UK Adolescent Psychiatrist, Pharmacist Urge Collective Action to Prevent Overdose Deaths

ATLANTA, Ga. (March 30, 2016) — Solving the complex problem of prescription drug and opioid abuse in Kentucky requires a coordinated response involving all facets of the health care profession.

Dr. Catherine Martin, the director of child and adolescent psychiatry at UK HealthCare, and Daniel Wermeling, a UK College of Pharmacy professor, represented a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach to reducing opioid overdose deaths during a March 29 session at the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit. As co-presenters of “Rescuing the Opiate Overdose: From Receptors to Relatives to Regulators,” the two UK experts identified critical opportunities for intervention and treatment across the spectrum of substance abuse behaviors, from extending mental health and addiction resources to at-risk teens to dispensing the drug Naloxone to individuals who might succumb to a near-death situation.

Through her Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services grant, Martin is working with a team to provide care to adolescents in Kentucky engaged in substance abuse. She will collaborate with local schools to develop methods of identifying and working with families impacted by substance abuse. Martin listed a number of risk factors that increase an adolescent’s risk of opioid abuse, which included having a family member who abuses opioids. Helping teens at risk also provides interventionists with a channel for reaching adults who struggle with substance abuse.

“Opioid use, abuse and overdose are at epidemic proportions in Kentucky,” Martin said. “It is on all of us — any health care provider, any concerned parent or grandparent, any school system — to figure out how to reach out to families and kids to watch for opioids in the household and make sure they are safe and to identify the kids and family members who are at risk of overdose.”

Wermeling, who developed an innovative nasal spray of Naloxone that gives victims of heroin overdose a life-saving hour, implores pharmacists to get into the local communities to distribute this life-saving drug. He echoed Martin’s insistence that more intervention must occur at the community level, and increasing availability of Naloxone is critical for helping decrease the tragedies caused by opioid overdose.

UK HealthCare is a supporting sponsor of the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit. For more information, click here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Elizabeth Adams,