Every police officer in Scotland will be given a life-saving nasal spray which can help treat people who have overdosed.
On Thursday, chief constable Iain Livingstone announced more than 12,000 officers will be trained and equipped with naloxone following successful trial runs in Dundee, Falkirk, Glasgow, Stirling and Caithness.
During the trial, the kits helped provide first aid 62 times to people who had overdosed on opioids such as heroin.
It comes as the number of drugs-related deaths in Scotland has risen over the years, reaching 1339 in 2020.
Chief constable Livingstone said: “I know the terrible toll of drugs deaths in Scotland and policing is committed to playing our part in reducing the harm caused to individuals, families and communities.
“We have a vital role in preventing drugs from reaching our streets and bringing those engaged in serious and organised crime to justice and that will always be a key duty and priority for Police Scotland.
“Preservation of life, keeping people safe, lies right at the heart of policing. We have a purpose and remit which goes beyond law enforcement. We have a positive legal duty to improve the lives of our communities. Equipping and training officers with naloxone will contribute to that mission.”
The chief constable added: “Policing is so often the service of first and last resort; the service first on the scene; the service which responds to crisis and criticality. Where a person is suffering an overdose, Naloxone nasal-spray can be given safely by officers with no adverse effects.
“It is absolutely essential that where naloxone is used by an officer to help people in crisis, professional medical attention continues to be provided from ambulance service colleagues and others. In addition, it is crucial that timely and sustainable support is available to provide treatment for those suffering addiction.
“I’m grateful to all the officers who stepped forward during the trial to carry naloxone and help their fellow citizens when they needed it.”
During the trial period, 808 officers were trained to use naloxone, with 81% volunteering to carry the nasal spray kits.
An independent academic review conducted between March and October 2021, during which Naloxone was used 51 times, recommended a national roll-out.
The review was coordinated by the Scottish Institute for Policing Research (SIPR) at Napier University in Edinburgh.
Professor Nadine Dougall, one of the team’s co-investigators, said: “Our evaluation has shown that there is significant potential benefit in training and equipping police officers with naloxone nasal spray as part of emergency first aid until ambulance support arrives.
“Many police officers told us they are often the first to attend people who have overdosed, and they greatly valued the potential to save lives in this way.
“People with personal experience of overdose also agreed naloxone should be carried by police officers but were keen to stress that naloxone was only a part of a solution to address drug-related deaths.”
All officers within response, community, and other roles including dog handlers, armed police, public order and road policing up to and including the rank of Inspector will be trained and equipped.
Other officers and members of staff are also free to undertake training.