Methamphetamine Body Stuffers: An Observational Case Series

  • West P
  • McKeown N
  • Hendrickson R
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Study objective: We describe the demographics, characteristics, treatment, and clinical course of methamphetamine body stuffers. We also determine the clinical characteristics of methamphetamine body stuffers who have severe outcomes. Methods: A 6.5-year descriptive nonconcurrent observational case series evaluated methamphetamine body stuffers about whom the Oregon Poison Center was consulted by their primary physicians. Poison center charts were supplemented by completed hospital charts (for 95% of patients). Results: Six hundred forty-eight patients with methamphetamine exposure were identified and reviewed, and 55 charts met the criteria for "methamphetamine body stuffer." We found the following characteristics of methamphetamine body stuffers: mean age 29 years (range 16 to 57 years), men in 44 of 55 cases (80%), mean time to arrival 2.7 hours after ingestion, with a median of 1 hour after ingestion. Ninety-seven percent (53/55) stuffed methamphetamine orally (2/55 rectally). Methamphetamine was most frequently swallowed in baggies, but 25% were unpackaged. The median dose ingested was 3.5 g of methamphetamine in 1 package. Outcome-based analysis revealed 29% (16/55) of patients had severe outcomes, as defined by end-organ toxicity, with agitation requiring intubation the most common severe outcome. There was 1 death reported. Toxicity did not appear to be related to the amount of methamphetamine or number of packets. Patients with severe outcomes had higher mean initial pulse rates and temperatures. Eighty-eight percent (14/16) of patients with severe outcomes had a presenting pulse rate greater than 120 beats/min or a temperature greater than 38°C versus 18% (7/39) patients with a benign outcome. Twenty-four radiographic studies were obtained; none detected packets. Conclusion: Methamphetamine body stuffers have similar demographics to those of body stuffers of other stimulants, but tended to ingest fewer baggies with larger masses, and had a higher percentage of severe outcomes (29%) than previously reported with other stimulants. Increases in presenting pulse rate and temperature (pulse rate >120 beats/min or >38.0°C) are common in patients who will develop end-organ damage. © 2009 American College of Emergency Physicians.

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