You’d have to be living under a rock to not know that the United States is in the midst of a drug crisis that has reached near epidemic proportions. Specifically, an opiate crisis. There is a combination of factors that play into this including the overprescribing of highly addictive opiate painkillers like oxycodone; the availability of cheap, easy to obtain heroin; and a societal shift in perception that popping pills for pain is normal—all of which has created a perfect storm that is devastating the lives of millions.
A Stark Reality
While other drugs, such as methamphetamines and cocaine have certainly taken a toll on the population, the opiate epidemic has become particularly frightening. First of all, it is simply a more deadly drug. Yes, people die as a result of cocaine overdose, and methamphetamine addiction has devastating consequences, but heroin and opiate painkillers are taking lives at an alarming rate. They have bypassed car accidents as a cause of death, and treating and recovering from opiate addiction is notoriously difficult. The epidemic is killing people, affecting millions of children, costing taxpayers countless of dollars and showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016 (CARA) is a comprehensive plan that, if passed, can put a real dent in the problem. However, several issues must be tackled at once in order to create lasting change. Treating people who are currently addicted is a big one as well as access to quality treatment on a much larger scale. However, just increasing funding for more treatment doesn’t insure that the people who need it, get it—prevention is key as well. People need to be educated, and early intervention programs are much needed in order to prevent vulnerable populations from getting addicted.
Tackling the Issue
Being that 2016 is an election year and politicians on all sides are promising to address the situation, the opiate epidemic is getting nationwide attention. Some suggested solutions include the following:
- Increased funding for treatment centers
- Widespread availability of Naloxone, a drug that can save the life of a person overdosing on opiates
- Increased funding for education
- Reforming the way drug offenders are handled, offering treatment instead of jail time
- Increased training for medical and law enforcement professionals
If passed, CARA can do all of these things and more. It calls for 600 million in emergency funding to combat the opiate addiction epidemic with funding being used to increase the access and availability of addiction treatment and rehab; to get Naloxone in the hands of law enforcement, medical professionals and first responders; and to increase the monitoring and regulation of opiate prescriptions. It also offers increased prevention and education aimed at teens, parents, caregivers and the elderly, as well as more access to addiction support and treatment for offenders currently in jails and prisons.
Essentially, the bill strives to overhaul a faulty system that allows too many people to fall through the cracks and misuse opiate drug prescriptions.
Will The Bill Pass?
Unfortunately, there is currently only an estimated 40% chance that the bill will pass. Though this is a bipartisan bill, Republicans have struck down the request for 600 million dollars of funding that would be used towards increased treatment and other services. This means that even if the bill passes, there will not be enough funding to bring it to full fruition. However, hopefully the public will take an interest in CARA, and spread the word about this problem and its potential solutions.