Lynn Savage, email@example.com
So, you’ve decided to give up
your career for the exciting life of a drug mule, someone who smuggles illicit goods
by stuffing himself with packets of pure cocaine or other drugs to get them from
supplier to customer. Or maybe you’d rather be on the right side of the law,
helping pick out the mules from the other travelers at the airport or border crossing.
Seems safer and less stressful than worrying about accidental spillage, anyway.
This 3-D reconstruction shows someone who has swallowed several packages
of drugs, which are now mainly located in the person’s bowel just above the
rectum. Photos courtesy of the Radiological Society of North America Inc.
If you chose the latter path, your job just got a little easier
because a recent study has shown that one detection protocol in particular –
computed tomography (CT) – is better at finding packets of cocaine hidden
in assorted body cavities.
Hidden drugs are stashed in various types of packaging, such as
sealed condoms, and either swallowed whole, kept under the tongue, or stuffed into
the rectum or vagina. The packages themselves can range from the size of a pea to
that of a banana. Law enforcement typically turns to one of three imaging techniques
to search for packets of cocaine in suspected smugglers: digital x-ray, linear slit
digital radiography, or computed tomography. However, until Patricia Flach and her
colleagues compared results among the three methods, it wasn’t known which
Flach, who works at the University Hospital of Bern and the Institute
of Forensic Medicine of Bern in Switzerland, and her team analyzed images from 89
radiological exams of 50 suspected drug mules, 43 of whom were eventually confirmed
A 3-D view from the chin, up toward the forehead, indicates the incidental
finding of three cocaine pellets that were being kept under the subject’s
tongue. The subject was immediately placed under arrest.
Of the three techniques, only CT had 100 percent sensitivity,
enabling examiners to find all packages of cocaine hidden inside stomachs, intestines
and other body cavities, no matter where they were hidden or how small they were.
Linear slit digital radiography had 85 percent sensitivity and digital x-rays only
So, if you really want to consider that new career as a smuggler,
you now face the risk of being subjected to large doses of ionizing radiation as
well as the possibility of potent drugs seeping into your bloodstream and the likelihood
of doing jail time for your efforts.