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Blog Entry

Prescription painkillers killed Austin Box

Posted on: July 12, 2011 11:26 am
Edited on: July 12, 2011 11:50 am
 

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Oklahoma linebacker Austin Box died unexpectedly on May 19th, and according to toxicology reports released by his parents on Monday, we now know that prescription painkillers were what led to Box's death. The toxicology reports show that Box had five different painkillers in his system when he died: oxymorphone, morphine, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and alprazolam.

The probable cause of death was "pulmonary edema and aspiration pneumonia," a condition caused by "mixed drug toxicity." The report also listed cardiomegaly -- an enlarged heart -- and chronic pain history as other significant medical conditions.

News that came as a shock to Box's parents, who had no clue their son was on so many pain medications. According to his father, Craig Box, who had spent the last four days with Austin before his death on a trip to St. Louis, he never saw his son take anything but Advil. Gail Box, Austin's mother, said that although Box had suffered through a number of injuries that required painkillers, her son was never the type to take them longer than he needed to, and she never saw any signs of abuse.

“I am a guidance counselor at Enid High School and, yes, I see drugs and what it does to the young person, their attitude about school, their attitude about life, and I see them give up,” Gail Box told The Oklahoman. “I know the signs of drug use. It is not my job to diagnose but it is my job to refer someone when I suspect. And there have been many times when I have suspected and many times when I have referred. I have wracked my brain. Did I ignore signs? I don't know, but I do know that Austin was a silent sufferer.”

Neither of Box's parents believe that their son would have purposely taken the drugs in a suicide attempt. 


Comments

Since: Sep 22, 2009
Posted on: July 13, 2011 2:29 pm
 

Prescription painkillers killed Austin Box

I completely agree, lee3022.  As a former student at OU, and knowing the health center at Goddard, it wouldn't surprise me if he simply made multiple appointments and the various doctors (most of them are near retirement) would just give him pills.  I know the athletic department is different, but I would hope doctors would want medical records of an athlete.

Box had surgery on his back, so it's possible he had left-over pain meds after his surgery.  Through the months, he may have accumulated more as he went to checkups and/or complained of different pain.  It's also highly likely he obtained pills from friends, the internet, or really, anywhere despite the fact those are controlled substances.

I'm happy you got off pain killers, lee.  I did the same thing, as my body doesn't tolerate them too well.  After a surgery I had, I was allergic to the Roxycodone, and had to live on Advil, which didn't do much.  Speaking of Advil, a customer of mine died from taking too much after he hurt his back and it punched a hole right through his stomach where he bled to death.

It's true those pills can cause depression, but depression can also lead to wanting to take more.  A young athlete not being able to play due to pain is frustrating, and you'll do whatever it takes to get back on the field.  Like BillyJack, I didn't listen to my body when it said STOP, and now am paying the consequences.  Fortunately, I've continued to stay away from the narcotics, myself.

Once again, it's a terrible tragedy, but honestly, I'm surprised we don't see this happening more often.  I believe the Alabama player also died from a toxic overdose of pain meds, too.  I really hope something can be done to educate these athletes on how dangerous these pills really are.



Since: May 20, 2011
Posted on: July 13, 2011 2:17 pm
 

Prescription painkillers killed Austin Box

Not that it matters much now, but alprazolam is not a painkiller. It is a benzodiazepine more commonly known as Xanax and most commonly prescribed for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Many people don't know that opiates and benzodiazepines, when taken together have a synergistic effect on one another.

All of the drugs listed are extremely easy to get on the streets and all of them have a high potential for abuse (even Xanax). I doubt very much that a single (ethical) doctor would prescribe such a volatile and potent combination of narcotics to a single patient. To me, this combination of medications smacks of diverted and/or illicitly purchased prescription drugs rather than a case of overprescription. If indeed the police/DEA find out that a single physician prescribed all of these drugs to a young athlete (or anyone, for that matter), that physician will be held accountable and could lose his/her DEA license, medical license and even possibly face prison time if found criminally negligent. 

It's a shame that it takes the death of a division 1 athlete to bring attention to the addiction problems that plague our country. Second only to alcohol, opiate addiction is by far the most common addiction I see in my practice and it can be very difficult to conquer, especially when a client has chronic pain issues OR is a frequently battered and bruised division 1 football player. Coaches and school officials in every college and high school should be teaching their students/athletes about the hazards of addiction and keeping a keen eye out for signs of drug abuse.

I believe that the NCAA has some very stringent drug testing guidelines (learned from watching Blue Mountain State of course), but there are many producs and devices that can aid a student in "dropping" a clean urinalysis when tested. From ingestable masking agents to strap on prosthetics...where there is is a will, there is a way. In my professional opinion, the "War on Drugs" has been a miserable failure and we should spend that money on prevention and treatment, as opposed to turning non-violent addicts into felons and further ruining their lives.

Anyway, I hope that this young man's family and friends can find peace. I wish all of them and the Sooner nation the very best in this tough time.

Respectfully,

Addiction Professional and Hawkeye Fanatic.



