NPR : News

Filed Under:

Cocaine Mule Busted In Sao Paulo

Here's a picture worth almost a thousand grams.

The CT scan above shows the insides of a 20-year-old man apprehended Monday at an airport in São Paulo, Brazil, as he was getting ready to board a flight to Brussels.

All those reddish capsules lined up in his intestines are filled with cocaine.

The Irish national, identified only as P.B.B., was pinched by authorities because he was acting nervous. Wouldn't you be, too, if you were carrying nearly a kilogram of cocaine in your guts?

Carrying cocaine inside your body is risky, and not just because you could wind up in jail. Mules can suffer serious intestinal obstruction and death from cocaine poisoning, if the packages burst.

The Irish guy was reportedly taken to the Santa Misericordia Hospital where the capsules were removed from his body. How exactly? That isn't clear from the press coverage I saw.

Surgical removal of the packages is one option. But as doctors reported in the Canadian Journal of Surgery two years ago, surgical removal is far less likely than it used to be. Cocaine-filled packages can rupture during surgery, endangering patients, and there are other complications.

More often, the cases are treated with laxatives and fluids in the intestines. The report in the Canadian journal looked back at the cases of 61 cocaine mules treated over a five-year period at a hospital near Heathrow Airport in London.

Fifty-six of the people were treated conservatively. The remaining five required surgery. Nobody died. The average length of treatment was 2.8 days.

What about the cocaine and the outcome for the patients?

Here's the straight dope from the doctors who wrote the paper:

Customs staff counted and secured the obtained packets. At no point during the conservatively managed patients' stays were hospital staff involved in the handling of cocaine packets because the laws regarding the handling of evidence require a secure chain of custody to guarantee the identity and integrity of the specimen, from collection through to reporting of the test results. In most cases, we were therefore unable to obtain first-hand information regarding the type of packaging used or the patients' conditions after passage.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


Boston Museum Exhibit Celebrates Legacy Of Black Mountain College

Black Mountain College was only open for 24 years, but it helped foment the work of several artists, musicians, dancers and filmmakers, including John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Cy Twombly. Now it's the subject of the first major museum retrospective at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art.

High-Sodium Warnings Hit New York City Menus

The city is the first in the nation to require a sodium warning on menu items containing 2,300 milligrams of sodium or more. The rule applies to chain restaurants with 15 or more locations.

World Leaders To Debate Role Of Nuclear Power At U.N. Climate Summit

NPR's Robert Siegel talks with Matthew Bunn, a nuclear and energy policy analyst and professor of practice at the Harvard Kennedy School, about the role nuclear power will play in the future. As world leaders meet in Paris for the U.N. climate summit, they discuss if countries are moving away or toward nuclear energy and and given safety and budget concerns, whether atomic power makes sense anymore.
WAMU 88.5

Computer Guys And Gal

Another year is coming to a close and the Computer Guys And Gal are here to discuss this year's biggest technology news, including the growth of virtual reality and the "Internet of Things."

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.