Columbine Survivor & Addiction Advocate Austin Eubanks Dies At 37

By Paul Gaita 05/20/19

A statement from his family said Eubanks "lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face."

Columbine Survivor & Addiction Advocate Austin Eubanks
Photo via YouTube

Austin Eubanks, who survived the 1999 Columbine school shooting, has died at the age of 37. Eubanks, who battled an addiction to painkillers used to recover from injuries received during the attack, was found dead in his home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado on May 18, 2019.

The cause of death was yet to be determined, while the Routt County coroner told the Associated Press that no signs of foul play were found at the scene.

His family issued a statement which said that Eubanks "lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face."

Eubanks was 17 when the gunmen entered the Columbine High School library and fatally shot 10 of his fellow students, including his best friend, Corey DePooter.

In a 2016 interview with The Fix, Eubanks said that he received a 30-day supply of painkillers for injuries he received to his hand and knee, despite the fact that the wounds "were not to the point of needing opiate pain medication." Within three months, Eubanks said that he was dependent on the drugs. "I used substances every day, day in and day out," he recalled.

The Columbine incident became a means of obtaining more opioids without questions from medical professionals. "I could literally get whatever I wanted," Eubanks told The Fix. "Telling them I'd been shot at Columbine and lost my best friend was like getting an open prescription book from any doctor."

Eubanks eventually completed his high school degree, got married and had a son, and worked in advertising. But his substance abuse issues went unchecked, despite stints in rehab in 2006 and 2008. Eventually, his marriage fell apart and a series of offenses, including car theft, culminated in a 2011 arrest for probation violation. 

"That was the absolute lowest moment of my life. I had ruined the marriage. I had two children I was estranged from. I told myself, 'If I don't stop right now, I'm going to die,'" he recalled.

Treatment in a 14-month program helped him find recovery and overcome the emotional pain he had kept inside after the Columbine shooting. Eubanks became an administrator at treatment center, and a speaker on the national circuit on addiction and health care reform.

"I think that it's really important that—not as survivors of trauma but survivors of addiction—speak out and they share their story," he said. "Just because you never know when your story is going to change the life of someone else."

In their statement to the press, Eubanks's family thanked the recovery community "for its support."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.