SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — Drug Lawsuit Source is pleased to announce that Leah VanProoyen, of Tucson, Ariz., has been named this year’s recipient of the 2016 Drug Lawsuit Source College Scholarship.

VanProoyen, 21, is a senior at the University of Arizona with a dual major in biochemistry and cellular/molecular biology. Her senior thesis will deal with opiate drugs and approaching pain relief without addictive side effects.

VanProoyen’s interest in the subject is two-fold. First, after experiencing health problems, she was diagnosed as having hemochromatosis, an inability of the body to process iron correctly.

Also, her father was seriously and permanently injured and disabled in a motorcycle accident in 1997. His resulting opioid addiction and her mother’s being found guilty of abuse and neglect meant VanProoyen was raised by legal guardians.

“I watched him become very depressed and suicidal,” said VanProoyen, who said she has no memories of her father before his accident. “I’ve seen my father succumb to opioid addiction because we don’t know.”

VanProoyen is doing research at Arizona to better understand opioid addiction, with the goal being discovering ways to produce non-addictive painkillers.

“We’re working on understanding addiction and tolerance issues in general so we can improve treatment,” VanProoyen said. “We give people opioids and send them home” without thinking of the consequences.

As an example, VanProoyen said that her father took an almost lethal dose of opioids because he was following doctor’s orders. And VanProoyen is convinced that if she had not diagnosed herself with hemochromatosis, she could have gone down the same path.

“If you think about opioids in general, they kill more people than car crashes,” VanProoyen said, counting the suicidal thoughts and addiction that are sometimes side effects.

Each year, the Drug Lawsuit Source College Scholarship awards $1,000 to one student. The scholarship is available to a student of any age who is currently enrolled in any high school or accredited junior college, college, university or trade school.

The deadline to apply for the 2016 Drug Lawsuit Source College Scholarship was Nov. 1, 2016. Details for the 2017 Drug Lawsuit Source College Scholarship will be posted in the near future.

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