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Ex-NBA Player Talks to Students About His Drug Addiction and Recovery

Former NBA star Chris Herren once enjoyed a life of fame, basking in the adoration of cheering fans every time he scored points on the court. He traveled to Italy, China, Poland, Turkey, and Iran to participate in major leagues. But such a prestigious basketball career was not spared from getting tarnished by his drug addiction.

These days, Herren is still a well-recognized figure — only this time, in the field of motivational speaking.

On March 3, the 37-year-old former member of the Denver Nuggets and Boston Celtics shared his story to about 200 University of West Florida students and community members who gathered at UWF Field House. He talked about the first time he was introduced to cocaine, his addiction to painkillers, his life and death struggle with heroin, and the realization that he needed rehab to get his life back on track.

“I had never seen cocaine,” PNJ.com quoted Herren as saying. “I said to myself, ‘I am going to do this one time, and I am never going to do it again.’ I promised myself at 18-years-old that it would be a one-time thing. I never knew that it would be a 14-year nightmare.”

During his Boston College days, Herren was featured in several magazines including Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated. But before playing, he failed a drug test for marijuana and cocaine use. Within three months following an injury he received in November of 1994, he again failed two drug tests for the same substances.

When Herren made it to the NBA, he brought with him his love for drugs. “I couldn’t play unless I was under the influence,”” he said. “Oxycontin, opiates and heroin took over my world. Without it, there was no possibility of functioning. It obviously deteriorated my body, physically, but emotionally and mentally my mind was always elsewhere.”

In 2008, Herren entered rehab with the help of a fellow NBA player who offered to pay for a six-month rehabilitation program. He has been alcohol and drug-free since Aug. 2008.

Herren still travels a lot but mostly within the country to provide talks to students and athletic groups about his addiction experience. He established The Herren Project in 2011 to provide assistance in taking the first steps toward recovery and a life of sobriety. Recently, Herren launched the Purple Project to break the stigma of addiction, bring awareness to the dangers of substance abuse and shed light on effective treatment practices.


  1. Eric

    Great read. I once suffered from painkiller addiction. I did pretty much what this article said. I went through 12 step recovery. I started off by joining a sober living. The whole experience changed my life. I am truly blessed. I know live for recovery and I think Dr. Golden for getting critical information out to the people still suffering from this disease.

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