Adults charged after horrifying overdose photo

Rhonda Pasek with James Acord and their 4-year-old boy
Rhonda Pasek with James Acord and their 4-year-old boy

More has been revealed in the story of the photos of a drug overdose US police posted online and shocked the world.

The pictures represent the heartbreaking reality of drug addiction - a little boy strapped into his car seat with his grandmother and her partner slumped in the front after overdosing on heroin.

Officer Kevin Thompson pulled the car over and within moments the driver, 47-year-old James Acord, had passed out.

"I was on my way to work in my personal vehicle when I started following a dark-coloured Ford Explorer that was driving, for the most part, erratic," he says.

The woman in the passenger seat, 50-year-old Rhonda Pasek, was already unconscious and had started turning blue.

The initial police report said Pasek was the boy's mother, however a family friend told the Washington Post she is his paternal grandmother.

"Minutes could have meant the difference between how it played out to what could have happened. You know, someone could have been killed, seriously injured," says Officer Thompson.

He called paramedics, but not before he snapped the two graphic and telling images that were later posted online, with the child's face deliberately left unblurred. They were hoping to shed light on the drug epidemic gripping the city, to show the dark side of heroin use.

Both Pasek and Acord were charged with numerous offences, including endangering a child.

The mother is fighting the charges, but Acord pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in jail.

The boy was placed in the custody of children's services.