Pediatric "body packing"

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2003 Feb;157(2):174-7. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.157.2.174.


Background: Recent events in the United States have led to increased security at national borders, resulting in an unexpected increase in drug seizures. In response, drug smugglers may begin using children as couriers, including using them as "body packers."

Objective: To look at the occurrence of body packing, the concealing of contraband within the human body, which is well documented in adults, in the pediatric literature.

Patient reports: Two cases of pediatric body packing, in boys aged 16 years and 12 years. Patient 1, a 16-year-old boy, presented with findings consistent with opioid intoxication after arriving in the United States on a transcontinental flight. His mental status improved after he received naloxone hydrochloride, and he subsequently confessed to body packing heroin. He was treated with a naloxone infusion and aggressive gastrointestinal decontamination. He ultimately passed 53 packets of heroin, one of which had ruptured. He recovered uneventfully. Patient 2, a 12-year-old boy, presented to the emergency department with rectal bleeding. He had recently arrived in the United States from Europe, and he confessed to body packing heroin. He was treated with whole-bowel irrigation and activated charcoal, and he subsequently passed 84 packets. He also recovered uneventfully.

Conclusions: We report the first 2 cases of body packing in the pediatric literature and review the diagnosis and management of this clinical entity. Pediatricians should be aware that body packing, regrettably, is not confined to the adult population.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Charcoal / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Crime*
  • Digestive System / diagnostic imaging*
  • Drug Overdose / diagnosis
  • Drug Overdose / therapy
  • Foreign Bodies*
  • Heroin / poisoning*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Naloxone / therapeutic use
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Narcotics / poisoning*
  • Radiography, Abdominal
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Narcotics
  • Charcoal
  • Naloxone
  • Heroin