Despite it being Oscar night, John Oliver did have a new episode Sunday, and this week, he used his main segment to talk about fentanyl. Of course, because it’s John Oliver, he had some people to call out in the process: police departments who over-dramatize the dangers of fentanyl to officers and non-users.
To kick things off, the late night host made it clear just how dangerous fentanyl is and how present it has become in the U.S. Oliver highlighted how drug overdoses are now responsible for more than twice the amount of gun deaths in the United States.
“That is staggering. And quick side note here, it is depressingly American to be shocked that something could cause more death than guns,” Oliver joked. “We are the only country that would look at that and say ‘It’s hard to believe that drug overdoses are killing more people than one of those natural causes of death: highly preventable loss of life by loosely regulated weapons.’”
Turning back to the issue at hand, Oliver took time to point out “past mistakes” when it comes to educating people on fentanyl, and drugs in general. You can watch the full segment from “Last Week Tonight” here and above.
“Because, for decades, we’ve been fighting a ‘War on Drugs’ that was often fueled by fear and misinformation, directly leading to bad policy,” Oliver noted.
The host then called up a video from the San Diego police department, showing a deputy supposedly passing out after encountering fentanyl in a person’s car. Scoring that video is a voiceover from the department, claiming the deputy “nearly died” as a result.
“The idea that that officer could’ve been passively exposed to fentanyl and then overdose is completely absurd,” Oliver said. To back up his point, the host cited data from experts that says it’s virtually impossible for fentanyl to have such an effect without being directly ingested.
Oliver then pulled up a list of similar headlines in other cities, claiming that officers are being put at risk simply by being exposed to the drug.
“What those officers were much more likely experiencing were panic attacks,” Oliver said. “Which makes sense, because they’d just been exposed to something they’ve repeatedly heard is deadly to be anywhere near.”
The “Last Week Tonight” host also called out how similar messaging is depicted in fictional TV shows, specifically pulling a clip of the CBS show “Blue Bloods,” from an episode in 2017.
“That is complete horse s—,” Oliver declared. “Not that you’d expect any more nuance from a show that’s basically adult ‘Paw Patrol.’ But the point is, it is deeply irresponsible of police to keep perpetuating a medical impossibility and for media outlets to keep amplifying it.”