It’s one thing to forget where you hid something nearly 20 years ago. It’s quite another if it was hidden in your nose. But that is the improbable story of a 48-year-old former prisoner, whose tale of nasal smuggling was detailed in a case report published by the British Medical Journal.

According to the Daily Mail, which digested the report, doctors in Australia ran a CT scan on the ex-prisoner, who had apparently complained about headaches. The physicians suspected the cause was a rhinolith, which is defined by the authors of the case report as “calcareous concretions of the nasal cavity formed around a nidus that may be endogenous (eg, dislodged tooth) or an exogenous foreign body (eg, plastic bead inserted by a child).” 

The scan showed a sizable lesion in one of the nasal cavities, prompting the doctors to refer the patient to an ear, nose and throat department. While there, the patient described a history of nasal blockage and sinus infections. 

From there, the doctors discovered the cause of the pain, when they removed from his nose a “rubber capsule containing degenerate vegetable or plant matter.” After questioning the patient for details, the physicians learned that the “rubber capsule” was filled with cannabis. Here’s where it gets stranger: the man said he stuffed the contraband up his nose 18 years ago, while he was incarcerated.

Not an Ideal Place to Store Weed

“During a prison visit, the patient’s girlfriend supplied him with a small quantity of marijuana, inside a rubber balloon,” the doctors wrote, as quoted by the Daily Mail. “In order to evade detection, the patient inserted the package inside his right nostril. Despite effectively smuggling the package past the prison guards, the patient then accidentally pushed the package deeper into his nostril and mistakenly believed he had swallowed it. He remained unaware of the package’s presence until presented with the unusual histopathology report.” 

After undergoing surgery, the man said his symptoms were completely resolved within three months. The physicians involved in the case said it may well have been historic.

“To the best of our knowledge, our case represents the first report of a prison-acquired marijuana-based rhinolith,” they wrote, as most drug smuggling cases involve ingestion of the contraband. According to the authors of the case study, rhinoliths are estimated to be found in one in 10,000 otolaryngology patients, although that figure is “likely to be an underestimate due to the often asymptomatic nature of this condition.” 

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