Campus News

Lifesaving naloxone readily available across UK campus

Naloxone kit located in Gatton Student Center
Naloxone kit located in Gatton Student Center. More than 60 kits have been installed in buildings across campus.

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 10, 2023) — New cabinets across the University of Kentucky campus provide quick access to the lifesaving nasal spray naloxone (name brand Narcan), to reverse the effects of opioid overdose.

The university now has more than 60 naloxone boxes installed in academic and residential buildings throughout campus for access in case of an emergency. A bystander who sees someone in need of naloxone can easily open the box labeled “Opioid Rescue Kit” to retrieve one or more doses of naloxone. 

The kit contains two doses of nasal spray, with easy-to-understand instructions for recognizing and responding to a suspected overdose. It also contains a barrier device for CPR with instructions, information about Kentucky’s Good Samaritan Law as well as local resources for those with substance use disorder. 

The idea for the program came from UK’s HEALing Communities Study research team and Drug Free Lex. The four-year HEALing Communities Study conducted in 16 Kentucky communities highly affected by opioid overdose leverages existing community resources to expand the uptake of evidence-based practices to reduce opioid overdose deaths. 

The HEALing Communities Study team collaborated with multiple units across campus to implement the new program, including the Office for Student Success, HR’s Office of Work-life and Well-being, the College of Pharmacy’s Center for the Advancement of Pharmacy PracticeOccupational Health and Safety, Health and Wellness, Dean of StudentsFacilities Management and Auxiliary Services.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 107,000 people died of a drug overdose in 2021 with 75% of those deaths involving an opioid. The overall rise in overdose deaths is largely attributable to illicit fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin. Illicit fentanyl is increasingly seen as a contaminant in counterfeit opioid pills and other non-opioid drugs such as benzodiazepines, increasing the risk of overdose in unsuspecting persons.

As concerns grow about opioids on college campuses, particularly fentanyl, UK has joined a growing number of college campuses across the nation that are making the overdose-reversal drug naloxone widely available. 

Naloxone is a safe medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose and can be administered through an easy-to-use nasal spray. It is not a substitute, however, for emergency medical assistance. Because the medication only temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose, medical assistance should be summoned immediately when encountering someone with a suspected overdose.

Signs of an opioid overdose include unconsciousness, slow to no breathing, choking or gurgling sounds, cold and/or clammy skin and blue or greyish discoloration of the lips and fingernails. 

Individuals concerned that someone is experiencing a drug overdose should immediately call 911, administer naloxone and stay on scene until law enforcement or emergency medical services arrive. A second dose of naloxone may be needed if the person does not respond after two minutes. Naloxone does not cause harm if administered when an opioid is not the cause of the emergency. More information about naloxone, including a step-by-step administration guide, is available here

Good Samaritan laws in Kentucky protect individuals concerned that they or an overdose victim will be prosecuted for drug violations when a suspected overdose is reported to authorities. More information on Kentucky’s Good Samaritan laws is available here.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UM1DA049406. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. 

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.