The West Virginia man, speaking at a meeting of coal industry representatives on Wednesday, said he abused OxyContin for years while working in mines in central Appalachia.
"When you're on it, you don't really think you're impaired," he said. "You go to work to make money so you can buy more."
David Dye, acting director of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, said evidence suggests that drug abuse has become a serious safety issue in coal mines, but he said no one knows at this point how widespread the problem is.
"In several recent fatal mining accidents, toxicology reports revealed the presence of drugs or alcohol in the victims' systems," he said.
MSHA, along with state mine regulatory agencies in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia, sponsored the meeting in Hazard in an effort to gauge how serious the problem is and to try to develop ways to deal with it. The one-day meeting ended with more questions than answers.
It was the second meeting in Kentucky to discuss the issue. During an earlier meeting in Prestonsburg, coal operators asked regulatory officials to help them identify drug-addicted coal miners who travel like nomads from one mine to another hoping to work long enough to pay for another fix.
Drug abuse among miners came to the forefront last year after a miner was killed and another seriously injured at the Cody Mining Co. in Floyd County. Marijuana was found at the scene, and an employee told investigators that he saw two miners snorting crushed painkillers.
An autopsy found that the dead miner had taken illegal drugs, said Holly McCoy, a spokeswoman for the Office of Mine Safety and Licensing.
Dye said mining coal is a dangerous occupation made more dangerous by the introduction of intoxicants.
"Although substance abuse is a nationwide problem, this part of the country seems to stand out on a number of fronts," Dye said.
He said Kentucky is a major producer of marijuana and that several counties in the state's mountain region lead the nation in the amount of prescription narcotics dispensed per capita.
On Wednesday, law enforcement authorities issued arrest warrants on drug charges for 103 people in Pike and Floyd counties.
"It is safe to presume that the substance abuse problem in the mining population is at least comparable to the general U.S. adult working population, and may, in fact, be slightly worse due to the preponderance of young males in mining," Dye said.
Reece Maggard, a Whitesburg coal miner serving as president of the Scotia Employees Association, said random drug testing should be administered uniformly and fairly and should include management personnel.
"I don't think any miner wants to work in the mines with someone intoxicated," he said. "The men wouldn't work with anybody who is out of control."
Most large coal companies have drug-testing programs in place, but they aren't foolproof, said John Schoolcraft, personnel director for Alpha Natural Resources, a mining company based in Abingdon, Va.
Schoolcraft said the root of the problem is cultural. He said doctors in the region are too quick to write prescriptions for painkillers to anyone who walks into their offices.
Osborne, 36, said his addiction began with a prescription for OxyContin for a mining injury. He said he began looking to the black market when he could no longer get legitimate prescriptions.
Now a scoop operator for Rock House Development, Osborne told a group of about 200 people that he was fortunate to overcome his addiction.
Osborne said he worked for six different companies while abusing OxyContin, moving from one location to another to make money to feed his habit.
"It's been a hard, rough road," Osborne said. "It's not easy."