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) – On Wednesday, WCBS 880 reporter Irene Cornell told you about Chris Herren’s downward spiral from promising NBA star to drug addict.

As he put it, there came a day when he chose “800 mg. over $8 million.”

He lost his dream job with the Boston Celtics and nearly lost his life to Oxycontin and heroin, but now he’s a man on a mission, traveling the country telling his powerful story to vulnerable kids.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell On The Story

“When I started doing Oxycontin, the only people that had Oxycontin were people who had terminal cancer, and HIV / AIDS. Those were the only people getting prescribed Oxycontin, and now you get prescribed it for everything,” Herren said.

At Wagner High School on Staten Island, he told the harrowing tale of the night a former NFL player invited him over to get high. For some reason, Chris Herren said no that night. Then he got a phone call and turned on the news.

“So I put on the news and all the sudden, the house that I was in three days earlier popped up and with yellow tape, blue lights, and this woman stepped in front of the camera and she said ‘Last night, at 2:30 in the morning, an unknown assailant kicked in the front door of a former NFL football player. When police arrived on scene they found the 22-year-old girl and former NFL football player with bullets in the back of their head. They were made to get down on their knees and they were executed,'” Herren told the students. “First time in my life I said no to drugs. I would’ve been on that living room floor with a bullet in the back of my head.”

Even that didn’t scare him away from drugs.

“Oxycontin is just heroin in a pill, and one day you’re going to wake up, and you’re not going to be able to find Oxycontin, and your drug dealer’s going to tell you ‘Well, I have heroin.’ and you’re going to say ‘Well, pass me some heroin,'” said Herren.

When he speaks, he tells students that heroin can kill you if Oxycontin doesn’t get you first.

“I just spoke at a school where an eighth grader overdosed. He died. Eighth grade, 13-years-old, on Oxycontin. He got some out of his mother’s medicine cabinet, and his mother woke him up for school the next day, and he was stiff, you know, 13. So, it’s everywhere. It’s at all age groups now. It’s an awful, awful, awful, drug,” Herren told Cornell.

He said that 24 kids he spoke to at Wagner High School came forward to say they had a problem with prescription painkillers.

Herren told Cornell that the potency of Oxycontin and its being overprescribed have added up to many young lives being lost.

How do you think we can protect today’s children? Share your ideas in the comments section below.

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