“America is now in the midst of a new drug crisis,” John Oliver said on Last Week Tonight Sunday. “And it seems that no one is safe from it.”
He was talking about opioids, including heroin and prescription painkillers, which are devastating communities across the nation. “As of 2015, an estimated 2.6 million Americans were addicted to them, and they’re now involved in almost 30,000 overdose deaths a year in the U.S. And the prevalence of this problem astonishes some people.”
Cut to a clip of Donald Trump wondering aloud how heroin could be a problem in a serene place. “They said the biggest single problem they have up here is heroin,” explained Trump during a campaign speech in New Hampshire. “And I said, ‘How does heroin work with these beautiful lakes and trees?’… It doesn’t.”
“Yeah, it does, though,” said Oliver, drawing laughs. “It does. Heroin works basically everywhere because it’s heroin, not a cell phone. Heroin has full coverage.”
Then Oliver got serious again, explaining his goal for the segment: “Tonight, we are going to look at one of the major causes of this crisis: which are chemical cousins of heroin,” he said. Around 75 percent of heroin users started with prescription opioids, drugs like Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Percocet, which some take recreationally and others take as prescribed by a doctor. But however it starts, it can get out of hand fast.”
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Oliver showed a video of seven men in a group interview who admitted to moving from prescription drugs to heroin. “Heroin is so much more cheaper,” said one of the opioid victims.
The problem is so bad, people are willing to hurt themselves to get more pills once their prescription runs out. One of the men recalled his reaction to facing that reality, saying, “One time I was hurting so bad that I ended up punching a 4x4 and breaking all three of these fingers and this bone to get pain meds from my doctor.”
“This is happening everywhere,” said Oliver. “The odds are, right now, you probably know someone who is struggling or who has died from an opioid addiction.”
So who is to blame for the crisis? Oliver pointed fingers at the pharmaceutical industry and the Federal Trade Commission. For his complete remarks, watch the video below.