Utah man shares story of opioid battle with youth groups

FILE - This Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows pills of the painkiller hydrocodone at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Accidental overdoses aren't the only deadly risk from using powerful prescription painkillers _ the drugs may also contribute to heart-related deaths and other fatalities, according to research published Tuesday, June 14, 2016. "As bad as people think the problem of opioid use is, it's probably worse," said Wayne Ray, the lead author and a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University's medical school. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

SPANISH FORK, Utah (AP) — A once promising baseball player at the University of Utah who became addicted to heroin after an injury is now sober, and he’s sharing his story with youth groups to help prevent others from getting sucked in as he did.

Derek Larsen, who had a scholarship to play baseball, spent more than a decade addicted to heroin after his friends suggested he take opioids to deal with the pain of tearing his rotator cuff when he was 16, the Daily Herald reported .

“I love the feeling of heroin, that’s why I did it for so long,” said Larsen, who lives in Spanish Fork.

Larsen was home for the summer after his freshman year when a friend offered him heroin, something that would last longer, get him higher and cost less than opioid pills. Larsen didn’t think he would do it much, but ended up spending the summer high.

He returned to college and started lagging behind at practice and feeling horrible as he went through withdrawal, which led to him walking away from the team.

Larsen was arrested several times for possession of illegal drugs and driving under the influence. Now 34 and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Larsen estimates he spent between $200 and $300 a day on illegal drugs for years.

He credits his turnaround to a medication that blocks the effects of the drugs,

Larsen started getting VIVITROL injections in 2014 and has been mostly clean for three and a half years. VIVITROL is a monthly shot that blocks the effects of opioids and alcohol, and for Larsen, it’s been working.

He now speaks to schools and youth groups about his past. Larsen, who now has a psychology degree and is training to be a support coordinator for people with disabilities, advises teens to pick their friends wisely and tell someone if they do drugs.

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