The opioid epidemic may have taken another life.
Austin Eubanks escaped death in 1999 as a Columbine High School student in Colorado during the horrific school shooting that took the lives of 13 students and teachers. His best friend was killed during the attack, and Eubanks was shot twice – in the hand and the knee – as he hid under a table in the library while fellow students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked through the school firing their weapons.
Eubanks escaped the shooting and was hospitalized and given opioids to quell the physical pain of his gun wounds. The drugs also numbed his emotions. He became addicted. It took him years to break the addiction, attending multiple treatment centers in his 20s, eventually serving as chief operations officer for the Foundry Treatment Center and traveling across the country talking about his own struggle with opioid addiction.
His last speaking engagement appears to be May 2, at the 2019 Connecticut Opioid and Prescription Drug Prevention Conference. He spoke about trauma’s impact on addiction.
“Austin’s traumatic experience as a teen was the catalyst to his painful journey through addiction,” his conference biography stated. “Now in long-term recovery, he has devoted his career to helping those who have turned to substances as a result of trauma.”
Three weeks later, at the age of 37, Eubanks was found dead in his Colorado home. The cause is suspected opioid overdose.
Eubanks “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face,” his family said in a statement. “Helping to build a community of support is what meant the most to Austin, and we plan to continue his work.” His family added that his cause of death is unknown, and that a scheduled autopsy should reveal what may have killed him.