[The body packer syndrome]

Presse Med. 2001 Feb 17;30(6):264-7.
[Article in French]


Background: Ingestion of illicit drug packages is a well known method for transportation. These packages are prone to rupture causing overdose. The body packer syndrome may be overlooked in medical practice as illustrated by the following case report.

Case report: A 19-year old male had convulsions followed by cardiac arrest during a flight. He was resuscitated in the plane, but he died a few hours after admission in intensive care unit. Chest and abdominal X-rays were considered normal. Cocaïne métabolites were found in his urine. The death was considered suspicious. X-rays performed before medicolegal autopsy showed numerous packages in his digestive tract. Thirty-six packages were found in the stomach and intestine. Two were ruptured in the stomach. The cause of death was cocaïne overdose caused by package rupture.

Discussion: The packages are usually visible on an standard abdomen X-ray. The drug is often wrapped in latex membranes or condoms. The air is trapped between the condoms by the nodes, forming two crescents visible on the X-ray. Surgery is preferred to laxatives when the packages are fragile with a high risk of rupture.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • English Abstract

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cocaine / poisoning*
  • Crime
  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors / poisoning*
  • Drug Overdose
  • Fatal Outcome
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Product Packaging
  • Stomach Rupture / drug therapy*
  • Substance-Related Disorders
  • Syndrome
  • Transportation


  • Dopamine Uptake Inhibitors
  • Cocaine