The outcome of drug smuggling by 'body packers'--the British experience

Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2002 Jan;84(1):35-8.


Body packing or internal concealment used by drug dealers to smuggle illicit substances, puts the body packer at risk of both imprisonment and death. We report our experience over a 4 year period from January 1996 to December 1999 of suspects presenting to our hospital (the largest series in Europe). A total of 572 cases were assessed radiographically and 180 were shown to be carrying foreign bodies. The commonest reasons for admission were suspected overdose or gastrointestinal obstruction. Thirty-six cases were admitted, of whom 7 required surgical intervention. No deaths occurred. Of all people detained for smuggling by internal concealment into Britain during this period, 27% were seen in our hospital. These cases may present alone or escorted by Her Majesty's Customs and Excise personnel, and one must be aware of this possibility even when situated away from a port of entry.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Crime*
  • Digestive System* / diagnostic imaging
  • Drug and Narcotic Control
  • Emergencies
  • Female
  • Foreign Bodies / diagnostic imaging*
  • Foreign Bodies / etiology
  • Foreign Bodies / therapy
  • Gastric Lavage
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Intestinal Obstruction / etiology
  • London
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Radiography
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders*


  • Illicit Drugs