Suffering Drug Smuggler Pays Price 18 Years Later When Docs Find Balloon That Never Left His Body


It’s no secret that drugs are probably not the most healthy habit in the world. But there are a few actions that make them even more dangerous than normal — and one of them involves stuffing drugs up your nose for almost two decades.

An Australia man’s past decisions came back to haunt him after drugs that he tried to smuggle up his nostril stayed lodged in his body for a staggering 18 years.

According to Newsweek, the unnamed patient had recurring sinus problems which went unsolved until doctors noticed something peculiar on a CT scan.

Experts found that the man’s right nasal cavity had an object nearly 3/4 of an inch long inside of it.

“The foreign body was removed endoscopically under general anaesthetic,” BMJ Case Reports stated. “The histopathology report noted a ‘rubber capsule containing degenerate vegetable/plant matter.'”

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You can probably guess where this is going. Sure enough, the plant matter was marijuana which had been hidden in a rubber balloon. But how did it end up in the man’s nose for 18 years?

“On further questioning, the man admitted he had shoved the package up his nose to smuggle the drug into a correctional facility 18 years earlier,” Newsweek explained. “He said the cannabis-filled rubber balloon had been given to him by his girlfriend during a prison visit.”

It seems the impromptu smuggling plan worked — at least at first. But when the convict tried to retrieve the hidden drugs after making his way past prison guards and into his cell, he couldn’t get the balloon back out.

After some time, the man allegedly believed he had swallowed the balloon.

He didn’t think to tell doctors about the drugs-up-the-nose incident until almost two decades later when his sinuses started acting up.

While he probably won’t be winning awards for intelligence anytime soon, the man did end up having his case written up in a medical journal.

It turns out that the situation was fairly unique, with only one other known case of drug smuggling causing a rhinolith, or hard nasal blockage.

“The case report authors suggest this may be because most drug smuggling attempts involve swallowing the package, which ‘acts as a bezoar’ and can be collected after it has made its way through the gastrointestinal tract and out of the body,” Newsweek reported.

In some of those cases, however, the package can rupture while still inside a person. That isn’t a medical emergency if the drug is fairly mild like cannabis, but it can cause an overdose death if more powerful substances are involved.

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“Many victims of human trafficking are used to ferry drugs across international borders. Popularly known as ‘drug mules’, the victims are made to swallow balloons containing illicit drugs and are then transported across borders,” the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime explained.

“This medically dangerous way of transporting drugs  can lead and has led to the death of  persons, if and when balloons rupture within the body. Stomach acids can sometimes cause the rupture of the balloons and death is very quick,” the UN continued.

Foreign objects in the nasal cavities aren’t unheard of, but usually have far more innocent causes, such as a children sticking beads or small toys up their noses.

“In this case, the drug package was removed and the man’s symptoms subsided,” Newsweek said. “At a three-month follow up appointment, he reported ‘complete resolution’ of the health problems that had encouraged him to seek medical attention in the first place.”

Here’s a pro tip: Don’t smuggle drugs, and don’t stuff anything up your nose.

It isn’t worth it … and you probably don’t want doctors digging around inside you to recover the one that got away.

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Benjamin Arie is an independent journalist and writer. He has personally covered everything ranging from local crime to the U.S. president as a reporter in Michigan before focusing on national politics. Ben frequently travels to Latin America and has spent years living in Mexico.