The Walter White of Lebanon


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As many college-aged Americans do, I spend a lot of my free time watching Netflix. I was never really a binge-watcher, though, until I stumbled upon a little well-known television series called Breaking Bad. For my foreign counterparts, in case you don’t have the slightest clue as to the glorious show I am referring to, Breaking Bad was a program about a chemistry teacher named Walter White who eventually builds a methylamine empire in the American Southwest.  It was fantastic.

Part of what made Breaking Bad so ingenious was its story. The entire idea that an average, white, middle class, school teacher with a DEA agent for a brother-in-law could deceive the federal government let alone his family, was absurd. But it worked, and it worked well. The story, despite its nonsensical plot, was so believable and realistic at the same time.

I was scrolling through Vice (which I’m sure you know by now is yet another way I spend my free time) and I stumbled upon story with a similar effect that I thought would be worth sharing.

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Like Walter White is to Heisenberg, this Lebanese engineering student is to Apo. Apo is the Walter White of Lebanon. In 2005, just two years into his mechanical-engineering degree at a major university, Apo spent a lot of his free time not watching Netflix, or even Breaking Bad for that matter, but rather running around the underground music scene in Lebanon and doing drugs. Eventually Abo’s curiosity about the chemical makeup of substances got the best of him, and began to try and make them on his own–starting with meth. He sourced Sudafed from local gym clubs that sold it as an appetite suppressant and purchased the other chemicals from companies that supplied their university’s laboratories and began to “cook”. He and his friends cooked in the basement of their parents’ apartment buildings.

Within in seven months he quickly turned it into a business. He had a crew made up of mostly Armenians that inadvertently infiltrated the Lebanese party scene. As quickly as he was making batches, he was making addicts. Meth was on the rise in Beirut.

However, one of his created addicts just so happened to be an informant for the Lebanese police, and once Apo decided to get clean (as his own addiction was increasing with supply), the customer could no longer receive his supply, and well, ratted him out. Four days after Apo was released from the hospital, police were at his door.

After a lengthy trial and conviction process, Apo was sent to Rumieh–the largest prison in Lebanon, and served four years. He has been released since then and has also returned to school where he is finishing his degree.

Responses to this story would be greatly appreciated. What about it surprised you? Do you think meth is still a problem? What are the rehabilitation centers for drug users like in Lebanon?

Sources: https://www.vice.com/read/the-rise-and-fall-of-the-meth-king-in-lebanon-910

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5 thoughts on “The Walter White of Lebanon

  1. Since I love the show as well, I found it interesting how realistic the TV show’s premise can be. I do still think meth is a growing issue, especially in Northeast OH. In 2012, there were over 709 lab busts from counties in Ohio alone, but the number has just kept growing. The news in places near my hometown is staggering to me, especially coming since there are so many regulations on medicines that contain pseudoephedrine. It makes me consider how well those restrictions actually work and what health policies can be made to combat the situation.

  2. I’m as well a breaking bad addict, I can re-watch the seasons literally whenever at anytime, so when I saw your blog I was really curious to read what it was about. I don’t know if I’m too surprised to hear about a story like this though, it sad but making or selling drugs has become easily accessible to a lot of people, and students like Apo is willing to risk his education. This definitely makes me more curious to find out what kind of issues or problems Lebanon has with drugs across the country though.

  3. Only four years for running a meth lab?! This guy got off easy! The fact that he was allowed to return to school is also surprising. This story is very interesting but I’m just so shocked that the judicial system was so lenient with his sentencing, especially after hearing about life sentences people have received in the Middle East for less. I think people like this who feed the addiction for many others deserve to be put away for a long time.

  4. This was a very interesting blog topic. I never thought something like this could happen in the Middle East. Most countries punish very harshly for having drugs, let alone making them. It was surprising to me that he only received four years and then that a college accepted him to finish his degree. I do not know a lot about drugs over seas but I am guessing if it was easy enough for a college student to create a drug business that it must be a problem.

  5. Guilty as well, I too am obsessed with the show Breaking Bad. Drug production and trafficking have always been issue around the world but recently even more so. I also wonder what the drug crime rate is in the Middle East and how it effects youth as well as communities.

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