Karkubi: What is it and what are its effects?

During the last few years, and more especially after the 2020 pandemic, a new drug has become popular on the streets of Morocco and, to a lesser extent, Spain. This is Karkubi, also often called the "drug of the poor", a potent mixture of substances with high psychoactive power that sees its number of users increase day by day.

Produced mainly in areas of Morocco and Algeria with raw materials imported from Spain, the preparation of this drug involves several clearly delimited stages: getting the drugs in Europe (mainly Spain), taking them to North Africa where the mixture is made, and finally distributing it throughout these same areas, including Spain. Today we tell you everything you need to know about this new substance.

Karkubi tablets can look different depending on the lab that made them (Image: Pixabay)
Karkubi tablets can look different depending on the lab that made them (Image: Pixabay)

What exactly is Karkubi?

Karkubi is the name given to a mixture of antidepressant, anxiolytic, and antiepileptic drugs, majoun (a paste made with dried fruit, honey, and hashish) and which may also contain alcohol and/or glue. Although psychotropic drugs such as diazepam, lorazepam and tetrazepam were used years ago, today the most popular drugs when Karkubi are clonazepam (anxiolytic whose most popular trade names are Rivotril and Zatrix) and phenobarbital (antiepileptic, with trade name Gardenal).

The exact mixture and proportions are unknown, basically because it is prepared with the medicines that are available at that time, many times already expired. Once the tablets or capsules are prepared, they can be transported to their respective destinations quickly and without too many problems, certainly much less than if you want to transport hashish or fragrant cannabis flowers.

The "success" of this new drug basically lies in two fundamental aspects: on the one hand, the resulting mixture is really powerful and easy to use, while on the other the price is quite affordable, it is not for nothing that it is called the "drug of the poor". It is not strange, then, that the first places where its use spread were in humble areas and neighborhoods, with low purchasing power and where there are not many alternatives for most young people.

Effects of Karkubi

The effects of this mixture of benzodiazepines (clonazepam and the like) with barbiturates such as phenobarbital and other substances such as hashish or alcohol are frankly overwhelming, greatly affecting the capabilities of the consumer. Among the main effects can be highlighted:

  • Hallucinations
  • Psychopathic behaviors
  • Increased aggressiveness
  • Amnesia (the events that occurred after taking it are not usually remembered)
  • A feeling of euphoria/power
  • Serious behavioral disturbances

Chemical structure of clonazepam, the main base ingredient of Karkubi
Chemical structure of clonazepam, the main base ingredient of Karkubi

However, these are just some of the noticeable symptoms after taking these tablets. Its use can lead to severe intoxication (which can lead to coma), in addition to facilitating accidents and violent/reckless behavior (and what is usually derived from it). As if that were not enough, developing a tolerance to this type of compound makes anesthetizing the subject - in case surgery is needed - really complicated.

Indeed, the habitual use of these substances can generate a strong tolerance to the active principles, which translates into what you surely already know: higher doses will be needed to achieve the same effects, which in turn continues to reinforce said tolerance. The snake bites his own tail. It is not uncommon, then, to find cases of serious addiction to the substance, with obvious withdrawal symptoms in case of not consuming it, in addition to psychiatric disorders derived from its prolonged consumption.

First uses in Morocco

Although in Spain it can be considered a relatively new drug, testimonies say that similar mixtures were already used in areas of Morocco in the 1970s. Since it was something new, powerful, and also in an easy and convenient format to use such as tablets, it quickly spread through the most disadvantaged neighborhoods in the country, especially in the North. Of course, its low price only helped its dispersal in these areas.

Origins and evolution of Moroccan hashish

Traditionally, and before people started to grow their own pot in Spain, Morocco had become the main source of hashish for most European countries. While hashish production in Morocco dates back only some decades, since the 60s it has become - along with Afghanistan - one of the major world producers of this cannabis resin concentrate. In this article we tell you more about the origins of Moroccan hashish and the evolution experienced during the past years.

For decades this mixture was used exclusively in Morocco (maybe Algeria as well) either as Karkubi or by taking medicines on the one hand and hashish and/or alcohol on the other. The cases of addiction increased rapidly, with all the problems that this brings to society, especially when those affected are young adolescents. Can you imagine the risk prevention information about the drug he was taking that a teenager from a slum in Morocco had in the 1980s?

The Karkubi crosses the strait

At the beginning of the new millennium, the situation becomes even more worrying. Mafias that obtain medicines in Spain in various ways have already been established, from prescriptions to drug addicts to theft or false prescriptions. These medicines are transported to Ceuta and Melilla, from where they are taken to their destination, the clandestine laboratories scattered throughout Morocco and Algeria where the mixture is made and the Karkubi tablets are manufactured.

The waters of the Strait of Gibraltar have also become a transit area for the Karkubi (Photo: Gaspar Serrano)
The waters of the Strait of Gibraltar have also become a transit area for the Karkubi (Photo: Gaspar Serrano)

Once manufactured, these tablets make the reverse trip and return to the streets of Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla. But they do not stop there, because during the first decade of the 2000s the first cases of possession and consumption began to be found in Spain. Undoubtedly, one of the things that most attracts attention about the "morality" of these mafias is their main objective: schools, institutes, and basically any place where young people with a few dirhams (or euros) in their pockets can meet.

Post-pandemic situation: The Karkubi boom

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the situation has only worsened, especially in Spain, where Karkubi has established itself as another option within the supply of illegal drugs that can be obtained on the black market. Today the Spanish-Moroccan mafias continue to operate on a larger scale than ever before, and the first laboratories dedicated to the manufacture of Karkubi tablets have already been found in Spain, thus being the first in Europe.

Since then, the number of seizures and arrests has not stopped growing, with a record operation carried out in January 2022 in which more than 500,000 pills were seized between Spain and Morocco. The flow of benzodiazepines and barbiturates arriving in Morocco from Spain and returning to this country in the form of Karkubi does not stop, something that has set off all the alarms both from the State security forces and from the pharmaceutical community.

You will no doubt continue to hear about the Karkubi for years to come, and we are very much afraid that it will not be good news. Given the brutal effect it causes on the user and the ease with which - at least until now - the mafias that produce and distribute it have operated, we have no doubt that, unfortunately, it seems that this substance is here to stay. We hope we are wrong!


The articles published by Alchimiaweb, S.L. are reserved for adult clients only. We would like to remind our customers that cannabis seeds are not listed in the European Community catalogue. They are products intended for genetic conservation and collecting, in no case for cultivation. In some countries it is strictly forbidden to germinate cannabis seeds, other than those authorised by the European Union. We recommend our customers not to infringe the law in any way, we are not responsible for their use.
2023-01-18 News and Events

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