PAIN was founded by artist Nan Goldin, together with a group of artists, activists, and people living with addiction in late 2017. PAIN addresses the crisis of the ongoing Drug War by targeting the pharmaceutical companies that have profited off the addictions and deaths of half a million Americans. We are not anti-opioid—We are anti-Big Pharma. Our first focus was on the toxic philanthropy of the billionaire Sackler family, who ignited the opioid overdose epidemic with their blockbuster drug, OxyContin. We’ve exposed the institutions that have been complicit by accepting their donations for years, and through direct action, we’ve successfully pushed many museums and universities to refuse Sackler funding and cut ties with the family. Most recently, along with other advocates, we formed the OxyJustice coalition to demand accountability for the Sacklers in bankruptcy court and followed them into Congress. While we continue to target the Sacklers as they turbocharge their global marketing scheme, our group’s scope has expanded to fight the stigma that surrounds drug use and raise awareness of harm reduction models of treatment. We continue to research the causes and effects of the War on Drugs and plan for future actions to hold Big Pharma accountable and pressure our government to provide life-saving treatments for people who use drugs.



    Top Left: V&A Blood Money 2019

    Bottom Left: Die-in at The Met 2018

    Right: FTIR Machine, fundraised by Nan Goldin & PAIN for North Carolina Survivors Union 2021


    Direct action at the Harvard Art Museums, 2018


    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.


    I learned that the Sackler family, whose name I knew from museums and galleries, were responsible for the epidemic. This family formulated, marketed, and distributed OxyContin. I decided to make the private public by calling them to task. My first action is to publish personal photographs from my own history.

    "Self Portrait 1st Time on Oxy, Berlin, 2014"
    Photo courtesy of VOCAL-NY


    Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.


    Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet drug users “where they’re at,” addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve drug users reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.


    The Sackler fortune comes from drugs. Their family companies (Purdue Pharma in America, and Mundipharma in Europe) have made billions pushing prescription pills with predatory marketing techniques, especially their blockbuster opiate, OxyContin. They are now on a worldwide campaign to expand OxyContin’s reach through Mundipharma. The Sackler family made billions by exploiting our physical and emotional pain, and our cultural institutions are complicit in whitewashing their reputation by accepting the Sackler’s toxic philanthropy.

    Sackler family portrait
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