Body-packing means concealing packets of illicit psychoactive substances in the digestive or genital system. The purpose of this paper is to investigate profiles of body-packers and comorbidities associated with body-packing.
A retrospective study (2005–2016) was conducted among all patients hospitalized for suspicion of body-packing in the Geneva hospital prison unit (n=287). Data were extracted from medical records and included demographics, somatic/psychiatric diseases, suicidal ideation and psychological distress.
Body-packers were mostly young men (mean age=33.4). A total of 42.2 percent of the participants had at least one psychiatric or somatic comorbidity reported during incarceration (somatic: 28.2 percent, psychiatric: 18.8 percent). The most frequent somatic diseases were infectious (10.5 percent), cardiovascular (10.1 percent), and endocrinological (4.2 percent) diseases, and more precisely HIV (4.5 percent), hepatitis B (3.5 percent), hepatitis C (1.4 percent), high blood pressure (8.0 percent) and diabetes (4.2 percent). The most frequent psychiatric conditions were substance use disorders (10.5 percent) and mood disorders (8.0 percent). Depressed mood/psychological distress and suicidal ideation were frequently reported during hospitalization (27.2/6.6 percent). Comorbidities were associated with demographics: Females were more likely to have somatic and psychiatric diseases detected during hospitalization in detention and participants from Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic countries were more likely to report diseases known before detention.
Body-packers bear a heavy burden of disease and psychological distress. This vulnerable subgroup of incarcerated people has been overlooked in previous research and their health needs are not correctly understood. This study was a first step to improve their health care and reintegration.
Baggio, S., Guillaume-Gentil, S., Heller, P., Chacowry Pala, K., Wolff, H. and Gétaz, L. (2019), "Body pack in sick bodies: a retrospective study of somatic and psychiatric comorbidities among body-packers", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 45-55. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPH-03-2019-0016Download as .RIS
Emerald Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited