“I survived the opioid crisis. I narrowly escaped. I went from the darkness and ran full speed into The World. I was isolated, but I realized I wasn’t alone. When I got out of treatment I became absorbed in reports of addicts dropping dead from my drug, OxyContin,” are the first few sentences of Nan Goldin’s harrowing call-to-action published in Artforum yesterday.
Goldin’s work has always documented those on the fringes — addicts, prostitutes, people living with and dying from AIDS. Now she’s turning her struggle (and the struggle of 1 in 4 Americans) into a movement, and she’s focusing her attention particularly on the Sackler family, the makers and distributors of OxyContin. The Sacklers have been the subject of two articles in the New Yorker and Esquire that Goldin referenced as a call to arms. The family’s name can be seen on over a dozen museums and courtyards and galleries around the world, including the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.
“They have washed their blood money through the halls of museums and universities around the world. We demand that the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma use their fortune to fund addiction treatment and education,” Goldin wrote. Her own addiction began years ago in Berlin, when she was first prescribed OxyContin after surgery and became “addicted overnight.” She continued on to tell the story of many addicts — wasted money, burnt bridges, lost time. The letter gives her account of going from three prescribed pills a day to eighteen.
Now, the photographer is taking action. She’s started a group called P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) to hold the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma accountable. What specifically the group will do is a bit vague so far, but Goldin writes that the initiative will “target their philanthropy.” You can check out the group’s pages on Instagram and Twitter, and reach out to Nan herself at firstname.lastname@example.org.