Austin Eubanks, Columbine Survivor, Died Of Heroin Overdose

By Beth Leipholtz 06/18/19

In the wake of the 1999 Columbine school shooting, Eubanks struggled with opioid use. Eventually, he began speaking publicly about his struggles.

Image: 
Austin Eubanks
Photo via YouTube

A well-known addiction advocate and survivor of the Columbine shooting has died of a heroin overdose, reports have confirmed. 

Austin Eubanks was found dead last month after failing to answer his phone during a welfare check, CNN reports. The coroner's office has confirmed that the 37-year-old's death was due to "acute heroin toxicity.”

"I'm very sad about it myself," Routt County, Colorado Coroner Robert Ryg tells CNN. "We were hoping for something else, heart attack or something."

In the wake of the 1999 Columbine school shooting, which left 13 dead and many injured, Eubanks struggled with opioid use. Eventually, he began speaking publicly about his struggles. 

“An injured survivor of the Columbine shooting, Austin’s traumatic experience as a teen was the catalyst to his painful journey through addiction,” his website reads. “He has since devoted his career to helping those who have turned to substances as a result of trauma. Austin has spoken to millions across the nation regarding his personal journey as well as strategies for addressing the issues of substance abuse that are plaguing the nation.” 

Eubanks’ family told KMGH in a statement that he “lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face.”

On the day of the shooting, Eubanks, then 17, was in the library with friends when gunshots broke out.   

"A teacher ran through the same doors that we just entered into the library, yelling at everybody to get under the tables, that somebody had a gun, and I remember just being in shock," Eubanks said

Eubanks and his friends hid under the tables in the library, but when the two shooters began firing, Eubanks was struck in the knee and hand and his best friend was fatally wounded.

"As a result of my injuries, I was pretty significantly medicated about 45 minutes after being shot,” Eubanks said. “I remember immediately being drawn to that feeling, because it took the emotion away.”

Despite continuing to struggle with opioid use through his 20s, Eubanks eventually settled into long-term recovery and chose to share his experiences to help others. 

In the wake of more recent school shootings, Eubanks said that he recognizes some differences. 

"One of the things that I think is so inspiring and so different about the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy is the activism that I'm seeing in the student body, and I think that that's wonderful," he said. "What I'm fearful of is that if they get so laser-focused on trying to impact societal change, they're going to detach from their own healing, and that is a form of medicating."

Eubanks’ family plans to continue his work in his memory, according to CNN.

“Helping to build a community of support is what meant the most to Austin, and we plan to continue his work," his family said in their statement. 

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at www.lifetobecontinued.com, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.

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