John Oliver, the host of the Emmy-winning show Last Week Tonight, is known to comically tackle current events. During Sunday night’s main segment, Oliver spoke about the opioids crisis. The host explained the current statistics while also providing comical relief to his public, a style to which viewers have grown accustomed.
At the beginning of the segment, Oliver quoted an SAMHSA study that says that approximately 2.6 million Americans are currently addicted to opioids. Moreover, roughly 30,000 overdoses are attributed to opioid abuse every year.
The tragic situation of the current opioids crisis is portrayed by the events that transpired in Huntington, West Virginia, this August. In only 5 hours, 28 individuals suffered from an overdose.
Oliver blamed the horrific high number of opioids addicts to the pharmaceutical industry. The host explained that at some point, every American was given Oxycontin, Percocet, or Vicodin to treat a non-surgical or acute pain.
Opioids were designed especially for individuals who suffer from acute pain caused by cancer or surgical interventions. However, according to Oliver, the pharmaceutical industry started recommending the strong pills for more common aches like backaches or arthritis, increasing the number of people who gained access to the substances.
Unfortunately, opioids create addiction, so what starts as a pain management solution for a broken limb can easily end with an overdose.
During his show, Oliver also cited The New York Times who wrote that 75 percent of heroin addicts started out with opioids. It seems that once painkiller addiction kicks in, most users prefer to switch to heroin because “it is much cheaper.”
Moreover, the host pointed out that painkiller prescriptions are given far too easily by doctors. It seems that per the history of opioids in America, doctors were wary of prescribing opioids even for patients who suffered from stage IV cancer.
However, a report of the federal government that dates back from 1992 stated that painkillers do not give addiction, curing them of their opiophobia. The pharmaceutical industry took advantage of the report and started heavily marketing their drugs, offering doctors hats, CDs, and even plush toys.
Oliver tried to bring awareness on the current opioids crisis. Some pharmaceutical companies retaliated, claiming that some of the data that he quoted during the show were not accurate. The team in charge of fact-checking the information for the show has not responded.
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