WHAT not to do on your vacation in Jamaica:
Customs brought this guy to my ER last night, from the airport. My hospital is the closest hospital to our local airport, and gets a fair number of patients from there, many of them with very strange problems. This young man was on a flight from Jamaica, and was acting... strangely. Customs noticed this, detained him, and x-rayed him. This is what they found. This is an x-ray of the abdomen, you can see the spinal column running down the middle, with ribs up near the top (the dark areas at the very top are the lungs) and the top of the pelvis at the bottom. Notice all the oblong shapes clustered through the middle of the x-ray, and down the right-hand side. Here's a closer view of the pelvis:
Again, you can see a congeries of ghostly rounded oblong shapes. They're in his sigmoid colon, and rectum. The circle at the top right is one of the same objects, seen end-on.
This is drugs. This guy is what's known as a 'bodypacker'. The drug exporter, in another country, packages his drugs, usually heroin or cocaine, in small rubber sheaths, and the courier swallows them, perhaps as many as two hundred. The courier then takes a medication such as Lomotil, normally given for diarrhea, to prevent his bowels from moving until he reaches his destination. He boards a flight bound for the US. He doesn't eat or drink anything, because that might cause his bowels to move. When he arrives at his destination, he takes a laxative, the person who is supposed to receive the drugs retrieves them, and the courier gets paid.
Unless the bodypacker gets picked up by Customs, as this guy did. In that case, he gets taken to the ER, drinks Go-Lytely, an electrolyte/polyethylene glycol solution usually given for bowel cleansing before things like colonoscopy, and all of his packets wash out. He is admitted to the ICU while this happens. When all the packets have washed out, he is discharged from the ICU, and goes to jail.
Bodypacking is pretty common. Customs brings us one or more of these guys every week, I think, but some must get through, or they wouldn't keep doing it. The technology has improved from when bodypacking was first described in the medical literature, in the mid '80's. At that time, the drugs were usually wrapped in condoms, which weren't very sturdy, and sometimes broke. This usually kills the bodypacker, because it releases a huge overdose of drug that is far more than can be compensated for by any medical antidote. In recent years, though, the wrappings have improved, and nowadays rarely break. Like all technology, bodypacking technology has matured with time and experience.
Nonetheless, bodypacking is dumb. If you are ever in a situation where someone suggests you do this for money, for god's sake don't. This guy didn't have a good time doing it, he didn't have a good time crapping out over 150 packets of drug in our ICU, and he'll have an even lousier time in jail. I don't know how many bodypackers get through Customs, but I know that an awful lot don't. My ER has got their treatment down to a science, we see so many. Oh, yes, and there is a small, but finite chance that one of the packets will rupture, and you'll die, then and there, no deposit, no return.
Bodypacking is a lousy idea. Find some other way to make a living.