This Drone Full of Meth Shows Syria’s Narco Traffickers Are Diversifying

After Jordanian border police shot down a drone carrying crystal meth, experts tell VICE News it shows smugglers are no longer just focused on captagon.
jordan syria drone crystal meth captagon

A Syrian drone carrying crystal meth was shot down over the Jordanian border as smugglers in the region diversify away from captagon, experts say.

Jordanian border patrols on Sunday said they had successfully intercepted a drone attempting to smuggle crystal meth into the country from neighbouring Syria. The latest incident highlights how the Syrian drug trade continues despite Damascus’s promises to curb narcotics trafficking.


The regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian dictator, has established a thriving market for captagon, its signature amphetamine, with an estimated industry value of reaching over $10 billion per year over the past decade.

Syria was recently welcomed back into the Arab League – a confederation of 22 Arab states – on the provision that the regime stops the massive flow of captagon into neighbouring countries. 

Despite repeated denials by Assad and his government, reports have consistently linked Assad and his family to large-scale production of drugs hidden among products exported from Syria, such as pomegranates. Now it appears that drug smugglers are already looking to diversify away from captagon as the regime threatens to crack down on the trade. 

According to a report from the Jordanian state news agency Petra, the country's armed forces took decisive action by gaining control over the drone and ultimately downing it on Sunday.

The incident highlights the challenges faced by Middle Eastern countries to prevent the spread of narcotics from Syria into their territories. 

Caroline Rose, a director at the New Lines Institute in Washington DC, told VICE News: “We’ve certainly seen a strong convergence of captagon and crystal meth routes in recent months, which shows that smuggling networks are seeking to diversify income and are making inroads with illicit groups in Iraq and Iran, key hubs for crystal meth trafficking.” 


The use of drones for the smuggling of drugs is nothing new, and Jordan's security forces have regularly intercepted such attempts along the Syrian border.

As Syria struggles to contain the growing drug market, it uses Jordan as a transit point for the trafficking of drugs to the wider Gulf Arab kingdoms and the global market.

The prolonged civil war in Syria, which has been raging for over a decade, has transformed parts of the country into a major drug hub within the Middle East. Areas under Assad’s control have become key hubs for drug manufacturing and distribution.

Rose added: “Jordan’s interception indicates that despite continued dialogue over counternarcotics and how they can fit into normalisation, the regime is not entirely able to stem the flow of illicit trades, particularly southern networks that have close ties to the Syrian regime’s intelligence apparatus and Fourth Armored Division.”

The bloody civil war in Syria created two significant issues of refugees and drug trafficking that have played well in the hands of Assad, and forced the neighbouring countries to cooperate with him.

In an interview last week with Sky News Arabia, Assad denied his government's involvement in the drug trade and said cracking down on drug trafficking was a concern for his government.