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War on Opiates: Getting to Know the CARA Bill

The CARA bill, also known as the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) of 2015, is designed to provide states and municipalities with resources aimed toward fighting the epidemic of heroin and prescription opioid addiction. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), touts the importance of a multifaceted approach to recovery that targets the specific needs of individuals and communities.

What’s Included in the CARA Bill?

Broadly, CARA includes measures to expand awareness of and education about opiate addiction, provide tools to first responders to prevent overdose, expand recovery resources for incarcerated individuals, provide new disposal sites for prescription medications, promote evidence-based interventions for drug addiction, and strengthen tools to monitor prescriptions for often abused drugs. Among other measures, drug addiction will be destigmatized by the removal of the question about prior drug use on the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid. There are also specialized services designated for women, families, and veterans.

How Will This Affect States and Communities?

Under CARA, states and municipalities may be eligible for up to $80 million in funding to target heroin and prescription drug abuse. These funds can be used to create new or expand existing nonprofit treatment centers, to develop education programs about the dangers of opiates, and to strengthen support for recovery among employers, schools, and communities. In addition, the bill calls for expanded availability of naloxone, a life-saving drug that can counteract the effect of an opiate overdose.

What Are the Criticisms of CARA

Opponents of this bill are concerned about the potential costs, the effectiveness of its measures, and the logistics of implementation.

What Groups Are Supportive of This Bill?

Supporting organizations for CARA include the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, Faces and Voices of Recovery, the National Council for Behavioral Health, and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association.

Why Is the CARA Bill So Important?

The CARA bill is important because of the epidemic of opiate abuse in the United States, which comes at a staggering personal and financial cost. According to data from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 1.9 million Americans are addicted to opiates, with another half million addicted to heroin–and what’s more, about 75 percent of those addicted to opiates eventually switch to heroin. More than 100 people die from drug overdoses each day in the US. The cost to the system is also quite high. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction costs $11 billion for the health care system annually and $193 billion for the country as a whole.

To learn more about this bill and to let your state senator know that you support its implementation, you can visit Faces and Voices of Recovery online at http://www.facesandvoicesofrecovery.org/. If you or a family member are addicted to opiates, talk with your doctor. He or she can recommend an inpatient treatment facility that can help you move forward with your life, drug free.


  • Gina M

    True, it is difficult to measure the effectiveness of a prevention campaign because how do you do it, really? But I’d rather spend those hundreds of millions to prevention than to cover the costs of the consequences of addiction (from healthcare to unemployment benefits, keeping up the legal system etc.).

  • Angie

    Like Gina said in her comment, I would rather be spending the hundreds of millions of dollars on prevention than covering the consequences of addiction. I would rather have the heroin and prescription drugs eradicated and the possibility of addiction to these things reduced to zero than to have to have the money go towards healthcare or unemployment for people that are addicted to drugs. That said, if you are facing an addiction, it is important to seek help from an inpatient facility that can oversee your detox and help you get to the root of your addiction.

  • Jonathan

    The CARBA bill is an interesting service but I see it having a lot of holes and it making more problems then that it is solving. The awareness is good, very good as enlightenment is the way to actually preventing people from getting on and staying on drugs.

    The first and probably biggest hole that I see is the disposal sites. Yes it will provide jobs for people but the extensive background checks and continual checks that you would have to do on your staff to make sure that they themselves aren’t stealing or ingesting the drugs is probably more of a problem then it is solving. You say fine, we just drug test them every month, ok but drug tests cost money and as this is a government funded act, the money will be coming out of the taxpayers money to solve something that no one ever looked at as a problem really before. At least in my house when there was an old and expired prescription drug that was in the medicine cabinet, we just threw it into the trash or if unopened, returned it to a doctor. But now instead of something simple like that we add complications to it which will cost some serious money that could be spent on other things.

    Another problem I see is that they will be putting money into non profit treatment centers. As good as this intention may be, from reading previous articles you will notice that the theetie-weetie outpatient rehab facilities are not very successful and the people end up relapsing. This is yet another waste of money.

    And the associations that are promoting this bill are the ones that will be getting paid large amounts of money from it and they just want their finger in the pie.

    If they were backing up anti-drug strategies that were found to have previously worked of a ratio above 50% I would be behind it, but the way it is layed out now, I am not.

  • Walter

    I can say first-off that I like that this focus is being put on a serious problem that is facing our society at this time. It is a total truth that the scourge of drug addiction is rather large in our culture, and the allure to do them is definitely there for many, many people. Overall, I do not see this bill doing what they think it will, and frankly I do not trust much of what the government is doing. I like that it is being acknowledged for the effort of getting rid of the addiction problems, but there has not been a very successful program that will terminatedly handle the problem that is there. If they were to take that money and put it into a program that worked then I could get behind it more, but as it is stated right this second, I think that this will turn out to be like a lot of governmental programs and not work to actually handle the problem. we need to get rid of the suppliers and make the drugs harder to get a hold of the drugs. We can all sit around and say how we need to throw money at the problem, but I do not think that this is the correct effort that needs to be given. I think that if we nuked the promotion of drugs and made them not as appealing and put the truth out there, I think that it would go further to handle the problem.

  • Fabian M

    It is unfortunate that an endemic issue among minority populations only gains attention and government action when that issue becomes an epidemic among the majority. Nonetheless, something is finally being done about it and the CARA bill will non-discriminately address this problem across all facets of the social-economic spectrum. However, a major flaw that I see in this bill is the fact that funding is only proposed over the next four years. Hopefully this will change when and if the bill passes the house; but what happens when the funding runs out? Yes, grants under CARA will give local governments and health care agencies a much needed boost to combat this issue on the frontline, but if such efforts are not sustainable, they will eventually fade and the problem will once again rear its ugly head. For this reason, the bill should also include expanded coverage under Medicare and Medicaid to pay for substance abuse intervention and treatment……..Just Sayin

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