Top Eight Methods of Smuggling Drugs

Bу stomach

One of the most common methods of smuggling small amounts of drugs is taking the drugs orally. Drug mules numb their throats to ingest large quantities of capsules, latex balloons (often condoms or gloves) or packets filled with drugs.

This type of drug mule is sometimes referred to as a ‘swallower’ or ‘internal carrier’, while this practice of smuggling is called ‘body packing’ or ‘body stuffing’. Drug mules must often take laxatives (слабительные средства) to remove the drugs in what is described as a very painful removal process.

A great danger – and often even death – may await the ‘swallower’ if the packet or capsule bursts during transit.

In 2007, a 23-year-old British woman suffered a massive heart attack on a transatlantic flight after having swallowed 60 packets of cocaine. She was dead by the time the plane made an emergency landing.

By Puppies

In 2006, authorities caught a Colombian drug trafficking organization trying to smuggle liquid drugs in puppies. 10 people were charged with the heroin scheme, and all of the puppies were rescued, though three of the six died of infection from the incisions that were made in their stomachs. The remaining dogs grew up and are living healthy lives in Colombia.

By Children

Authorities intercepted a Mexican woman in May 2008 who was trying to smuggle approximately 20lbs. of drugs into the UK by strapping the drugs to the legs of two children ages 11 and 13.

The woman was sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison and the children were taken into the custody of child services. The practice of using children to smuggle drugs through airports and prisons has become an all too common practice in recent years.

By Bugs

A Customs official in the Netherlands in 2007 discovered a shipment of 100 dead beetles – chock full of cocaine. It appeared as though the bugs had been cut open and stuffed with the drugs and then glued back together again.

By Tombstone

In 2000, a U.S. Customs official stopped a man trying to enter the country with a tombstone in his pickup truck. Customs officers with a narcotics dog detained the man with potential drug material hidden inside the tombstone.

By Computer

At Miami International Airport in March 2008, Customs officials discovered a laptop originating in Colombia that contained five packets of heroin in the computer and six packets concealed in the power supply. The computer was not operational at the time of its recovery.

By Bra

A busty woman was busted entering Britain in January 2008, when Customs officials discovered she was wearing a bra full of cocaine.

Exercise 8. Answer the following questions:

1. Why do smugglers invent new methods of concealment?

2. What are ‘drug mules’?

3. Why are children and women used for smuggling?

4. Why are drugs smuggled mainly through airports?

5. What countries at risk are mentioned in the text?

Exercise 9.Drug mules are people who smuggle drugs in their clothing, shoes or bags, or within their body cavities.

Test your knowledge of how drug mules work:

1. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, what proportion of the cocaine produced in South America goes to the U.S. and Europe?

a) 50 per cent

b) 65 per cent

c) 75 per cent

d) 85 per cent

2. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, how does most South American heroin enter the U.S.?

a) cargo ships

b) private yachts

c) commercial flights

d) commercial trucks

3. Drug mules tend to carry only small amounts of a drug, compared with the amounts smuggled by trucks, container ships or other vehicles. What is the term for this modest amount of drug smuggling, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs?

a) ant

b) bee traffic

c) burritos

d) banditos

4. According to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, what proportion of worldwide cocaine production is intercepted by authorities?

a) 16 per cent

b) 26 per cent

c) 32 per cent

d) 42 per cent

5. What is the term used to describe a person who swallows a drug packet in order to conceal it in his or her gastrointestinal tract?

a) goods gobbler

b) body packer

c) cookie monster

d) all of the above

6. Which of the following is a term used to describe a group of drug mules who travel together on foot?

a) mule train

b) mobile Mollies

c) pack of asses

d) none of the above

7. What proportion of foreign women imprisoned in the U.K. are Jamaican drug mules?

a) less than 10 per cent

b) 15 per cent

c) 25 per cent

d) more than 50 per cent

Exercise 10.Read Text 3 andask other people in the class about methods of spotting drug mules.

Text 3

How to Spot a Drug Mule

Here are eight signs that may tip authorities off to a drug mule masquerading (маскироваться, притворяться) in their presence.

§ The drug mule may wear inappropriate clothes for the flight’s time of day.

§ He may be dressed in casual or colourful clothes, while the vast majority of the people on the 3 p.m. flight are dressed for business.

§ He may have little or no luggage for a supposed ‘vacation’ or long visit. How are you going to sun in Bali with nothing more than a satchel (сумка для книг)?

§ He takes frequent trips to the bathroom, airport gift shops and phone banks.

§ The drug mule may be trying to kill time before meeting up with his/her handler, or may be uncomfortable from the large quantity of drugs he/she swallowed.

§ He is nervous, shifty-eyed or sweats profusely.

§ He abstains from eating plane food on a long trip. The drug mule carrying around drugs in his/her stomach can’t ingest any food for fear of excreting the goods too early.

§ He gets off the plane first or last. The drug mule may be eager to get off before everyone else, or equally as eager to stay behind to avoid attention.

Exercise 11.Look at the map and name the countries where drug mules can be found more often.


Exercise 12.Read Text 4 and find out information about the widespread practice of using drug mules to carry illicit substances across borders.


Text 4*

Though drug mules can be found in every part of the world, the following countries have specifically dealt with a high number of drug mules coming to and from with drugs in their stomachs, strapped to their bodies, hidden in their suitcases and clothing:

United Kingdom

Many drug mules are promised big sums of money and a better life for their children. In 2005, it was estimated that foreign women make up 18% of the UK prison population, and 60% of the offences are drug-related.


News reports reveal similar drug activity in Canada as in many other countries. In January 2008, Ottawa took measures to prevent drug trafficking within the country, specifically by cracking down on individuals bringing babies or young children.

