Opioid overdose
East Liverpool Police Department photo shows two adults, who police believe were on heroin, passed out in a car with a little boy in the backseat in East Liverpool, Ohio, U.S. in this image released on September 9, 2016. East Liverpool Police Department/Handout via REUTERS

Ohio police released shocking pictures of a couple who passed out after taking an overdose of heroin, even as their four-year-old son was seated helpless in the backseat of their car. The images were released on Friday (9 September), which soon went viral raising concerns among citizens about the privacy of the couple.

The incident occurred on Wednesday in East Liverpool in Columbiana County, Ohio. Police said that the driver of the car had almost hit a parked school bus on Wednesday afternoon. The man behind the wheels has been identified as 47-year-old James Lee Acord, while his partner who was seated in the passenger seat has been identified as 50-year-old Rhonda L Pasek.

When police reached the scene, they found the couple in a semi-conscious state. They were revived with an overdose reversal drug called Narcan, which medical personnel administered the two. Later, they were arrested and Child Services was contacted, which promptly took over possession of the four-year-old.

Later, Acord pleaded no contest to driving under the influence and endangering children and was given a 180-day prison sentence. However, Pasek pleaded not guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, endangering children and a seat-belt violation.

Officer Kevin Thomas said in a police report that Acord, whose head was bobbing back and forth and his speech barely understandable, told the officer that he was taking Pasek to the hospital and tried to drive away before falling completely unconscious.

Soon after the incident, the images were posted on the East Liverpool city Facebook page along with the police affidavit and the names of the adults and a description of the incident, which drew criticism from activists. They said that releasing it for public consumption violates the privacy of the individuals. The post has been shared almost 20,000 times and had around 3,000 comments by Friday evening.

Warning: The video post below contains graphic content, viewer discretion is advised:

However, East Liverpool police chief John Lane defended his department's actions and said, "This is reality. Every day we're dealing with this. We need help and we don't have the resources to deal with it." The officer added that the pictures were posted on social media after hours of discussion local prosecutors and the mayor.

The Facebook post read: "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."

Lane said that they posted the pictures to depict the effect of heroin addiction and also show that they do not have enough resources to deal with the problem. "We're drowning down here. We need help here completely and totally," Lane said.