Former heroin addict reflects on road to recovery in New Jersey

MARLTON, NJ (WTXF) - We've been doubling-down on the heroin epidemic in the state of New Jersey and bringing our viewers personal stories of those suffering and affected.

Chasing News' Rohan Mohanty has been in touch with, Gail O'Brien, who has made it her life's work to help these individuals or families. She provided him with a list of people that might be willing to talk to me.

As he was looking at the list and one named jumped off the screen, Larry Dunn.


"In my mind I thought, no, it couldn't be the same Larry Dunn. I was friends with someone with that name in high school but haven't talked to him in a decade," Rohan recalled. "Reluctantly, I called. To my surprise, it was, in fact, the same Larry Dunn. After hearing his story, I had to share what the past decade of his life has been with his participation."

He picked up Larry in his hometown of Marlton, NJ and they decided to take a drive hitting the high and low places that he's been through in the past decade.

They started where they met, Cherokee High School. They chatted a little about how great it would be to do it all over again because after high school, for Larry, life began to take a downward spiral.

"Wish we were back here to do it all over again. It was fun in high school. The best years of my life," Dunn said.

Our little drive took a darker turn after that. After high school, Larry was in a horrific car accident. He was at Laurel Lanes Bowling Alley in South Jersey with some friends, he was 19. When he left, the driver he was with was intoxicated and speeding.

"That was the beginning of the worst night of my life," Dunn said.

We took a short drive from there to the exact spot where Larry's life changed for the worse, the telephone pole that was hit at over 100mph while Larry was a passenger.

He broke his back in two places, broke ribs, clavicle and had a serious concussion. He doesn't remember the accident but wishes he didn't remember what happened since.

He was taken to Virtua Hospital, and then was airlifted to Cooper Medical and when he finally woke up, his addiction began and he didn't even know it.

It started with prescribed Percocet in small doses, as the pain got stronger, so did the pain meds with the dosage being raised considerably in a short time. He needed it. He needed it to live.

Being a victim in the accident, Larry received a settlement from the insurance company. Being young, he took the money, instead of improving his health 100% so his medical bills were paid because after you sign that check, the insurance companies wipe their hands clean of you.

Larry thought $90,000 dollars would last him though this ailment and more. No longer getting prescriptions, he still needed his meds. He turned to underground dealers for his fix.

The $90,000 dollars was completely gone in 7 and 1/2 months. That's when it got ugly.

With no money and a burning need for a fix ingrained in his body and mind, he turned to heroin.

Taking trips to North Camden to get 10$ bags of heroin became life. Stealing from strangers and loved ones for a fix became life. Halfway houses and jail became life, a far cry from the halls of our high school.

We drove there, through North Camden to the place of his lowest point. The place he would shoot up after he scored. Trash everywhere, even a hypodermic needle laying on the ground for the next kid to come by and pick up.

Watching him silently look around this hellhole moved Rohan. So many emotions must have been running through his mind looking back at those endless nights of addiction, Larry is now clean and ready to tackle his life. He asked him what he was feeling and he surprised me.

"I'm happy. I'm happy I don't have to do this anymore and I want to say to anyone struggling that there is help out there, you just gotta ask for it and take initiative and go get it. You gotta want it. You gotta want it for yourself. It's not impossible, if I can do it, you can do it because I was pretty low," Dunn said.