In the aftermath of defeating ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) in Mosul(Iraq) an effort was made to compile as much data as possible on the many dead Islamic terrorists found in the rubble. Few ISIL fighters would surrender and many of them kept fighting even after they were wounded. It was also found that many of the dead (and some of those taken alive) had got by on little sleep for weeks in an effort hold out. One reason for this behavior was drugs. That was not unexpected. What was somewhat surprising was the large number of dead ISIL fighters who were apparently taking more powerful drugs via injection rather than the more common pills.
Counter-terrorism analysts have long recognized the connection between illegal drugs and Islamic terrorism. While these drugs are not forbidden in Islamic scripture, as alcohol is, most Islamic scholars and clerics condemn drug use by Moslems. Yet one of the appeals of Islamic terrorism is the tendency of these groups to point out that there is a long tradition of “Holy Warriors” (what the rest of the world calls Islamic terrorists) using these drugs in various religiously approved ways. For example clerics who support Islamic terrorism say it is justified to manufacture and sell these drugs to infidels (non-Moslems) to raise money for the cause and weaken the enemy. It is also accepted for Islamic terrorists to use drugs to get in the proper mood to carry out suicidal attacks (and blood tests of dead terrorists first revealed this) and to unwind after some high stress combat or maintain alertness during combat. Some Islamic sects allow some drug use to help get into a more meditative mood and get closer to God. That practice is ancient and persists in many other religions. But the use of drugs via injection was always seen as too degenerate and disabling to be useful. It turns out that the injections ISIL fighters in Mosul were taking were for methamphetamine. That is dangerous, especially for new users. But if you are in a “fight to the death” situation the needle seems like the Islamic thing to do.
Drug use by Islamic terrorists is nothing new and it has existed at least since the 11th century. The first recorded users were the Hassassins (or "hashasheen" or users of hashish) of 11th century Iran. The training back then was similar to what many Islamic terrorists groups still use today. There was liberal use of hashish to provide a taste of paradise for new recruits. As is the case now the medieval Hassassins went on suicidal missions assured that they would experience eternal paradise if they died.
The Hassassins began when a Iranian minor noble with a grudge and excellent organizational skills created a network of suicide assassins who were convinced they were doing God’s Will. The Hassassins thrived, and killed, for many decades until the Mongols came along and destroyed their impregnable mountain fortress. The Mongols were not afraid of suicide assassins but were annoyed by them. Back then, annoying the Mongols was almost always fatal.
The current crop of suicide terrorists do not provide a single fortress to go after, so the Mongol approach of overwhelming force applied to one objective will not work. But the resolute Mongol attitude towards terrorism should be remembered. While the Mongols did not adopt Islam until the 13th century they were impressed by the fanaticism and dedication of the Hassassins. Most Mongols eventually abandoned Buddhism (and a host of other religions) for Islam because they considered it a more suitable religion for conquerors. There was also the fact that the term “Islam” is based on the Arab word for “submission.” For the Mongols this was a better fit than the pacifism implicit in their former religions (especially Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity). The Mongols did not change their lifestyle much after the conversion.
Hashish (cannabis, or marijuana, resin) has long been an Islamic terrorist favorite, as are more modern recreational substances like heroin, cocaine and especially methamphetamine pills. For Islamic terrorists the most popular form of meth is actually Captagon, which is the trade name for fenethylline, a synthetic drug that has the same effects as amphetamine but with fewer bad side effects (like increased blood pressure). Fenethylline is still pretty potent and by the 1980s most countries had either outlawed it or made it a prescription drug. Now the most common form of fenethylline is Captagon, which is widely available in the Middle East. Fenethylline was even manufactured by ISIL (for a while) in a captured drug factory using raw materials smuggled in from Turkey. Captagon is considered a major problem in the Middle East because there is so much illegal use of it. It is the stimulant of choice among many Syrian rebels as well as pro-government forces.