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Police reflect on use of life-saving drug on International Overdose Awareness Day


By David G Scott

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Caithness police officers have used a Naloxone nasal spray to help save a life after receiving training back in June, it has been revealed.

The information was revealed by Police Scotland as part of today's International Overdose Awareness Day and it was also said that officers have already administered the potentially life-saving drug Naloxone nearly 40 times in the four months since a national pilot project began.

Officers at Wick police station undergoing Naloxone training in June this year. Picture: DGS
Officers at Wick police station undergoing Naloxone training in June this year. Picture: DGS

In late June officers at Wick police station were trained in the use of and offered the opportunity to carry Naloxone after Caithness sub-division was chosen to become part of a special training programme for administering the nasal sprays to help anyone suffering an overdose of heroin or other opiates. Since that training it has been revealed that the spray was administered on one occasion in the area.

The test of change for the nasal spray is the largest of its kind in UK policing, and has attracted significant interest from forces both in the UK and around the world. Nearly 800 officers have now completed training to use the intra-nasal spray devices, with 81 per cent volunteering to carry the kits during the trial period.

To date, Naloxone has been used at 18 incidents in Tayside Division (Dundee City sub-division), 15 in Greater Glasgow Division (Glasgow East sub-division), three in Forth Valley Division (Falkirk, Grangemouth and Stirling areas) and once in Highland and Islands Division (Caithness sub-division).

Naloxone dispenser which can temporarily reverse the effects of opiate overdose until medical assistance is accessed. Pictures: DGS
Naloxone dispenser which can temporarily reverse the effects of opiate overdose until medical assistance is accessed. Pictures: DGS

Naloxone has now been used in all four test-bed areas, and officers in local custody centres in these areas have also been trained in its use.

Situations where officers have decided to administer Naloxone have ranged from police attending concern for person calls (including attempted suicide), while people are in police custody, and during a siege situation when officers had to force entry to a property.

In all incidents where someone has been given Naloxone by a police officer, they have survived what may have been a life-threatening situation.

The latest administration occurred in Forth Valley Division, just days before International Overdose Awareness Day. Police responded to calls about an unconscious person and decided to administer Naloxone, which had a near-instant result to re-stimulate his breathing, buying crucial time for paramedics to arrive.

Assistant chief constable Gary Ritchie, head of drug strategy, said: “While our test of change has some way to go, on International Overdose Awareness Day it is poignant to reflect on the impact our officers carrying Naloxone have potentially had on people across Scotland.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie, head of drug strategy for Police Scotland, trained officers in Wick and Thurso on the new initiative to help overdose victims.
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie, head of drug strategy for Police Scotland, trained officers in Wick and Thurso on the new initiative to help overdose victims.

“In these 37 incidents where officers have stepped forward to make what is probably a life-saving difference, they have either been flagged down by a member of the public or come across someone in crisis in the course of their duties. Had these officers not been carrying Naloxone, the people experiencing a suspected overdose may not have survived.

“We know this isn’t a one-step solution to Scotland’s drug deaths crisis, but we hope it will be part of the bigger, public health-led response. We’ve worked closely with partners, including the Scottish Government Drug Deaths Taskforce, Scottish Drugs Forum, the NHS, Scottish Ambulance Service, and others, to get to this point. Our collaborative approach to addressing drug deaths will continue, and I look forward to monitoring the progress of this pilot as it runs its course.”

Sergeant Graeme Fox is one of the officers who carries Naloxone, and has used it in the course of his duties. He said: “I chose to put Naloxone on my belt because I’d much rather save someone’s life than deliver a sudden death message.”

Police Scotland’s test of change will be independently evaluated by a team from Edinburgh Napier and Glasgow Caledonian Universities. The evaluation will look at attitudes of both police officers and communities, as well as the volume of use of Naloxone, and will involve feedback sessions for officers, stakeholders and people with lived experience.

The findings of the evaluation will be used to make a recommendation as to whether Naloxone may be more widely rolled out for carriage by police officers in Scotland.

Related article:

Inside Wick police station for special Naloxone training to help drug overdose victims



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