These are the 9 most popular and bizarre drugs in the Middle East

Published October 25th, 2015 - 10:19 GMT

If you thought the strict drug laws in the Middle East meant that Arabs don’t get high, think again. The region is no prude when it comes to psychotropic substance use. But these aren’t necessarily the kinds of drugs you might expect -- Middle Eastern countries often get creative with their less-than-legal “self-medication.” Teenagers in the UAE, for example, are known for smoking crushed ants. In Syria, amateur chemists make synthetic stimulants to pump up rebel fighters for battle. Here are the most popular and most bizarre drugs in the Middle East.

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man chewing khat in Yemen

Khat in Yemen: When chewed, a mild stimulant. The plant’s effects have been called a “less addictive cocaine” as it produces mild euphoria and energizes you. The drug is native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and has been around for thousands of years. Fully 60% of cropland in Yemen is devoted to growing the stuff.

tramadol pills in egypt

Tramadol in Egypt: This opioid pill is hugely popular, because it produces effects similar to heroin, and has a reputation for increasing men’s sexual stamina. According to the Economist, Tramadol became even more widely available in the country after Mubarak’s overthrow, when the state-run border control broke down.

egyptian kids doing kolla

Kolla in Egypt: The inhalant “kolla,” which comes from an adhesive material similar to glue, is a problem in Egypt, where homeless children from abusive families sniff the cheap substance to obtain a fleeting feeling of euphoria before crashing back to their harsh reality minutes later. Scientists say it has destructive effects on the brain.

captagon pills syria

Captagon in Syria: Otherwise known as fenethylline, “captagon” was once used as an anti-depressant in Western countries before it was deemed too addictive. Now, the synthetic stimulant is mostly made in labs in Syria, where rebel fighters take it to pump themselves up for battle, or sell it abroad to bring in more cash to buy weapons with.

hash brick lebanon with flag

Weed & hash in Lebanon: Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley is full of Shia farmers and Sunni villages alike that grow and manufacture vast quantities of cannabis and hashish. The weed & hash get sold domestically, but also internationally: to the Syrian Army and ISIS as well as to Israel and Jordan. Is it any wonder Lebanon put a tree on its national flag?

tel aviv nightclub

Hagigat in Israel: This natural stimulant, also known as “khat Eden” or “Red Riding Hood,” is derived from the khat plant. It makes users energized and talkative, and was available legally from outdoor kiosks in Israeli cities until about 6 years ago, when the government said it harmed users’ kidneys and livers and could trigger strokes.

poppy farmers afghanistan

Opium in Afghanistan: Before the US invasion, Afghanistan produced about 70% of the world’s opium. Fifteen years and $8.2 billion of US taxpayer money later, it produces even more -- close to 90% -- making it the leading producer of any country in the world.

US soldier in poppy field in iraq

Opium in Iraq: Starting around 2010, when the rising price of fertilizer & competition from cheap imported produce made it difficult for Iraqi farmers to survive growing legal crops, they began cultivating opium. Iraq’s high heat & humidity are obstacles to growing the poppies, but farmers in Diyala Province and along the Euphrates still manage.

Smoking ants in UAE: Children and low-wage workers in the UAE are smoking dried, crushed “samsum” ants to get high, according to health officials and local media reports. The ants contain formic acid which provides a cheap way to get stoned (just mix the powder with tobacco, or smoke it straight) but can have poisonous effects, too.

Smoking ants in UAE: Children and low-wage workers in the UAE are smoking dried, crushed “samsum” ants to get high, according to health officials and local media reports. The ants contain formic acid which provides a cheap way to get stoned (just mix the powder with tobacco, or smoke it straight) but can have poisonous effects, too.

man chewing khat in Yemen
tramadol pills in egypt
egyptian kids doing kolla
captagon pills syria
hash brick lebanon with flag
tel aviv nightclub
poppy farmers afghanistan
US soldier in poppy field in iraq
Smoking ants in UAE: Children and low-wage workers in the UAE are smoking dried, crushed “samsum” ants to get high, according to health officials and local media reports. The ants contain formic acid which provides a cheap way to get stoned (just mix the powder with tobacco, or smoke it straight) but can have poisonous effects, too.
man chewing khat in Yemen
Khat in Yemen: When chewed, a mild stimulant. The plant’s effects have been called a “less addictive cocaine” as it produces mild euphoria and energizes you. The drug is native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and has been around for thousands of years. Fully 60% of cropland in Yemen is devoted to growing the stuff.
tramadol pills in egypt
Tramadol in Egypt: This opioid pill is hugely popular, because it produces effects similar to heroin, and has a reputation for increasing men’s sexual stamina. According to the Economist, Tramadol became even more widely available in the country after Mubarak’s overthrow, when the state-run border control broke down.
egyptian kids doing kolla
Kolla in Egypt: The inhalant “kolla,” which comes from an adhesive material similar to glue, is a problem in Egypt, where homeless children from abusive families sniff the cheap substance to obtain a fleeting feeling of euphoria before crashing back to their harsh reality minutes later. Scientists say it has destructive effects on the brain.
captagon pills syria
Captagon in Syria: Otherwise known as fenethylline, “captagon” was once used as an anti-depressant in Western countries before it was deemed too addictive. Now, the synthetic stimulant is mostly made in labs in Syria, where rebel fighters take it to pump themselves up for battle, or sell it abroad to bring in more cash to buy weapons with.
hash brick lebanon with flag
Weed & hash in Lebanon: Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley is full of Shia farmers and Sunni villages alike that grow and manufacture vast quantities of cannabis and hashish. The weed & hash get sold domestically, but also internationally: to the Syrian Army and ISIS as well as to Israel and Jordan. Is it any wonder Lebanon put a tree on its national flag?
tel aviv nightclub
Hagigat in Israel: This natural stimulant, also known as “khat Eden” or “Red Riding Hood,” is derived from the khat plant. It makes users energized and talkative, and was available legally from outdoor kiosks in Israeli cities until about 6 years ago, when the government said it harmed users’ kidneys and livers and could trigger strokes.
poppy farmers afghanistan
Opium in Afghanistan: Before the US invasion, Afghanistan produced about 70% of the world’s opium. Fifteen years and $8.2 billion of US taxpayer money later, it produces even more -- close to 90% -- making it the leading producer of any country in the world.
US soldier in poppy field in iraq
Opium in Iraq: Starting around 2010, when the rising price of fertilizer & competition from cheap imported produce made it difficult for Iraqi farmers to survive growing legal crops, they began cultivating opium. Iraq’s high heat & humidity are obstacles to growing the poppies, but farmers in Diyala Province and along the Euphrates still manage.
Smoking ants in UAE: Children and low-wage workers in the UAE are smoking dried, crushed “samsum” ants to get high, according to health officials and local media reports. The ants contain formic acid which provides a cheap way to get stoned (just mix the powder with tobacco, or smoke it straight) but can have poisonous effects, too.
Smoking ants in UAE: Children and low-wage workers in the UAE are smoking dried, crushed “samsum” ants to get high, according to health officials and local media reports. The ants contain formic acid which provides a cheap way to get stoned (just mix the powder with tobacco, or smoke it straight) but can have poisonous effects, too.