In the United States, decades of dehumanizing, prohibitionist drug policy spawned an overdose crisis that now kills over 100,000 people each year. In the War on Drugs, the only “criminals” are profiteers like the Sacklers.
This family exploited existing stigma against drug users to shield themselves from scrutiny while making billions. American incarceration rates far outpace the rest of the world, with a current incarcerated population of nearly 2 million people. 1 in 5 of these people are incarcerated for drug offenses. [source]
The way out of the overdose crisis is through the decriminalization of drugs and the expansion of harm reduction-based health care and services.
In 2021, drug overdose deaths in the US hit a record high of 107,600. That’s an increase of 15 percent from the previous year, following a shocking rise of nearly 30 percent from the year before. The simultaneous COVID-19 pandemic has only further exacerbated existing hazards and barriers facing drug users.
More than 932,000 deaths since 1999 have been attributed to drug overdoses, which are now one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.
Although PAIN speaks out against the Sacklers’ predatory marketing of OxyContin, it’s vital to recognize that a vast majority of overdose deaths are a result of an unpredictable drug supply contaminated by a variety of substances, most notably, illicitly manufactured fentanyl.
Harm reduction is a public health and social justice approach that aims to reduce the negative health, social, and legal consequences of licit and illicit drug use. Harm reduction is grounded in the fact that people who use drugs deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
Practices are focused on meeting drug users “where they’re at”, using interventions that will reflect specific needs and prioritizing positive change without judgment or coercion. Some examples include needle exchange programs, safe injection sites, drug testing programs, and naloxone to reverse overdoses.
Additionally, harm reduction is rooted in a belief that people who use drugs should have a meaningful voice in designing and implementing the policies and interventions that serve them, and as such, educates and empowers them to do so. (Learn more: National Harm Reduction Coalition)
Also known as Supervised Consumption Services, Supervised Injection Facilities, or Drug Consumption Rooms, Overdose Prevention Centers (OPCs) are places where drug users can safely consume pre-obtained drugs using sterile equipment under the supervision of trained staff. Staff do not administer drugs, but are present to ensure proper injection, answer questions, monitor for overdose, and administer first aid; as well as offer referrals to drug treatment programs and social support.
There are nearly 200 OPCs operating in 14 different countries around the world, including the first two pilot OPCs in the United States which opened in New York City in November 2021. In October 2022, Rhode Island became the first state to legalize OPCs. To this day, there has not been a single overdose at an Overdose Prevention Center. OPCs are proven to save lives, reduce drug use, and save costs related to drug overdose. OPCs play a vital role in the larger public health approach to drug policy. (Learn more: Drug Policy Alliance)
OnPoint NYC is the largest harm reduction service provider in the East Coast. In November 2021 they became the first organization in the U.S. to open two Overdose Prevention Centers, reversing 553 overdoses so far and helping New York City save an estimated $13.3 million in ambulance and ER costs. Some of their other services include no-barrier drop-in centers with snacks, showers and laundry; syringe exchange programs; safer drug use counseling; health and wellness services; outreach and public safety including syringe litter pickup; and supportive services including mental health services, benefits navigation, and advocacy. (Learn more: OnPoint NYC)
The Sackler Family fortune is one of the largest in the United States, placing 30th in Forbes’ 2020 richest families list with $11 billion. The Sacklers made their fortune in the pharmaceutical and medical advertising industries, beginning with grand patriarch Arthur Sackler’s mass marketing of the world’s first billion-dollar drug, Valium.In 1996, the Sacklers’ company, Purdue Pharma, began selling OxyContin. Thanks to an unprecedented sales force and a specific focus on increasing prescriptions, Oxy quickly became the leading opioid painkiller on the market.
Over the years, the Sackler family has made substantial philanthropic donations to art and educational institutions around the world, in an effort to distance their name from their business. In March 2022, an agreement was reached to resolve numerous lawsuits over the Sackler’s role in fueling the U.S. overdose epidemic through the deceptive marketing of OxyContin. A cash settlement of $6 billion to U.S. victims is still being negotiated.
+The Louvre Museum (July 2019)
+The Metropolitan Museum of Art (December 2021)
+The Serpentine Gallery (March 2021)
+Tate Modern (February 2022)
+The British Museum (March 2022)
+Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (May 2022)
+The National Gallery in London (May 2022)
+Victoria and Albert Museum (October 2022)
+Dia Art Foundation
+University of Glasgow
+Jewish Museum Berlin