Those suspected of concealing illicit drugs often present near ports and borders however they can present to any ED or be brought in by the police.
Body Packers – Swallow large quantities of well packaged drugs to smuggle them into countries or institutions. These are often well manufactured with a low risk of rupture but the potential for serious toxicity if rupture occurs.
Body Stuffers – Swallow small quantities of poorly packaged illicit substances often at the point of arrest to conceal them. These have a much high risk of package rupture but involve smaller quantities of substances.
Authorisation for an intimate search or radiological investigation must come from an inspector or higher with written consent from the patient.
Intimate searches must be carried out by a police surgeon but require immediately available resuscitation facilities therefore may be conducted in the ED. ED physicians should not handle the drugs at any time.
AXR or low dose CT scanning can be used to detect concealed packages in Body Packers.
Try to obtain a history of what and how much has been concealed
Police should be informed of the incident for several reasons: 1. Public safety, 2. To collect the evidence and possible find out what it was for you. (if this is not a criminal act Public health England can advise on return/disposal of personal effects)
Inform Manager On-Call of incident as it may disrupt the functioning of ED and can provide support.
Patient symptom-free and substance unknown
In our recent case Public Health England advised
Discharge with advice:
“if developing symptoms to return to the ED via ambulance but the patient must be aware that they must inform 999 of the original exposure.”
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