Increasing access and awareness of Narcan on campus


Jack Weaver

Freshman Jake Rodriquez and senior Vanessa Diaz receive Narcan training from Chad Baugh, a recovery coach for Voices of Hope, on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Laurel Swanz, Reporter

The Prevention, Outreach, Wellness and Education Resources (POWER) department of the Office of Student Success and the Collegiate Recovery Community (CRC) hosted a Narcan training on Feb. 22 to fight the opioid crisis on college campuses.

Voices of Hope is a nonprofit recovery community center and longstanding partner of the CRC. They provided one box (two doses) of Narcan to attendees of the training.

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, is a nasal spray that removes the opioid molecules from an affected person’s opioid receptor sites, according to Alexander Elswick, professor of substance use prevention and recovery at UK and co-founder of Voices of Hope.

Voices of Hope employees trained participants on how to recognize an overdose and safely administer Narcan and complete rescue breathing, if needed. 

Administering Narcan temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, allowing the individual to breathe again within two to three minutes, according to UK researchers. If the person does not respond in this time, a second dose can be administered. 

Chad Baugh, a recovery coach for Voices of Hope, demonstrates how to administer Narcan nasal spray on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Anyone helping an overdosed individual should call 911 to ensure they access medical care and prevent re-overdose, according to Elswick.

Reporting a suspected opioid overdose to authorities will not incriminate the person responding “in good faith” or the victim for drug violations under Kentucky’s Good Samaritan Law.

In addition to training sessions, UK has installed more than 60 “Opioid Rescue Kits” in academic and residential buildings across campus to combat the opioid epidemic. Each rescue kit contains two doses of Narcan spray.

Elswick said it’s more likely for college students to encounter opioids than they might realize.

Fentanyl is a potent opioid being produced to look like common medications causing consumers to mistakenly overdose, specifically on college campuses, according to Elswick.

CRC Coordinator Hayleigh Tharp hoped the event would prepare students to save lives and open their minds to the non-discriminatory nature of addiction.

“You never know when you’ll need (Narcan) no matter where you’re at,” Tharp said. “Substance use doesn’t discriminate against age, race or socioeconomic status, so even being a college student at UK, it could still happen to anyone.”

Elswick believes Narcan is especially important for Lexington residents to be able to access and use. 

“Lexington, for a variety of reasons, has been hit very hard by the opioid crisis,” he said. “Kentucky was targeted by pharmaceutical companies because of the high rates of people in eastern Kentucky working in coal mines and on disability. Also, Lexington is at a nexus of interstate 64 and interstate 75, which makes it something of a drug trafficking hub.”

According to the Office of Drug Control Policy website, naloxone is available for purchase at UK pharmacies and can be located in Kentucky using the online map.

Elswick encouraged naloxone to be administered even in cases when overdose is uncertain, because there are no known negative interactions with naloxone.

“It’s safe no matter what medications people take, and it’s safe even if they don’t have opioids in their system,” he said. 

A box of Narcan sits on a table at a Narcan training on Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2023, at the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Regardless of personal connection to opioids or lack thereof, Elswick believes everyone should be prepared to use Narcan in the case of an overdose to save someone’s life. 

“It might be easy to say, ‘Why should I be trained, why does this affect me?’” he said. “Laypersons are more likely to respond to an overdose (than first responders), and you’re talking about saving someone’s life. It’s hard to overstate. It’s hard to put a price tag on it. It’s a pretty powerful thing.”

POWER Director Kimberly Rufra said 55 students attended the training, and she hopes that number continues to grow. 

“We know that there is a need. It doesn’t matter if students are here on campus or in the home, whether they live in Kentucky or they live in another state,” Rufra said. “We know that this is something that’s a challenge throughout our nation and throughout the world.”

Another Narcan training session will be hosted on March 20 in Jacobs Science Building room 221 from 7:30-8:30 p.m. The training is sponsored by the Appalachian Health Initiative, Neurocats, the Apollo Society, Phi Delta Epsilon and the Pre-Dental Society.