As I write, medical examiners have yet to release the official cause of death for University of Oklahoma football player Austin Box. According to El Reno Police, a friend who lived with the 22 year-old found him unresponsive and believed he had overdosed on prescription pain pills. In a 911 recording, the roommate said Box takes pain pills and he’s not responding to me.
If true, it’s just the latest sad incident in a troubling trend: the misuse of prescription medication, whether intentionally or accidentally. Former OSU basketball coach Sean Sutton plead guilty last year for illegally obtaining pain pills that he began taking after a back surgery then to which he subsequently became addicted.
Box played a brutal sport that requires unusual physical and mental toughness. The demands often require playing through pain and sometimes even injury. I worry that in our attempts to explain such a tragic loss of life, we focus on the symptoms and not the wider disease. Prescription medications are just as addictive as anything purchased from a seedy street corner. According to law-enforcement, prescription painkillers rank second behind marijuana as the country’s most common illegal-drug problem. Today we begin a multiple-part video post about a growing problem that cuts across all age groups and economic classes.