Watch John Oliver Slam Drug Companies for the Opioid Epidemic

His brutal takedown is brilliant.


John Oliver’s latest episode of Last Week Tonight takes on the pharmaceutical companies that laid the foundation for today’s opioid overdose epidemic, which claimed the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans in 2014.

Oliver points out that until the 1990s, doctors were wary of prescribing opioids to treat pain because of lingering concerns about their addictive qualities. But prescribing shot up in the late ’90s, largely due to a massive marketing campaign launched by Purdue Pharma, which introduced OxyContin in 1995. Doctors were assured that prescribing OxyContin for chronic pain was safe, and that dependence on the drugs was merely “pseudo-addiction.” (Oliver: “That is like Chipotle saying, ‘Have you hard of this fascinating new thing called pseudo-diarrhea?…The cure may actually be more tacos!'”)

“This is the perfect choice of mascot, because much like a guerilla, OxyContin might seem appealing, but if you’re not careful, it will tear your fucking life apart.”

In addition to educational materials, doctors were offered all sorts of OxyContin swag, from swing music CDs to fishing caps. Pulling out a plush OxyContin stuffed toy guerrilla, Oliver says, “This is the perfect choice of mascot, because much like a guerilla, OxyContin might seem appealing, but if you’re not careful, it will tear your fucking life apart.”

Curbing the epidemic will be a massive lift, involving prescribing less painkillers and providing resources for those already addicted. “It won’t be cheap, it won’t be quick, and it won’t be easy,” says Oliver. “And it is hard not to be angry at the drug companies like Purdue whose promises of cheap, quick, easy pain solutions helped put us in this fucking mess.”

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Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

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Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

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Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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