Apple, condom, and cocaine – body stuffing in prison: a case report
Journal of Medical Case Reports201812:35
© The Author(s). 2018
Published: 11 February 2018
Drug dealers and drug users resort to body stuffing to hastily conceal illicit drugs by ingesting their drug packets. This practice represents a medical challenge because rupture of the often insecure packaging can be toxic and even lethal. In an emergency setting, official guidelines are needed to help the medical team decide on the proper treatment. A preliminary observation period is generally accepted but its duration varies from hours to eventual packet expulsion.
This case involves a 20-year-old white man in detention who claimed to have ingested one cocaine packet wrapped in plastic food-wrap and a condom in anticipation of an impending cell search. He reached out to medical professionals on day 4 after having unsuccessfully tried several methods to expel the drug packet, including swallowing olive oil, natural laxatives, liters of water, and 12 carved apple chunks. An initial computed tomography scan confirmed multiple packet-sized images throughout his stomach and bowel. After 24 hours of observation and normal bowel movements without expelling any packets, a subsequent scan found only one air-lined packet afloat in the gastric content. Due to the prolonged retention of the package there was an increased risk of rupture. The packet was eventually removed by laparoscopic gastrotomy.
This case report illustrates that observation time needs to be adapted to each individual case of body stuffing. Proof of complete drug package evacuation ensures secure patient discharge. Body stuffers should be routinely asked for a detailed history, including how the drug is wrapped, and whether or not they ingested other substances to help expel the packets. The history enables the accurate interpretation of imaging. Repeated imaging can help follow the progress of packets if not all have been expelled during the observation period. Drug packets should be surgically removed in case of prolonged retention. To ensure the best possible outcomes, patients should have access to high-quality, private, and confidential medical care, which is equal to that offered to the general population. This is paramount to earning trust and collaboration from people in detention who resort to body stuffing.
Body stuffingPrisonCocaineCondomAppleGastric retentionRadiology pitfalls