Scottish Drugs Forum is saddened to learn of the death of Dan Bigg, harm reduction pioneer and activist and founder of the Chicago Recovery Alliance, USA, who died on Tuesday 22nd of August at the age of 59.
Dan was involved directly in supporting people who use drugs since the early 1990s, when he was trying to stem the spread of HIV by distributing sterile hypodermic needles – an activity that at the time was legally dubious, but desperately needed.
A decade later, as heroin-related deaths began to surge, he pioneered the idea distributing naloxone, previously mainly used in clinical setting and by ambulance first responders, into the hands of people who at risk of opiate overdose and their friends and family. He achieved this through peer supply.
SDF’s first encounter with Dan took place on a multi-agency fact-finding trip to America in 2006, which aimed to witness firsthand the practice and impact of naloxone distribution by the Chicago Recovery Alliance.
It was from this trip that the wheels were put in motion towards implementing Scotland’s National Naloxone Programme in 2010, a world first national lifesaving initiative introduced in response to rising numbers of opioid-related deaths.
SDF kept in touch with Dan over the following years and we were delighted to have him over to present on his experiences at our 2014 conference on drug-related deaths “One is too many” where he provided an insight into his career working in the substance use field in America.
In recent years, Dan was honoured by the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, which cited his work with naloxone, and by Chicago Magazine, which named him a Chicagoan of the year.
The Alliance will continue its work, with a new focus on treating hepatitis C.