After experimenting with other drugs, Herren, at age 22, started using OxyContin and within a year was hooked on heroin. His addiction followed him from the NBA’s Denver Nuggets in 1999 to the Celtics, where his addiction bit hard and he was cut after seven months. He spent the next four years bouncing from team to team in leagues in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
“Heroin addiction is misery,” said Herren, who says he has been clean four years. “You are imprisoned in your own body.”
The former star has talked about his experience at 96 high schools in Massachusetts and Rhode Island over the past year, and has also spoken at more than 100 colleges and to many professional sports teams, including the Boston Red Sox.
“I tell people my story and every bad part of it. They see this guy pouring his soul out about what addiction does to you. The pain it brings. I think they walk away feeling, ‘If it can happen to him, it can happen to me,’ ” he said in an interview. “I try to explain to the kids how a couple of bad decisions can turn your world upside-down. I know the horrors.”
He said plenty of young people in his wealthy suburb drank alcohol, and as a college athlete he abused cocaine — bad decisions that made him think nothing of experimenting with prescription painkillers, which triggered his rapid descent into addiction.
“Today you have 14- or 15-year-olds jumping on a narcotic and they have no idea the power of it. When I started taking OxyContin, I had no idea the strength of it. Until I woke up sick, and then your option is to stay sick or get high. I was playing for the Celtics, and five years later I wake up a heroin addict in Tehran,” he said.
“At every school, my goal is to reach just one person,’’ Herren said. “The reality is there’s drugs everywhere.”
Meg Murphy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.