Artist and activist Nan Goldin was among the victims of the nationwide opioid epidemic who testified in a landmark hearing convened by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform last Thursday, December 17. The virtual hearing was the first time members of the Sackler family publicly addressed accusations that they played a role in fueling the crisis, which has killed more than 400,000 Americans, by benefiting financially from sales of the addictive drug Oxycontin manufactured by Purdue Pharma.
“Oxycontin damaged me emotionally, physically, and financially,” Goldin said in her one-minute testimony, reproduced in full at the end of this article. “My addiction destroyed my relationships with my friends and family, and almost ended my career of 50 years.”
Goldin, who leads the anti-opioid group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), has shared her personal struggle with Oxycontin before, but this is the first time she did so in the context of a congressional hearing where members of the Sackler family were present. David and Kathe Sackler, both former board members at Purdue Pharma, expressed “sadness” over the drug’s effects but denied any personal responsibility for the crisis.
“There’s nothing that I can find that I would have done differently based on what I believed and understood then,” Kathe Sackler said in the hearing.
Their presence at the hearing, and that of Purdue chief executive officer Craig Landau, came after Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) threatened to issue subpoenas.
The testimonies come at a tumultuous moment for Purdue Pharma. The company pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges in October and reached an $8.3 billion settlement with the Department of Justice that has been criticized for being too lenient and not holding individual Sacklers accountable. In the wake of the settlement, New York University’s Langone Medical Center became the latest institution to remove the Sackler name from its spaces, following protests led by P.A.I.N. and NYU students.
The virtual hearing can be viewed here. Goldin’s testimony is appended in full below.
“My name is Nan Goldin. I am an artist and a survivor of the opioid crisis. In 2014, I was prescribed Oxycontin for a wrist surgery. I was addicted within a few days, while using as prescribed. Doctors continued to prescribed it to me for pain, and then anxiety. Oxycontin damaged me emotionally, physically, and financially. Before Oxycontin, I traveled constantly, and showed my work at museums around the world. My addiction destroyed my relationships with my friends and family, and almost ended my career of 50 years. I spent my entire savings and was locked in my house for three years. I delayed treatment because of my crippling fear of withdrawal. It’s a form of torture. I overdosed in 2017 and spent months in a detox clinic. I regret the years I’ve lost, which are irretrievable; now I try to speak for the half a million that no longer can.”