Since: Dec 5, 2006
Posted on: July 13, 2011 1:29 am
 

Prescription painkillers killed Austin Box

Chronic pain is a serious condition also frequently causing depression. I know because I have Chronic Pain. I went through the preliminaries at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester for their pain management program. The one central theme is get off pain killers. I decided i could do that on my own (I was only using Advil and my liver was already suffering) but have lived without any pain medications for 14 years. I can see why an athlete would want to hide his pain and depression as well. Any reporting of those for his medical records will likely end his NFL opportunities.

The availability of all five of these painkillers by prescription would suggest a handful of doctors visited and prescribed without knowing about the others. Or else the ready availability through the team. Let us hope that it is not the team. The Boxes sound like really nice people who would want to investigate to determine the answers. We may never know but I hope they are able to come to a satisfactory conclusion and find peace over the loss of their son. No parent should ever have to see their child die before them. What a heart breaking story.

If, perhaps, there are elements around the football program who deal in drugs involved here I hope that exposure will prevent recurrence. Believe me when I say these drugs all together form a completely unacceptable picture and treatment. Even if it was his own intent to take his life, the availability of morphine and all the others is just beyond belief.



Since: Apr 20, 2011
Posted on: July 12, 2011 9:14 pm
 

Prescription painkillers killed Austin Box

What people who are not addicted to drugs do not understand is that the longer you take them, the more you need to get the desired results.  Pretty soon, one pain killer is not enough.  The adict is afraid to take too many of the same medications, so he/she thinks that by taking different medications, they can achieve the results they want and not overdose on any single medication.   It is simple for anyone to see different doctors and get prescriptions for different medications.  Players do not have the common sense or the brains to know when enough physical pain is enough.  They are way too macho for that.  They feel that they must push themselves to the bitter end.  One has to wonder how many more athletes are addicted to pain medications that the public never finds out about.



Absolutely!  No one believes they have a problem, but get into self-medicating, thinking their bodies can tolerate a lot more than the average joe.  This is why it's so important for athletic programs and physicians administering these types of drugs to educate and closely monitor the player's treatment.  I still can't get over just how much stuff this kid was on.  Not to mention, his dad said he saw him taking Ibuprofen, which with the amount Box was probably taking, could have been just as deadly.

And it is the tough guy attitude, where a player doesn't want to be seen complaining or "wussing out", and instead of letting his coach down, he ends up letting his body down in the long run.  I'm just as guilty as well, as in my college days and young adulthood, I'd tear my body up and assume I could take anything I wanted because my body weight was xxx and because I was athletic, therefore healthier than others, and because I had a high tolerance, blah blah blah.....Then I'd go drink like a fish after workouts.  Now, walking down the stairs hurts, and having my dogs jerk too hard on their leashes will aggrivate my shoulder all to heck...And that's the shoulder I haven't needed surgery on (yet).

The culture in treating and rehabing injuries MUST change.



Since: Aug 29, 2006
Posted on: July 12, 2011 7:30 pm
 

Austin Box killed Austin Box

Pills don't kill people, people kill people; or people kill themselves.



Since: Nov 19, 2006
Posted on: July 12, 2011 5:58 pm
 

Prescription painkillers killed Austin Box

What people who are not addicted to drugs do not understand is that the longer you take them, the more you need to get the desired results.  Pretty soon, one pain killer is not enough.  The adict is afraid to take too many of the same medications, so he/she thinks that by taking different medications, they can achieve the results they want and not overdose on any single medication.   It is simple for anyone to see different doctors and get prescriptions for different medications.  Players do not have the common sense or the brains to know when enough physical pain is enough.  They are way too macho for that.  They feel that they must push themselves to the bitter end.  One has to wonder how many more athletes are addicted to pain medications that the public never finds out about.



Since: Sep 18, 2010
Posted on: July 12, 2011 2:34 pm
 

Prescription painkillers killed Austin Box

If you rule out suicide (which may be premature as we aren't privy to the amounts of these drugs that he took), one has to wonder, from whom did he get the drugs - and how could no one have known he was in what had to be intense pain?

Tragic. 





Since: Jul 12, 2011
Posted on: July 12, 2011 12:36 pm
 

Prescription painkillers killed Austin Box

Death of a Sooner

The shocking death of Austin Box raises awareness about athletes on painkillers.

http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/a

rticle-12219-death-of-a-sooner.html







Since: Jun 24, 2010
Posted on: July 12, 2011 12:17 pm
 

Prescription painkillers killed Austin Box

Pharmaceutical cocktail is exactly how University of Alabama offensive lineman Aaron Douglas left this World on May 12th.



Since: Sep 22, 2009
Posted on: July 12, 2011 11:56 am
 

Prescription painkillers killed Austin Box

I'm not surprised by the findings, but what perplexes me is how he had so many prescriptions in his possesion.  He could have obtained them illegally, but man, that looks like a combination tha would kill an elephant.

I'm not sure what, if anything, is taught to student athletes about the dangers of using pain killers, but perhaps it's time education on their addictive properties, as well as closer monitoring on how much and who is issuing them.

What a tragedy, and a shame, since this could have been prevented.

Rest In Peace, Austin.  I hope your death was not in vain, but will wake other athletes up about just how dangerous these things are.


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