Former NBA player Chris Herren to return to Rappahannock, Fauquier

Addiction: Parents helping children before it’s too late

By Debbie Eisele
Special to the Rappahannock News

Addiction is defined as “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (such as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.”

Chris Herren Courtesy photo

Lately, so many sad stories have been shared about the opioid issues that are problematic both locally and nationally. There are many forms of addiction that may be the “stepping stone” to an opioid crisis for an individual. The country is plagued with such narratives. Alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine, just to name a few, are substances that have shown to be involved in the escalation of addiction.

Sallie Morgan, the executive director for the Mental Health Association of Fauquier County, explained, “We know that the average age of first use of drugs or alcohol among local young people is now 13, which puts them at a 70 percent risk of developing an addiction over the next few years of their lives. We also know from the recent PRIDE survey that approximately 400 local students are currently at risk of addiction based on their frequent use of substances. That is why understanding the red flags that point to experimentation with drugs or alcohol and knowing how to discuss the issue with our children is so crucial.”

The PRIDE Survey was administered in October 2015 to more than 4,000 students in grades seven through twelve. Topics in the survey included: frequency of drug and alcohol use; time of first use; where and when drugs and alcohol are used; perceived harm of use; other mental health issues; and more.

Local law enforcement, like the Mental Health Association, understands addiction and the toll it takes. Before joining the Warrenton Police Department, Chief Lou Battle worked as the Narcotics Bureau Commander for both the northern and southern regions of Miami Dade County in Florida. During this time he saw the overwhelming toll drug addiction took on the users and how it ravaged families.

“I first saw that there was a disconnect between enforcement efforts and services offered, each working independently of one another to address drug addiction,” said Chief Battle. “I really believe that the most effective prevention begins when parents have these conversations with their children from an early age. Parents are the most significant influences on their kids. If they don’t have an understanding of drug and alcohol addiction, they can’t impart an understanding of the costs and dangers caused by addiction.”

The local mental health industry, together with local law enforcement, has been providing assistance to addicts, but what more can be done? What if parents, grandparents and friends of families gather important information to assist an individual or individuals that show signs of addiction to alcohol, marijuana, or something else?

So what is being done?

The PATH Foundation and the Mental Health Association of Fauquier County are hosting former NBA player Chris Herren for a community forum on addiction. This free community event will be held on Tuesday, November 28 at 2 p.m. at Rappahannock County High School and at 7 p.m. at Fauquier High School, the latter appearance designed to provide parents, grandparents, and the overall community with valuable information on how to recognize the symptoms of addiction and what they can do to help.

“We’ve learned so much about the very real dangers of substance abuse through discussions with law enforcement, the Mental Health Association of Fauquier County, and others. The PRIDE survey was eye opening with its statistics for students in our area. We want to help parents learn more about these issues,” said Christy Connolly, PATH Foundation president and CEO.

In high school, Herren was an amazing basketball player, was featured in Sports Illustrated, and recruited by several universities. After time playing for Boston College and Fresno State, he was drafted by the Denver Nuggets, and later played for the Boston Celtics. He also found personal success: as a husband and father.

However, Herren’s success on the court and in his personal life hid a secret — his addiction to alcohol, cocaine, and painkillers. When his addiction took precedence in his life, his successes deteriorated and he almost lost everything. Herren fought his way through the darkness that engulfed him. He shared his tumultuous journey in his 2011 book Basketball Junkie; his life was also profiled in Unguarded, an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary.

Chris has remained sober for nine years now and speaks to hundreds of groups each year about his experience.

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