When people think of ‘drug mules,’ they often think of people looking to get rich quick who then get caught or lose their lives in the process. This might prove true for many, but there are several people who others forced into the lifestyle.

There are stories of people traveling to countries for work only to suffer coercion into trafficking drugs. Often times, the fake employers take travel documents or threaten family members in their home countries.

Risks of sickness and death

Regardless of why or how people get pulled into this lifestyle, the health risks are awful. CNN reported in the spring of 2019 that one Japanese national passed away on a plane after at least one of 246 swallowed packets of cocaine ruptured inside him.

The man began to suffer from convulsions and the plane made an emergency landing. When paramedics boarded the plane to offer medical attention, they found the man had already passed away from cerebral edema.

How to remove them

Sometimes, agents discover the drugs at the airport or the person informs relevant parties upon arrival that they have ingested packets of cocaine. The person might do this if her or she felt coerced into the act and now wish to seek help. When this happens, doctors have varying opinions on how to remove the packets.

The University of Arizona shares that some professionals believed removing the packets via surgery might provide the best course of action. Once upon a time, this was the golden standard. These days, professionals might only recommend this if one packet ruptures or the person shows signs of perforation or obstruction.

Whether coerced or not, some ‘drug mules’ discover that the airport knew of their arrival before they got there. This is because big drug trafficking rings often tip off the airport ahead of time to use them as a distraction for much larger shipments to pass through undetected in the chaos.