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Sep 28, 2023


The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) was signed into law on July 22, 2016. It emerged in response to the escalating opioid epidemic that had reached crisis proportions in the United States. Opioid-related deaths, prescription drug abuse, and heroin addiction were on the rise, prompting policymakers to take decisive action. CARA represented a bipartisan effort to tackle the multifaceted issue of substance abuse and addiction, addressing prevention, treatment, recovery, and support services.

Primary Objectives of CARA

  1. Expanding Access to Treatment

One of the central objectives of CARA is to expand access to substance abuse treatment services. The law emphasizes the importance of making evidence-based treatment options more readily available to those in need. This includes medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other forms of therapy and counseling.

  • According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, 2017), CARA aims to increase access to MAT, which is considered an effective approach for opioid use disorder treatment. By supporting MAT programs, CARA seeks to improve the chances of individuals with substance use disorders achieving and maintaining recovery.
  1. Prevention and Education

CARA recognizes the significance of prevention and education in curbing the opioid epidemic. The policy aims to enhance public awareness and education about the risks of prescription drug abuse and the consequences of substance abuse.

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA, 2020) notes that CARA emphasizes community-based prevention programs, focusing on youth and high-risk populations. By providing funding for these initiatives, the policy seeks to reduce the initiation of substance use.
  1. Support for Law Enforcement and First Responders

CARA acknowledges the crucial role of law enforcement and first responders in addressing substance abuse issues, especially in cases of overdose. The policy seeks to provide training and resources to these personnel to effectively respond to overdose situations and connect individuals with treatment and support services.

  • The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ, 2017) highlights CARA’s goal of equipping law enforcement officers with naloxone, an opioid overdose reversal medication. This measure aims to save lives by ensuring timely intervention during overdose incidents.
  1. Support for Individuals in Recovery

CARA places a strong emphasis on supporting individuals in their journey to recovery. This includes initiatives to help individuals reintegrate into their communities, gain employment, and access housing and support services.

  • According to the National Council for Behavioral Health (NCBH, 2016), CARA supports peer recovery programs and recovery community organizations. These resources are designed to empower individuals in recovery and reduce relapse rates.
  1. Enhancing Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)

CARA recognizes the importance of monitoring and controlling the prescription of opioids. It promotes the enhancement of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) to track prescription patterns and identify potential cases of overprescribing or doctor shopping.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020) highlights CARA’s goal of improving PDMPs to prevent the diversion and misuse of prescription drugs. This is seen as a crucial step in reducing the availability of opioids for illicit use.
  1. Expanding Research and Data Collection

CARA emphasizes the need for comprehensive research and data collection related to substance abuse and addiction. It supports efforts to gather data on opioid overdose deaths, treatment outcomes, and other relevant metrics.

  • SAMHSA (2017) mentions that CARA promotes research on pain management alternatives and non-addictive treatments for chronic pain. This reflects a broader approach to addressing the root causes of the opioid epidemic.
  1. Supporting Veterans and Service Members

The policy recognizes the unique challenges faced by veterans and service members in relation to substance abuse and mental health. It aims to provide specialized support and treatment options for this population.

  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA, 2020) highlights CARA’s provisions for veterans, including grants for specialized services such as peer support and alternative therapies. These services are intended to address the specific needs of veterans and service members.

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