Q. When reading past clinical notes of cocaine users for one of our studies, I came across multiple mentions of packers and stuffers. In the context of drugs, what exactly do these terms mean?
A. Both terms revolve around the notion of smuggling illicit drugs by concealing them within the human body. Body ‘packers’ are international smugglers that ingest or “insert into body orifices” small packages of drugs for the purposes of “transport and subsequent retrieval of the drug in a foreign country”, while body ‘stuffers’ are individuals who ingest illegal drugs in an effort to conceal evidence of drug handling from authorities. The most fundamental difference between the two is the sheer magnitude of both drugs and preparation involved. While body packers undergo extensive preparation to ‘securely’ pack high, ‘supra-lethal’ amounts of drugs, body stuffers ingest packets of drugs quite suddenly when unexpectedly confronted by authorities.
Usually, unruptured packets in the GI tract can be removed by whole-bowel irrigation. Once packets rupture, immediate surgical or endoscopic removal of all packets is needed. However, this can rarely performed in time as the quantity of drug released is fatal.