Drugs In Nazi Germany by Norman Ohler
    Allen Lane, 360 pp, £20.00, October 2016, ISBN 978 0 241 25699 2

In October 2013 a Time magazine article entitled ‘Syria’s Breaking Bad’ alerted Western media to the prevalence across the region of a little-known stimulant drug, Captagon. Lebanese police had found five million locally produced tablets, embossed with a roughly stamped yin-yang symbol, sealed inside a Syrian-made water heater in transit to Dubai. In October 2015 Captagon made global headlines when the Saudi prince Abdel Mohsen was intercepted at Beirut airport with 32 shrink-wrapped boxes and eight leather suitcases containing two tons of top-grade pills, valued at £190 million. By this time rumours abounded on all sides in the Syrian war that Captagon was fuelling a grim cult of battlefield atrocities. An investigation by Vanity Fair in France last April uncovered a trail of testimonies and video images of pumped-up soldiers and ‘zombies roaming, all smiles, across fields of ruins and severed heads’. Caches of pills in ports and abandoned villages supplied the evidence.

The full text of this book review is only available to subscribers of the London Review of Books.

You are not logged in