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Systematic Review of Drug Packaging Methods in Body Packing and Pushing

A Need for a New Classification

Cappelletti, Simone, MD*†; Piacentino, Daria, PhD; Ciallella, Costantino, MD*

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: March 2019 - Volume 40 - Issue 1 - p 27–42
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0000000000000436
Review Articles

A systematic review of the literature regarding drug packaging methods in body packing and materials used is presented, with the aim (a) to summarize data regarding the packaging methods adopted by drug trafficking organizations, (b) to support forensic pathologists and police forces to classify and describe drug packages, (c) to propose a new classification for drug packaging techniques, and (d) to better clarify the impact of packaging methods on radiological detectability.

Packaging methods have been described in 2981 cases, permitting us to summarize the different materials used and to propose a new classification for packaging method based on the materials used. Information concerning the affiliation of body packers and pushers with major (or not) drug trafficking organizations and techniques used to reduce the radiological detectability of the concealed drugs have also been collected.

Besides the packaging methods described over the years, our study suggests a standardized approach for the description of drug packages based on the use of different materials and packaging procedures, which provide a possible insight to the type of drug trafficking organization involved.

From the *Legal Medicine Section – SAIMLAL Department, Sapienza University of Rome;

State Police Health Service Department, Ministry of Interior; and

NESMOS Department, School of Medicine and Psychology, Sant'Andrea Hospital, Sapienza – University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

Manuscript received July 28, 2018; accepted August 22, 2018.

This study complied with ethical standards.

No ethical approval was obtained because this study did not involve a prospective evaluation, did not involve laboratory animals, and did not involve invasive procedures.

The authors report no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Simone Cappelletti, MD, Viale Regina Elena, 336 – 00161 Rome, Italy. E-mail:

© 2019 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.