Durham Police first to offer life saving drug to people released from custody

  • Video report by ITV News Tyne Tees correspondent Kris Jepson

People being released from custody in Durham who are at risk of overdosing, can now take home a life saving drug for the first time.Durham Police, who pioneered the use of Naloxone by its custody officers and have since extended its training to include officers on the beat, are now distributing the life saving drug to people being released from custody.

Naloxone blocks and reverses the effects of opioids, buying the person who has overdosed time to get to hospital. It is hoped the project could be rolled out across the country by other forces. 

Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

A joint venture with Durham County Council's Public Health Team, it builds on the legacy of the late Police & Crime Commissioner Ron Hogg.The acting PCC, Steve White, said: "This approach, in actually giving people a drug to help them, is really very innovative. Of course the first duty of life for a constable is to protect life and this is a tool to be able to use that.

"And with the correct training and with the correct approach then it’s something I’m sure the vast majority of forces would look to be able to roll out nationally, I have no doubt about that".Temporary Chief Inspector Jason Meecham told ITV News Tyne Tees Naloxone is a potential "game-changer".

This is really straight forward. You can store it anywhere. It’s quite rugged. You can keep it for a long period of time. A lot of the people who come to see us in custody don’t speak to GPs, so this is an opportunity for them to get hold of this product when they see us, to go away with it with no conditions, no strings attached, to go away and have it if it’s needed anytime in the future.

Jason Meecham, Temporary Chief Inspector
Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

The drug has already been handed out to six people since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. They were given instructions on how to use it and watched a training video before being released.

By taking the Naloxone, it gives them the chance to not only save their own life, but to administer the drug on their peers too, in the event of an overdose.

One Durham officer who has already used the drug to save somebody's life said it gives him an immediate option when confronted with somebody who has overdosed.

We had a female brought in. She’s had an overdose basically of opiates, a mixture of pills and methadone. At the time she collapsed and I’d had the training so I went straight down to custody, got a box of Naloxone and managed to inject her. Her breathing improved. It means I can carry it in public. We don’t have to wait for an ambulance. I can administer the Naloxone and save a life.

Andy Rochelle, Deputy Inspector
Durham Police officer overlooking the custody suite Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

According to the latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics, the North East of England had the highest rate of drug misuse in the seven consecutive years up to 2019.

It had the highest rate of male and female deaths related to drug misuse in 2019, with 134 men dying per million compared to 49 per million in the East of England and 57 women per million dying in the North East compared to 18 in the East of England.

George Charlton used to overdose 20 years ago. He is now a Naloxone consultant, providing peer-to-peer training.

He trained Mandy Glasper, a former drug user, who said: "My late fiance overdosed numerous times and had I not had the skills that I’d been trained to do, I would not have been able to save those people’s lives and you know, for me, if I’d have had this, there’s a lot of my peers and friends who would have been alive today".

One of the statistics... is that one in two hundred people that come out of a police cell or a prison have died within the first four weeks of a drug related death. I think that the statement that’s being made by Durham Police here is, "Look, we’re handing this out, you’re not going to get into trouble for having it, we want you to live, we want you to get well.

George Charlton