Unlikely Partners Fight Opioid/Opiate Addiction

Elizabeth A. Sackler

Addiction makes strange bedfellows.

What does this mean? It means that some apparently unlikely people seem to agree with each other when it comes to drug addiction and recovery.

Some of these partners are the artist Nan Goldin and the historian and feminist Elizabeth A. Sackler. Nan Goldin is a prominent photographer and artist. She said she was addicted to OxyContin (oxycodone), a powerful opioid/opiate from 2014 to 2017.

Goldin had many of the same experiences that other drug users have. She began using OxyContin with a doctor’s prescription but said she became addicted to it. She eventually used similar drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. She overdosed on fentanyl and entered treatment.

After treatment, Goldin founded the organization Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (P.A.I.N.) to raise awareness about prescription drugs. The organization also raises awareness about the Sackler family.

Who are the Sacklers and why does Goldin care about them? Three Sackler brothers founded Purdue Pharma, a giant pharmaceutical company that began manufacturing and selling OxyContin in the 1990s. The success of this drug earned billions of dollars for the company and the Sackler families.

The Sacklers have donated much of this money to fund art museums around the world. As a photographer, Nan Goldin is familiar with the Sacklers and their philanthropy.

The Sacklers themselves say that money from OxyContin has not funded such donations. According to Elizabeth A. Sackler, when her father, one of the Sackler brothers, died in 1987, his estate had already sold his shares of Purdue Pharma. She said they sold these shares years before the company began marketing OxyContin.

Elizabeth A. Sackler, though, strongly supports Nan Goldin. In a statement posted on the site Hyperallergic, Sackler said, “I admire Nan Goldin’s commitment to take action and her courage to tell her story. I stand in solidarity with artists and thinkers whose work and voices must be heard.” Sackler added that “I stand with all angry voices against abuse of power that harms or compromises any and all lives.

Addiction, then, makes unlikely partners. But, maybe these partnerships can encourage more people to combine forces to understand addiction and find ways to fight it.