LEXINGTON, Ky. — For the last few years, Kentuckians and others around the nation have grappled with an increase in opioid overdoses and deaths. 

University of Kentucky students and the public now have access to life-saving nasal sprays at the central Kentucky campus.

What You Need To Know

  • Healing communities have distributed 60,000 naloxone sprays to people across the Commonwealth
  • Opioid use disorder researchers at the University of Kentucky’s healing communities and others have teamed up to bring opioid rescue kits to those at or near the university

  • Among other schools, the UK joins others across the country to reduce overdose-related deaths

The Narcan kits are inspired by the UK’s HEALing Communities Study—a 4-year plan that includes professionals from various colleges within the university and a partnership with Drug-Free Lex.

The group of doctors focuses on two major factors that support ending overall opioid addiction and its risk, which are both preventative measures and providing pharmacists with alternatives to safe opioid disposal. 

Prevention team leader Dr. Trish Freeman said overdose from opioids is a risk that even college students need to be aware of.

“Maybe they go on Snapchat and they purchase what they think is a day stimulant to help them stay awake and study, and that medication that is in the illicit market as you know Ritalin, it actually can contain fentanyl,” Freeman said about how easy it is for dangerous pills to unknowingly get into the hands of students. 

"NaloxBoxes" are stored next to other life saving devices like AEDs at the University of Kentucky. (Spectrum News 1/Sabriel Metcalf)

The kits include instructions for a step-by-step process for helping restore breathing to the person experiencing an overdose. 

“One spray in the nostril and wait 2 to 3 minutes, and if the individual is still unconscious, or is still having difficulty breathing, then you would use the second dose in the box in the other nostril,” explained Freeman.

The $87 million study that creates options for those dealing with addiction has already helped several regions of Kentuckians in two waves. Now they are focusing on a goal to provide real overdose-reversing agents and more for bystanders in the UK before it’s too late for those who could experience an overdose. 

“If there is a chance where an individual has been exposed, we’re gonna be able to respond more quickly because these are stationed in the residence hall in areas where students congregate in the student center in other places across campus,” said Freeman. 

It’s something that even her family members have witnessed firsthand. 

“The person overdosed in the bathroom while she was in the Waffle House having breakfast. So, having Naloxone available for that, you’re able to respond. It is life-saving,” said Freeman. 

Aside from the naloxone spray, each box includes a CPR mouth guard, gloves and resources for local addiction and recovery services. 

Several boxes are stationed next to add devices and other emergency gear.