WCBS 880 reporter Irene Cornell is doing an extended series on drug abuse, called Bad Medicine: When Painkillers Kill. The series will run through May 23. Be sure to check cbsnewyork.com for her pieces if you miss them on-air.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – One pill forever changed the life of an NBA star with a bright future, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell On The Story

At 21-years-old, Chris Herren was a huge talent in professional basketball, but his drug addiction proved to be even bigger.

He went from multi-million dollar contracts with the Boston Celtics and Denver Nuggets to sleeping in a dumpster, a disastrous downward spiral helped along by a friend from his high school days who offered him a little yellow pill.

“He said ‘Remember in high school we used to play around with Percs? We used to play around with Vicodin? I got a new pill. It’s called Oxycontin. It’s 40 mg. It’s 20 bucks. You want one?’ I put out my hand. He put this little yellow pill in the palm of my hand. I threw it in my mouth. I went back to the cookout,” Herren said as he told his cautionary tale to students at Wagner High School on Staten Island.

Staten Island leads New York City in Oxycontin overdose deaths.

“I had no idea that that decision, that afternoon, that $20, was going to lead to 25 Gs a month, in four months. That I was going from one 40 mg. pill to 1600 mg. a day. When it was time to go back to training camp, I was a full blown junkie,” he said.

He told the students how his drug problem drove him out of the country. He had to go to Italy to play basketball.

But then a new problem developed. He ran out of Oxycontin pills.

“I can’t ‘Oxys’ in Italian. I can’t say ‘Percs’ in Italian. The only thing I could think of at 24-years-old was to roll up my sleeve and point to my vein,” he said.

He had made the switch to heroin.

Eventually he broke the drug habit and, at age 36, has now devoted himself to making sure today’s generation of kids don’t go down the same path he did.

Do you have a story of recovery you’d like to share? Feel free to use the comments section below.

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