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How the Captagon trade impacts border communities in Lebanon and Syria


Any policy designed to counter the growing Captagon trade must take into account its impact on local border communities.

The growing Captagon trade in Syria and Lebanon has been given much attention in recent months. The networks involved in this trade, such as the Fourth Division of the Syrian Arab Army and other smaller armed groups in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and networks of smugglers in both countries, help extend its reach beyond the borders of Syria and Lebanon, smuggling Captagon to Gulf countries – especially Saudi Arabia – and even to Europe. The transnational nature of this illicit activity and its link to the context of the Syrian conflict requires international policies that take into account cross-border conflict dynamics, including how people can end up involved in illicit activities to cope financially. A key component of any such policy must be an understanding of the impact of the Captagon trade specifically and drug smuggling more generally on local communities, especially those residing in border regions between Lebanon and Syria.

The Syria-Lebanon border is dominated mainly by Hezbollah on the Lebanese side and armed groups on the Syrian side, with the Fourth Division of the Syrian Arab Army being the most influential Syrian actor in the Captagon trade. The course of the Syrian conflict has seen an increase in the number of Captagon factories – some primitive, some more advanced – set up in border areas dominated by armed actors. While the factories have been mainly set up in sparsely populated areas, getting involved in the booming drug trade is often one of the few ways for local residents to generate an income.

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