“Hillbilly heroin” was the name that stuck, but there’s mounting evidence to suggest OxyContin’s fan base reaches far beyond the Ozarks. Police in both the U.S. and Canada are uncovering increasing numbers of OxyContin trafficking rings in metropolitan centres, while big-city doctors are accused of writing fake prescriptions for the painkiller. And-as with practically anything you shoot or snort-celebrity abusers are helping push the drug into the spotlight.
Its best-known abuser may be Rush Limbaugh, the rightwing radio host who railed against drugs (insisting, among other things, that addicts should be jailed) before admitting his own addiction to painkillers last October. His former housekeeper, who served as his drug connection, says Limbaugh was particularly attached to OxyContin, referring fondly to the pills as “little blues.” Rocker Courtney Love also told police she was on the drug when she was arrested that same month outside her ex-boyfriend’s house, and is now facing unrelated charges of illegal possession of prescription drugs. There’s even a rock ’n’ roll song about OxyContin: Hillbilly Junk is a tinny, rollicking paean to the analgesic that appears on a recently released album by Paul Westerberg, former front man for the Replacements.
OxyContin still has nowhere near the street popularity of cocaine and heroin. But one recent case in Toronto illustrates the changes afoot: a 57-year-old doctor, Ravi Devgan, is accused of faking prescriptions so pills could be diverted to illegal users. At his trial last week, prosecutor Moiz Rahman warned the jury to forget their Hollywood notions of the drug tradeof white powder in bags and briefcases full of money. “The tools of the trade here,” he said, “are a white lab coat, a pen and preprinted pieces of white paper.” C.G.
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