Our Nation’s Opioid Epidemic
On March 10, 2016, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) Senate bill passed 94-1 to combat opiate addiction. The United States is currently facing an opioid epidemic. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with 47,055 lethal drug overdoses in 2014. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 18,893 overdose deaths related to prescription painkillers, and 10,574 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2014.
Prescription drug abuse and heroin use has taken its toll on the country, while also straining law enforcement and addiction treatment programs. Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, as well as the prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, codeine, fentanyl, and others.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act
Introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I. and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the bipartisan bill, known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) would expand access to naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug, improve prescription drug monitoring programs, and provide opiate addiction treatment to people who are incarcerated due to drug use. CARA has been in development for three years and is currently the only bill in Congress that includes all four aspects of an appropriate and effective response to combat opiate addiction: prevention, treatment, recovery, and law enforcement.
CARA would provide a series of incentives and resources designed to encourage states to pursue a wide variety of proven strategies to combat opiate addiction. The bill is comprised of six major sections: prevention and education, law enforcement and treatment, treatment and recovery, addressing collateral consequences, addiction and recovery services for women and veterans, and incentivizing comprehensive responses to addiction and recovery.
Senator Whitehouse commented on the bill saying, “This legislation identifies specific steps that will help us combat addiction and support those in recovery, and provides the tools needed for states and local governments –in coordination with law enforcement, educators, and others — to take them. It’s a comprehensive approach to a problem that demands our full attention.”
Improvements in 2016 CARA Bill
What are some of the major features of CARA?
- Expand prevention and educational efforts to prevent the abuse of opioids and heroin and to promote treatment and recovery
- Expand the availability of naloxone to law enforcement agencies and other first responders
- Expand resources to identify and treat incarcerated individuals suffering from addiction with evidence-based treatment
- Expand disposal sites for unwanted prescription medications
- Launch an evidence-based opioid treatment and interventions program
- Strengthen and improve prescription drug monitoring programs to help states track prescription drug diversion and to help at-risk individuals in order to combat opiate addiction
Although there are some concerns with CARA, the effort made by the Senate shows a shift in the political discourse regarding the nation’s opioid epidemic. Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance, commented, “the momentum behind CARA offers hope that lawmakers are starting to evolve toward treating drug use as a health issue, rather than a criminal justice issue.”
On March 7, 2016, the bipartisan bill passed its first procedural hurdle with the Senators voting 86-3 to advance the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. A vote on the final passage of the bill took place on March 10, with the Senate almost unanimously voting in favor of the legislation. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives and Senate leaders are pushing for quick action. The bill is expected to face a more difficult battle in the House, but if CARA reaches the White House, the president is expected to sign it.
Help for Opiate Addiction
If you or someone you love is struggling with an opiate addiction, help is available. Call us today at (877) 392.3342. Our compassionate and knowledgeable admission counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even on holidays.