Woman on Reddit Sends Naloxone in Mail for Free

By Zachary Siegel 07/24/15

An obscure opiate forum has been the source of one person's mission to save lives, no questions asked.

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Tracey Helton
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Meet the “mother of r/opiates,” aka the “heroine heroin of Reddit,” or more simply, Tracey Helton. She was recently featured in Medium.com’s Backchannel section for her critical role in distributing clean-syringes and naloxone, the life-saving opiate antagonist, to drug users who contact her through an obscure opiate forum on Reddit.

Her system is simple: people who want to safely use drugs will shoot her a message and a few days later they’ll receive clean syringes and a vial of naloxone from San Francisco, where Helton lives with her three children.

One Redditor, who was featured in the story, spoke about how Tracey’s free gift saved his life after a near-fatal overdose. He explained how grateful he was that a stranger from across the country could be so caring. “I think it’s her way of reversing things, of making things right,” he said. “All the wrongs she did, she’s making right now.”

Indeed, Tracey is no stranger to the treacherous path heroin takes its users down. In 1999, Helton was featured as one of five addicts in the HBO production of Black Tar Heroin: The Dark End of the Street. She now has 17 years of long-term recovery and is putting her smarts, compassion, and resources to good use.

In a brief interview with The Fix she said, “I feel weird taking credit for something that should be common sense drug policy.”

“A person can't get clean if they are dead,” Helton said, and she feels deeply that heroin users ought to get a chance at life. Naloxone grants them exactly that.

Even though her renegade system is “somewhat” illegal, because some Redditors who request naloxone live in states that require a prescription to possess it, she said her harm reduction efforts are “an extension of my recovery, it isn't in conflict with it.”

“I was given a second chance at life. Why squander that gift by keeping it to myself? I’m in a unique position to help.”

In the meantime, Helton will continue to distribute naloxone to whoever needs it. She is also on deadline for her upcoming book The Big Fix, about being in long-term recovery, to be published by Seal Press in 2016.

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.

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