How does one massacre scores of people? Drugs may help. French media are reporting that the Paris attackers may have taken Captagon, a synthetic drug that suppresses hunger and reduces the need for sleep. Also known as the "jihadist's drug," it's a favorite of ISIS fighters, reports ABC Australia. Police say syringes, needles, and plastic tubing were found in a hotel room rented by Salah Abdeslam, while survivors describe the terrorists as serene and composed. "They were like zombies," says one. "It's as if they were drugged." Captagon's active ingredient, fenethylline, breaks down into theophylline—similar to caffeine—and amphetamine, which boosts pleasure and alertness and reduces a person's need for sleep and food. But experts tell Live Science the drug isn't as potent as Adderall.
Captagon was originally developed in the 1960s to treat hyperactivity and depression, but it was found to be addictive and later banned in many countries. It's now almost exclusive to the Middle East. Since the start of the civil war in Syria, where a pill sells for $5 to $20, production has been on the rise, with both sides accusing their enemies of taking Captagon. A drug control officer told Reuters last year that fighters appeared to be using the drug. "We would beat them, and they wouldn't feel the pain. Many of them would laugh," he says. An expert tells Live Science that Captagon is "not a magical painkiller," though. Rather, "when you're hyperstimulated and very focused, you tend not to react to pain as much." The Tunisian attacker who killed 38 people in June is suspected of taking Captagon, reports ABC. (A Saudi prince was arrested with 40 pills last month.)