Police criticised for injecting 'heroin addict' with life saving drug - who turned out to be just sleeping

Mike Wright
Footage of police treating the rough sleeper - West Midlands Police

Police have been criticised after injecting a 'heroin addict' with a 'life-saving' drug only to discover he was simply asleep.

Bodycam footage released by West Midlands Police showed two officers administering the drug Naloxone to a man who had passed out in Birmingham city centre.

The drug is an emergency antidote for heroin and other opiates such as fentanyl and reverses effects that cause breathing difficulties - buying time for paramedics to reach overdose victims.

However, after being loaded into an ambulance the man regained consciousness and it emerged he was a rough sleeper who had nodded off.

Despite being mistakenly given the drug, the man suffered no ill effects and was released from hospital hours later.

Police confirmed the incident, which happened on July 15, was the first time the drug had been used in the UK.

Following the incident, a local homeless charity called for the police to be given better training to correctly diagnose heroin overdoses before administering the drug.

Moe Nawaz, trustee of the Homeless One charity in Birmingham, said: "If the police are going to be using something like that they need to be trained they cannot be handing them out willy nilly to every police officer in the region."

The Naloxone initiative was launched after a report by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson revealed that every three days someone dies from drug poisoning in the region.

Launching the scheme, Chief Inspector Jane Bailey, the force's drug lead, said: "Officers will be able to instantly administer the life-saving drug should they come across anyone experiencing an opiate overdose while out and about in the city.

"A sight which has sadly been experienced by officers who have had to call for paramedics to assist others under the influence of controlled drugs.

"While this is not about trying to interfere with the fantastic work of our ambulance colleagues, who of course would still attend and deal with the patient, it's about being able to offer the initial fast aid and help save a life.

"We also hope that this intervention can assist people with taking steps to get support from our specialist drug agency colleagues in an effort to turn their lives around."