Shocking photos of Ohio overdose victims problematic, say addiction experts

Click to play video: 'Did releasing photo of man and woman passed out with toddler go too far?' Did releasing photo of man and woman passed out with toddler go too far?
WATCH ABOVE: The photo of a man and a woman passed out in the front seat of a vehicle while a 4-year-old is strapped in a car seat in the back is raising a lot of eyebrows, and a lot of questions. The Ohio police department that released this picture says they had to release the photo to show the real face of addiction, but experts say public shaming isn't the answer. Mike LeCouteur reports – Sep 10, 2016

The decision by an Ohio police department to release photos of two adults who overdosed on heroin in a vehicle with a child in the backseat is being met with criticism from addiction experts.

Police in East Liverpool, Ohio, released the photos Friday with the intention of showing the devastating impact the heroin and opioids are having on the community.

READ MORE: Ohio police post graphic photo of overdosed parents in SUV with 4-year-old child in backseat

The images show two adults slumped over in the front seats of an SUV with their mouths hanging open with a four-year-old child in the back seat. According to a police report, the images were taken after the vehicle narrowly missed a stopped school bus earlier this week.

“We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non-drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis,” the city said in the Facebook post.

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“This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.”

Police say the couple was revived after an officer called an ambulance and paramedics administered the lifesaving drug Naloxone, which is used to reverse opioid overdoses.

WATCH: Graphic photos show parents overdosed in car with their child in the backseat. 
Click to play video: 'Graphic photos show parents overdosed in car with their child in the backseat' Graphic photos show parents overdosed in car with their child in the backseat
Graphic photos show parents overdosed in car with their child in the backseat – Sep 9, 2016

James Lee Acord, 47, and Rhonda L. Pasek, 50, were arrested and are facing several charges.

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The original Facebook post quickly went viral, being shared nearly 30,000 times and amassing nearly 5,000 comments as of Saturday.

READ MORE: Ohio woman sentenced to 51 years for letting drug dealer rape her 11-year-old daughter for heroin

Ohio is currently battling a heroin and opioid epidemic that has seen a record 3,050 die of drug overdoses last year. Fatalities from Fentanyl rose to 1,155 in 2015 more than doubling the 503 deaths in 2014, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Michael Parkinson with the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council says while he can sympathize with the frustrations felt by officials in Ohio, publishing the photos as a scare tactic is neither effective and violates the privacy rights of the child.

“Scare tactics rarely deter people most at risk from seeking assistance or preventing the entry into problematic substance use,” Parkinson told Global News. “

“When health, social and community systems fail the criminal justice system is left to punish the symptoms. Law enforcement is often called the last social service. It must be utterly frustrating in Ohio.”

Parkinson, who has seen the toll bootleg fentanyl is having in Ontario, said there were major privacy concerns as the published photos did not make an effort to hide the child’s identity.

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“It’s quite possible [the child] is facing a lifetime of discrimination and unwanted notoriety,” he said.

Marc Romano, assistant medical director at Ocean Breeze Recovery in Florida, told The Guardian he was concerned the photo would further stigmatize mental illness.

READ MORE: Police intercept deadly opioid carfentanil: ‘50M doses could’ve hit our streets’

“Shaming them is not the answer,” Romano said. “But yes, talk about how this addiction is so powerful they will even risk the lives of children to use this drug – that’s what we’re up against.”

Canada has been dealing with its own opioid crisis that has led to a spike in overdoses, with B.C. and Alberta being two of the hardest hit provinces.

Alberta has recorded 153 fentanyl related this year from January 2016 to June 2016, while B.C. has seen 238 drug overdose deaths related to fentanyl from January 2016 through June 2016, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

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B.C. has seen a 250 per cent increase over the 68 deaths that occurred during the same period in 2015.

Parkinson said the latest data available for Ontario shows that 665 people died from opioid related overdoses in 2014, adding that the lack of recent data was extremely problematic.


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