Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Associated Press

Scientists reported today that they have figured out how the popular illicit stimulant Captagon works and that they may have a way to combat its effects.

  • Captagon or fenethylline is popular in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Gulf (where counterfeit pills also abound).
  • There have been reports of the "Jihadi pill" being used by ISIS fighters as a performance stimulator—though that has been questioned.
  • The drug was first used in the 1960s to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy but became illegal in most countries, including the U.S., in the 1980s after its addictiveness became apparent.

How it works: When ingested, fenethylline is broken down to the stimulant amphetamine and theophylline (a caffeine-like substance that relaxes the muscles around the lungs and is used to treat respiratory diseases). It was unclear how exactly the drug works in the body. Kim Janda and his colleagues from Scripps Research Institute found the combination of theophylline and amphetamine greatly enhances amphetamine's psychoactive properties.

"This drug is much more dangerous than was previously thought in terms of its overall psychoactive properties. We need greater awareness of the issues and its abuse effects" Janda said in a press conference.

What they did: The researchers made fenethylline in the lab (producing it is relatively easy and it's believed to be a revenue source for ISIS). They then vaccinated mice against the different components of fenethylline, administered the drug and determined how each substance affected their vigilance and movement, as well as the drug's uptake by the brain and body.

"The two drugs act synergistically and individually to hit their targets at the same time and it boosts the overall stimulant effect. What we see with the combination of these two drugs is we get a faster onset of the amphetamine properties and much stronger than what you would [normally] see — that was completely unexpected and unknown. It really explains why this drug is being so heavily abused," says Janda.

Janda, who is working on a vaccine for heroin, says the initial intent of the study wasn't a vaccine for fenethylline but that the study vaccine's components could be adjusted if there was interest in developing a vaccine for humans.

A term to know: Pharmacoterrorism refers to drugs originally produced for therapeutic benefit being abused in terror attacks for morale building or hypervigilance or to therapeutic drugs being weaponized.

Important side note: The researchers say their vaccine approach could be used to better understand how other drugs affect the brain. "[Natural products, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-seizure and other complex drugs] typically have multiple targets and figuring out how they interact with those targets is challenging. This approach can be used to figure out what effects are useful and helpful, and which are toxic or potentially link with abuse liabilities," says Janda.

Go deeper

Capitol repairs, security top $30M since Jan. 6 attacks

Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

The Architect of the Capitol Brett Blanton on Wednesday said that repairs and security expenses related to the Jan. 6 insurrection have already cost more than $30 million.

The state of play: Congressional appropriations committees have allocated the $30 million for repairs and perimeter fencing around the Capitol building through March 31, per NPR.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

White House stands by imperiled Tanden nomination after Senate panel postpones hearing

Neera Tanden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Senate Homeland Security Committee is postponing a confirmation hearing scheduled Wednesday for Neera Tanden, Axios has learned, a potential death knell for President Biden's nominee to lead the Office of Management and Budget.

The latest: Asked Wednesday afternoon whether Tanden has offered to withdraw her nomination, Psaki told reporters, "That’s not the stage we’re in." She noted that it's a "numbers game" and a "matter of getting one Republican" to support the nomination.

Acting Capitol Police chief: Officers were unsure of lethal force rules on Jan. 6

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Acting U.S. Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman wrote in prepared remarks for a House hearing on Thursday that officers in her department were "unsure of when to use lethal force" during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Why it matters: Capitol Police did deploy lethal force on Jan. 6 — shooting and killing 35-year-old Ashli Babbit — but have faced questions over why officers appeared to be less forceful against pro-Trump rioters than participants in previous demonstrations, including those over Black Lives Matter and now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!