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Prescription Opioid Abuse Legislation, CARA, Gaining Ground

Prescription drug abuse legislation - stop abuse


Prescription Drug Abuse Is a Growing Problem

Prescription drugs are the third most commonly abused class of drugs in the United States. Although most people only take prescription drugs that are prescribed to them, an estimated 52 million Americans admit to taking drugs that were not prescribed to them at some point in their lives.

The ease of access is a key factor in the growing popularity of prescription drug abuse, with over half of the abusing population illicitly obtaining drugs from friends or relatives.

Of all the prescription medications that are abused for their psychological side effects, opioid painkillers are the most popular. They are also the most likely to cause serious harm.

Other commonly used drugs include stimulants, which are commonly used as study aids, and tranquilizers, which are often mixed with alcohol or used to mitigate the effects of other drugs.

What Is The Comprehensive Addiction And Recovery Act (CARA)?

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) outlines legislation designed to tackle prescription opioid abuse in the United States. The act was first introduced to both the Senate and the House of Representatives in September 2014, and has gained support from a variety of high profile organizations, including the American Society of Addiction Medicine, Young People In Recovery, and Faces & Voices of Recovery. In March 2016, the bill passed in the US Senate with a vote of 94-1 with bipartisan support. The bill is now awaiting action from the US House of Representatives. If the CARA bill passes the House, it will allocate about $80 million to fund opioid and heroin prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.

Prevention And Education

CARA outlines several objectives designed to educate both medical practitioners and members of the community and prevent the rise of prescription drug addiction and abuse.

Development of Best Prescribing Practices

The Act proposes the establishment of an inter-agency task force aimed at developing best practices for pain medication prescribing and pain management.

National Education Campaign

Grants would be provided to state and local government organizations and nonprofit organizations to expand their efforts to educate people about opioid abuse and addiction. These efforts would be aimed particularly at teens and adult populations.

Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grants to Address Local Drug Crises

In order to support areas of the country in which levels of drug abuse are highest, CARA would allow for the provision of Enhancement Grants to provide support and implement community-wide addiction prevention strategies.

Law Enforcement And Treatment

It is a federal offense in America to buy, sell, import, or possess prescription drugs without the proper authority. People convicted of these offenses typically face lengthy prison sentences.

Unfortunately, the ease of access to prescription medications and the nationwide shortage of addiction treatment options has created an environment where prescription opioid abusers are not getting help. This leads to a large amount of people facing serious consequences for crimes relating to prescription drug abuse and addiction.

Treatment Alternative to Incarceration Programs

Grants would be provided to states and local government, nonprofits, and Native American tribes, through CARA, to provide and expand treatment alternatives that can replace incarceration. This expanded treatment offering will give individuals who are facing drug related charges and who meet certain criteria, the ability to enter treatment for their addiction instead of being sent to jail or prison.

Law Enforcement Naloxone Training and Implementation Pilot

Naloxone is a medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose even while the opiate is in full-swing. By reversing the effects of opioids, Naloxone dramatically reduces the chance of death or permanent injury.

CARA would enable the funding of grants to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to be trained in the use of Naloxone.

Prescription Take-Back Expansion

In order to reduce the availability of unused prescription drugs, the act would support the provision of grants to state, local, and tribal enforcement units to develop disposal sites for unused prescription drugs. It would also provide funding to train these units on how to properly dispose of these unused medications.

Treatment And Recovery

Research into drug addiction has led to many advances in addiction treatment, but often a lack of funding and treatment availability means that those in need are unable to get help. This can have devastating effects on individuals and communities, and can lead to a wide range of social and economic problems.

Making treatment more available to those in need, and providing recovery support to those that are trying to overcome addictions to heroin and other opioids, are the key goals of CARA.

Evidence-Based Opioid and Heroin Treatment and Interventions Demonstration

State substance abuse agencies, units of local government, and nonprofit organizations in areas of the US with the highest rates of heroin and opioid abuse would receive grants to expand their treatment efforts. This expansion would include the provision of medication assisted treatment.

National Youth Recovery Initiative

CARA would enable the provision of grants to educational and nonprofit organizations to provide support for students and youth recovering from substance abuse.

Building Communities of Recovery

This section of the act supports the development and expansion of addiction recovery services that are provided by nonprofit organizations and groups.

Addressing The Collateral Consequences of Opioid Abuse

Heroin and opioid abuse have a broad range of negative effects on society. Abuse can destabilize families, reduce the productivity of working people, impact local businesses, and cause an increase in crime.

The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act outlines several ways in which the collateral consequences of addiction can be reduced.

Expansion of Educational Opportunities for Incarcerated Individuals

CARA would allow for the provision of grants designed to increase educational opportunities for inmates of prisons and juvenile detention facilities.

This would include basic, secondary, and high school equivalency courses, examination preparation, technical education, and English as a second language education. It would also cover the cost of hiring of prison and juvenile detention facility teachers, the screening of inmates accessing these services, and other related needs.

Revision of FAFSA Form

If passed, CARA would require the The Department of Education to remove questions on the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) regarding convictions for the possession and sale of drugs. These questions currently disqualify candidates from being awarded federal student loan money.

Creation of a National Task Force on Recovery and Collateral Consequences

The creation of a task force that includes representatives from healthcare, employment, housing, law enforcement, legal and substance abuse disorder communities would enable the identification, reduction, and possible elimination of collateral consequences faced by those with drug convictions.

Addiction And Recovery Services For Women And Veterans

Prescription drug abuse and addiction in pregnant women and mothers is growing. According to a national study done by ACOG in 2010, “4.4% of pregnant women reported illicit drug use in the past 30 days”. Pregnant and parenting women who abuse or are addicted to prescription drugs is of particular concern because of the possible short and long-term effects on their children.

Prescription drug abuse among military veterans is also increasing rapidly. A number of factors, including physical injuries and PTSD, are thought to be responsible for this increase. While the rate of prescription drug abuse in the general population is around 5%, the rate among military personnel is more than double the civilian population, at 11%.

More resources are needed to provide community support and education to pregnant and mothering women and military veterans who are struggling with drug abuse.

Addressing Opioid and Heroin Abuse by Pregnant and Parenting Women

CARA would support the provision of grants to expand state services for female offenders who are suffering from a substance abuse disorder. Services would specifically cover those women who are pregnant and those who have dependent children.

Veterans’ Treatment Courts

CARA would support the provision of grants to establish veteran treatment programs and peer-to-peer services to tackle drug abuse among military veterans.

Grants for Family-Based Substance Abuse Treatment

Funding would be provided to support family-based substance abuse treatment programs which are designed to provide an alternative option to incarceration for parents with drug abuse disorders.

Providing Incentives For Comprehensive Responses To Addiction And Recovery

While CARA will go a long way toward tackling drug abuse in the United States, provisions still need to be made for a comprehensive responses to addiction. Integrated, multi-level local response plans are needed to reduce the many collateral problems of opioid abuse.

State Demonstration Grants for Comprehensive Opioid Response

CARA would allow for coordination between different agencies, provide planning and implementation grants to eligible bodies, and allow them to prepare and implement comprehensive local response plans. These would include improvements to prescription drug monitoring programs, prevention and education plans, expanded treatment programs, and overdose prevention initiatives.

If you believe that Congress should pass the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) S.524/H.R.953 you can sign a petition at

If you or someone you know has a prescription drug abuse or addiction problem, don’t wait to get help. Call The Addiction Advisor helpline and learn about treatment options, 1-800-259-1361.


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