Former NBA star Chris Herren speaks with local students about dangers of substance abuse

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By Don Steen ~ Staff Writer • reporter@psci.net

Local high school students were greeted by former basketball star and renowned public speaker, Chris Herren, last Thursday. Herren visited Heritage Hills in the morning and South Spencer in the afternoon, recounting his personal experiences with substance abuse and the importance of recognizing the beginnings of addiction. The presentation was made possible by the Spencer County Community Foundation: Community Good Grant, Spencer County Tobacco Prevention & Cessation, and the Statewide Voice Program.

The presentation began with the biographical film laying out Herren’s rise in the world of sports, the addiction that ultimately ended his career and finally his recovery and current mission to help others avoid the same path.

Herren was a celebrated star in his native Fall River, MA before graduating high school. He went on to play at Boston College and Fresno State, two seasons in the NBA – including one with his hometown team, the Boston Celtics – and seven seasons overseas before losing it all to the disease of addiction. With the unwavering support of his family and friends, Chris has been sober since August 1, 2008.

Herren remarked that he had listened to similar presentations by other addicts in recovery during his own time in high school, and wished he had listened. His first brush with alcohol came during that time, and he was introduced to cocaine very early in college, just as his basketball career was taking off. Herren entered rehab for the first time at 21.

Despite his struggles with substance abuse, he entered the 1999 NBA draft and was selected by the Denver Nuggets. Herren recalled the team going out of their way to avoid bars and other sources of temptation, granting him a valuable reprieve from his disease. However, an old friend from back home eventually introduced him to painkillers, leading to a fierce dependence that would be increasingly difficult to manage.

That challenge would be compounded when he ultimately came to rely on heroin as well, leading to an overdose and car crash in his hometown in 2008. After completing rehabilitation, he has managed to maintain sobriety ever since.

Today, he spends 250 days a year sharing his story at schools across the country. In 2018, he founded drug treatment center, Herren Wellness to further expand his efforts.

Herren told students that when he was their age his response to similar presentations was, “I’ll never be that guy.” Apart from the difficulty of relating to an adult when one is still in high school, Herren pointed out there is a disconnect with how addicts are seen.

Read more on this story in this week’s issue of the Spencer County Leader!

Featured Image: Former NBA star Chris Herren is pictured speaking with high school students on his personal experiences with substance abuse and the importance of recognizing the beginnings of addiction.