On last night’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver tackled America’s drug crisis, citing a 2015 study that found some 2.6 million Americans age 12 and over were addicted to prescription opioids or heroin — which resulted in over 30,000 deaths by overdose.
The segment identifies prescription painkillers — “chemical cousins of heroin” — as the major cause of the heroin epidemic. Oliver points to some damning statistics: Over 75 percent of heroin addicts had previously taken meds like Vicodin or Oxycontin, either recreationally or because they were prescribed by a doctor. (At the moment, according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, nearly 250 million prescriptions for opioids are written every year.)
The video includes an eye-opening clip from a 2014 Al Jazeera News segment in which a group of addicts — all of whom had moved from prescription drugs to heroin — explain that heroin is simply cheaper than prescription medication.
“This is happening everywhere,” Oliver says. And if you have an inkling that the culprit is the big, bad pharmaceutical industry, well…you wouldn’t be wrong.