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From Absolution to Accountability

FROM OUR VANTAGE POINT, lying on the floor, watching the protest unfold was almost hypnotic. Thousands of white paper slips — representing OxyContin scripts—floated slowly down through the grand white atrium of the Guggenheim Museum, while a small group of us stretched out on the ground, representing a tiny fraction of those who have died from the drug.

To my right lay Nan Goldin, the celebrated artist who launched our activist group, Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (P.A.I.N.), after struggling with opioid addiction for years and nearly losing her life to an overdose. Next to her was Robert Suarez, a leading harm reduction advocate with the group Voices of Community Activists and Leaders (VOCAL-NY), whose mother died in his arms as a consequence of her opioid dependency. White-coated medical students from New York University lay off to the side, along with people living in recovery from substance-use disorders. Above us, holding bright red banners along the white spiral ramps of the Frank Lloyd Wright building, were others who have experienced the crisis up close: a group of mothers whose children died from overdose, friends and family of people struggling with addiction, organizers who have been fighting to establish the country’s first legal safe injection facilities.

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