Columbine survivor shares story of addiction
Austin Eubanks overcame addiction, is new program director for The Foundry
Steamboat Springs — Austin Eubanks was a junior at Columbine High School 17 years ago this month, when he watched as his best friend and several classmates were killed by teenage gunmen.
Though Eubanks survived the chaos of the Columbine tragedy, he left the school that day with bullet wounds in his knee, injuries to his hand and emotional damage from the experience.
Multiple doctors began prescribing Eubanks psychotropic drugs, painkillers and other medications, and it was only a few days before Eubanks, who had never tried drugs or alcohol before, began taking pills more frequently or at other-than-prescribed times.
“It was an active addiction within a few months,” said Eubanks, who eventually fell into a cycle of taking Adderall, Oxycontin and Xanax daily during a period of addiction that ultimately lasted 12 years.
“I always had multiple doctors and then I would buy substances on the street,” said Eubanks, who was in and out of rehab four times before hitting a rock bottom that led to his long-term sobriety five years ago this April.
Eubanks, a former vice president of marketing and development for a Front Range company, now serves as program director for The Foundry, a new treatment program with an outpatient facility in Steamboat Springs and a residential facility on Colorado Highway 131 south of town.
“I learned about The Foundry early on and was really drawn to it,” said Eubanks, who supports the organization’s four-sided approach to treatment and recovery that includes medical care, clinical treatment, wellness and family.
He said The Foundry works to empower clients and inspire them to improve their lives.
“The core of what’s going to make someone achieve lasting sobriety is that they’re able to build a life for themselves that’s so much better than it was in addiction, that they can’t imagine going back,” Eubanks said.
Eubanks is using his professional background and his own experience with addiction to oversee each of The Foundry’s treatment facilities and a new administrative office on Hilltop Lane.
The Foundry’s residential program welcomed its first client last October and is currently just under capacity with 10 residents.
Eubanks said that several people who’ve come to The Foundry with serious addictions developed the habits after being over-prescribed painkillers from a doctor in the same way that he was.
The United States is currently experiencing a prescription drug and heroin abuse and addiction epidemic, with the rate of overdose deaths increasing 14 percent from 2013 to 2014.
Eubanks said new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control in March ask physicians to consider alternative therapies before prescribing painkillers and make efforts not to overprescribe, and he believes these changes are a positive step toward addressing the epidemic.
“I think it’s a huge step in the right direction,” Eubanks said.
But, he believes educating doctors more thoroughly about addiction and the role painkillers play in serious addictions like heroin use is also needed.
Eubanks said he hears from doctors who are asking for the education and he believes that a full semester of education on addiction should be offered to prescribers.
“(We need to be) adequately training doctors to be aware of what addiction really is,” Eubanks said.
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