My cousin come up from Knoxville
And he taught me a thing or two
Now I’m headed nowhere but downhill
With the OxyContin blues
— Steve Earle, “OxyContin Blues”
You can trace the history of Tennesseans’ problems with substance abuse by listening to their music.
In 1957, Robert Mitchum was roaring out on Thunder Road singing about “moonshine, moonshine to quench the devil’s thirst.”
By the 1980s, Steve Earle was back from Vietnam and warning the sheriff to stay away from his marijuana plants on Copperhead Road.
In 2007, Old Crow Medicine Show’s drug of choice was methamphetamine.
And the following year, Earle had the OxyContin Blues.
“We seem to have a cultural predilection for outlaw status,” said Dr. John “Rett” Blake, a pain specialist in Chattanooga and a member of the state task force that wrote the rules for how doctors should prescribe painkillers. “After Prohibition, we moved on to the next thing, and now it is illicit opioids.”
The problem of painkiller abuse is not limited to Tennessee — it’s a nationwide issue, one that is intertwined with heroin and counterfeit drugs.
But Tennesseans love their painkillers.
Read the full story in the Times Free Press.