Dan Bigg is a shining example of someone who is compassionate, open-minded and non-judgmental. If only there could be more people like him that took a stand for Harm Reduction and the under valued class of people known as junkies, who happen to be addicted to heroin, those who the rest of the country would rather sweep under the rug and forget.
I’m offering him a heartfelt “Thank You!” ~From heroin users, and their families everywhere
First published on nationswell.com by Maia Szalavitz on March 4, 2014
Through the work of his nonprofit organization, the Chicago Recovery Alliance, Dan Bigg has helped save thousands of lives from drug overdose. Bigg, personally, has saved at least six. One night a few years ago, for example, Bigg was doing outreach work with a group of intravenous drug users in their apartment in Chicago when he noticed that a striking young woman in her 30s had become ashen. Her breathing had slowed dangerously. Her friends said that she had taken heroin. Brushing aside their objections that he would tear her designer clothes — the woman “looked like a fashion model,” according to Bigg — or bring her down too hard from her high, he injected her with an overdose antidote called naloxone and instantly restored her breathing to normal.
A few weeks later, she called him to say thank you: If you hadn’t been there, she told him, my friends might not have realized I was so close to death.
It is a scenario that has grown increasingly common in the United States: accidental overdose from opioids like heroin and, more commonly, prescription painkillers including oxycodone and Vicodin. There are now more deaths from drug overdose — roughly 100 Americans every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — than from car crashes or homicides. And in at least half of the overdose cases, people die in the presence of friends or bystanders who could have done something to save them.
Without Bigg, that number would be much, much higher. Since the mid-1990s, the 55-year-old co-founder of the Chicago Recovery Alliance (CRA) has been handing out naloxone, the antidote, to drug users and to their loved ones, who would be in a position to help them in case of an overdose. The life-saving drug, which goes by the brand name Narcan, was previously used only in hospitals and emergency departments (today, many first responders like emergency medical technicians and some police officers and firefighters also have it at the ready) — and it worked well in these settings, except for the fact that many witnesses to overdose don’t call for help or get victims to the hospital in time.
So Bigg pioneered the strategy to get naloxone into more hands. You don’t have to be a health-care worker to use it safely. Naloxone is nontoxic and non-addictive, and it can quickly — typically within seconds, or sometimes minutes — reverse the potentially deadly effects of opioids. It can be injected or delivered through the nose, though so far, only the injectable formulation has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Naloxone also reverses overdose from combinations of drugs — generally, opioid overdoses involve other depressant substances like alcohol or Valium — as long as one of the drugs is an opioid. It’s safe to use because you can’t get high on it; it works by blocking the effect of opioids on the brain, so it produces the opposite of a high: withdrawal.
There has been an upswell of interest in naloxone since the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead of an overdose on Feb. 2, reportedly with a needle still in his arm and in possession of dozens of bags of heroin. Many in the media have called for making naloxone more widely available, not only for medical workers and first responders, but also for addicted people and their families. It’s an idea that has been around a long time — no one can remember who first came up with it as a way to save overdose victims — but Bigg is credited with being the first to take action on it.” Click the link below to read the entire article…