Depicting Life and Oxycodone Addiction

Artist Nan Goldin

By team art in berlin – Nan Goldin, CC BY-SA 2.0,



Often, drug addiction and alcohol abuse are dirty little secrets. People are often ashamed to admit that they have a problem with substance abuse. People are often afraid that other people might stigmatize them or even discriminate against them because of their problems with substances.

That’s why Nan Goldin’s life and work is so fascinating. Nan Goldin is a prominent photographer and artist known for her photographs of her fellow New Yorkers. Goldin is also known for her photographs of herself. Some of her photographs and paintings relate to her use of opiate/opioid drugs.

Goldin said she was addicted to the opioid painkiller OxyContin (the brand name for the drug oxycodone) until she entered treatment in 2017. Photographs she took during her drug use include a photograph of an array of prescription drugs, another of her crushing OxyContin, and other drug-related photographs. Other Goldin works from this time include paintings with emotionally evocative titles such as “boogie man” and “Friday night alone, nobody on the phone.”

Like others, Nan Goldin said she began using OxyContin because of a doctor’s prescription. Like others, Goldin began using prescription drugs and then began using heroin and other drugs. She eventually snorted fentanyl, a drug that is similar to heroin, prescription drugs, and other drugs, but is much more powerful. She overdosed on fentanyl and almost died.

Goldin discusses her issues with drugs and the fact that she received rehab treatment in the 1980s and in the 2010s. She has shared even more by founding the organization Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (P.A.I.N.) in 2017. Her art details her life, including her addictions.

Maybe Goldin’s example will encourage others to discuss their own substance abuse. Maybe it can help explain how substance abuse doesn’t discriminate and can touch even famous photographers and other prominent people.

Just as importantly, maybe Goldin’s life, art, and activism will show that if people battle addictions, there is hope that they can still form connection to others and find ultimate recovery.