Tue, May 21, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Columbine survivor dies aged 37

The Guardian, NEW YORK

Columbine High School graduate Cassandra Sandusky, right, pauses with her friend Jennifer Dunmore at a row of crosses bearing the names of the victims of the attack at the school before a ceremony for the victims in Littleton, Colorado, on April 20.

Photo: AP

Austin Eubanks, a survivor of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre who became a prominent campaigner on the danger of opioids after he developed an addiction to painkillers, has died. He was 37.

Eubanks was found in his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and his death was confirmed by a coroner on Saturday.

Although the cause of death was not known ahead of an autopsy yesterday, Eubanks’ family told the local ABC TV station, Denver 7, that he had “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face.”

“Helping to build a community of support is what meant the most to Austin and we plan to continue his work,” they said.

Eubanks’ death came less than a month after the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, in which 12 students and a teacher were killed by two students.

He was in the library of the high school on 20 April, 1999, when the two shooters entered. Ten students, including Eubanks’ best friend, Corey DePooter, died before the gunmen turned their firearms on themselves. One student died later.

Eubanks, then 17, was shot in the hand and knee.

He once said that although in hindsight his injuries were not that severe, he was prescribed prescription medicines to control the pain and within three months had become addicted.

He said the dependency was not so much physical, but emotional.

In a 2016 interview with Denver 7 he said: “I didn’t know any better. I was 17 years old and I had been given medication to feel better.”

“Immediately I learned that if I took substances, I didn’t have to feel, I didn’t have to feel the emotional pain,” he said.

It took him 12 years to find a way out of addiction, and after that he used his dramatic personal story to try and help others fight drug dependency.

He became a prominent expert on addiction and drug policy, traveling the country to advise those going through trauma that it is better to face emotions than dull them behind painkillers, as he did.

After the mass shooting in Parklands, Florida, in February last year, he had a message for his fellow survivors: “With emotional pain, in order to heal it, you have to feel it. It’s not like a physical injury that you can medicate and still recover. In order to heal emotional pain, you have to be present and you have to go through the stages of grief.”

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