A North East police force is set to become one of the first in the country to administer a drug antidote in custody.
Heroin users will be able to be given injections of the life-saving antidote, naloxone, in police custody suites in County Durham and Darlington from later this year, under new plans announced today.
Naloxone is the emergency antidote for overdoses caused by heroin and other opiates such as methadone, morphine and fentanyl. Those who work in the provision of drug treatment services are able to supply naloxone as long as its purpose is to be made available to save lives in an emergency.
Officers across the Durham force area are being trained to enable its introduction later this year. The guidelines for when naloxone should be used are currently being finalised.
Inspector Jason Meecham who runs the custody suites, said “Many of the individuals who we care for in custody throughout County Durham and Darlington unfortunately suffer from problematic drug issues.
"These frequently relate to opiate use, which on occasion results in our NHS colleagues using naloxone when detainees experience an overdose.
“The new training would enable our custody officers to inject naloxone in emergencies, when someone who has taken an overdose of opiates is in custody and their life is at risk.
"They would still need specialist medical aftercare, but it would provide an additional opportunity to save someone’s life”
The Office of National Statistics has today released the latest drug-related deaths statistics for England and Wales.
The highest mortality rate was seen in the North East, with 83.2 deaths per one million population, a 7.5% increase from 2016, compared to 42.7 deaths per million population in England.
Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, said: “I am really disappointed to see the new figures today.
"They are a true reflection of a drug policy that isn’t working. Drug users should be able to seek medical treatment without fear of being criminalised.
"I have called on the Government to review the current UK drug policy, as it urgently needs to do more to save lives and reduce drug related-harm.”
The commissioner added that the plans to introduced naloxone in Durham are part of the "radical" approach the force is taking to "reduce harm and save the lives of drug users".