United States

Many drug mules find themselves bound for the United States, where drugs they have swallowed or strapped to their bodies are worth more than many other places around the world (as much as $350,000 in some cases). The authorities have found that drug mules take drastic measures to conceal drugs. In 2002, authorities at New York’s JFK Airport found drugs when they intercepted a 5-year-old girl travelling by herself from Colombia carrying a large amount of heroin in her suitcase.


UK officials discovered that more than 10% of people travelling from Jamaica to the UK were drug mules. These mules, often women, were the main providers for their parents and numerous children in Jamaica.


Colombia has struggled to overcome the perils of drug trafficking throughout the years. Colombian drug mules die in the process of carrying drugs.


According to a 2007 UN report on drugs, cocaine production in Peru has been steadily rising over the past five years. Many of drug mules are offered more money than they’ve ever had in their lives previously. Approximately 75% were unemployed.

Bali, Indonesia

A group of nine Australian citizens found themselves facing life prison sentences – and even the death penalty – when they were caught trying to smuggle drugs out of Indonesia and into Australia. Ranging in age from 18 to 28, the ‘Bali Nine’ as they came to be called, played various parts in a heroin scheme. Upon arrest, four members of the group had more than 18lbs. of heroin strapped to their bodies. After multiple court trials and appeals, the group faces sentences of varying degrees, the least of which is 20 years in prison.

Exercise 13.Review Text 4. Add what you know of the given problems from the previous texts.

Exercise 14. Study the following information and comment on it:

‘Swallower’ is defined in the “Public Administration Dictionary” (European Union) as “Drugs courier who has swallowed small packages of drugs”.

Exercise 15. Translate the Russian words in the text below into English.

Choose from:

profit; cocaine; trip; drug lord; law enforcement bodies; in exchange for money; hollow pellets; drugs; intent; gastrointestinal tract; heroin; favours; multilayered condoms; border; swallower; term; body cavities; drug dealer.

Text 5

Balloon Swallower

A balloon глотатель is an individual who crosses a граница with the намерение to smuggle наркотики contained in his or her желудочно-кишечный тракт or other body cavities.

This термин is used in American правоохранительные органы for people crossing the United States-Mexico border. Other countries have their own names.

A balloon swallower typically fills tiny balloons, often made with многослойные резиновые мешочки or more sophisticated полые шарики, with small quantities of a drug, usually героин or кокаин.

These balloons may be swallowed, but may also be hidden in other полости тела.

Then a swallower attempts to cross international borders, excrete the balloons, and then sell the drugs for извлечение выгоды. It is far more common for the swallower to be making the поездка for a наркобарон or наркодилер. Swallowers are often impoverished and agree to transport the drugs в обмен на деньги or other блага.

Exercise 16.Answer the following questions:

1. What is the term ‘swallower’ used for?

2. Where do swallowers hide drugs?

3. What makes swallowers carry drugs in cavities of their bodies?

4. Do you think that swallowers earn much money?


Talking Points

Exercise 17.Present your views on the following:

ü Types of concealment are as varied as the goods or the containers used to transport them.

ü The practice of using drug mules to carry illicit substances across borders is widely spread.

Focus on Grammar

Exercise 18. Fill in the gaps.

a) can/could

1. Leonardo da Vinci was a student in Florence. He ____ draw, design buildings and write music.

2. You ____ see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris.

3. I lost my keys yesterday and I ____ (not) get into my flat.

4. I ____ (not) go out because I have a lot of homework.

5. She ____ speak English when she was ten.

b) must/have to

1. I ____ water the plants.

2. I’m very tired, I ____ go to bed.

3. You are a small boy; you ____ go to bed early.

4. Dad is working, you ____ be quiet.

5. You ____ come in unless you wipe your feet.

6. Oh, you ____ worry, Mum. My feet are clean.

7. You ____ (not) park your car here. There is a sign.

8. I ____ do my homework every day.

9. He ____ (not) do the shopping yesterday.

c) must/mustn’t/needn’t

1. You ____ fight.

2. She ____ wash the dishes.

3. You ____ tell anyone. It’s a secret.

4. Your shoes are dirty. You ____ clean them.

5. You ____ let the dog sleep in your bed.

6. You ____ feed the cat. It isn’t hungry.

7. They ____ go out today. They ____ stay in bed.

8. We ____ buy any eggs. We have a lot.

9. You ____ feed the animals at the Zoo.

10. You ____ eat it if you don’t like it.

11. She ____ be late for work.

12. You ____tidy your room.

Exercise 19. Correct the mistakes.

1. You don’t can go to the party.

2. Where do you must be?

3. He can play chess when he was five.

4. Can I come in?

5. Paul can to play football.

6. You don’t must smoke here.

7. Can you help me? No, I can.

8. Can his brother speaks French?

9. She mays be here.

10. He not must be late.

Exercise 20. Fill in the gaps with to have to or must.

1. You really ____ work harder, if you want to pass that exam.

2. Last night Dan suddenly became ill. He ____ to call the doctor.

3. I’m afraid I can’t come tomorrow. I ____ work late.

4. When you come to London again you ____ come and see me.

5. He can’t repair the car himself. He ____ take it to the garage.

Exercise 21.Choose the correct tense forms of the verbs in brackets.

1. I (learn) English for seven years now.

2. Last year I (not / work) hard enough for English, that’s why my marks (not / be) good.

3. During my last summer holidays, my parents (send) me on a language course to Great Britain.

4. Before I (go) to London, I (not / enjoy) learning English.

5. But while I (do) the language course, I (meet) lots of young people from all over the world.

6. Now I (have) much more fun learning English than I (have) before the course.

7. At the moment I (revise) English grammar.

8. If I (pass) my exams successfully, I (be) glad.

9. I (go) abroad three times last year.


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