Drug overdoses are the current leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., having surpassed traffic fatalities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Of these, 20,101 were related to opioid analgesics and 12,990 were related to heroin. Opioid misuse, addiction and related overdose deaths have become a public health epidemic in our country, but treatment works and can help people reach long-term recovery. Evidence shows that medications, such as methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone, used in combination with psychosocial interventions are effective in treating opioid addiction. To address this public health crisis, ASAM advocates at the federal and state level for:
- Increased access to opioid addiction treatment,
- Mandatory education for physicians and other clinicians who prescribe controlled substances,
- The use of state prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) to identify patients at risk for opioid addiction and connect them to treatment, and
- Increased access to naloxone, which can stop and reverse an opioid overdose.
President Obama signed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) into law on July 22, 2016. CARA is a sweeping bill that came together over the course of several years with input from hundreds of addiction advocates. Its provisions address the full continuum of care from primary prevention to recovery support, including significant changes to expand access to addiction treatment services and overdose reversal medications. It also includes criminal justice and law enforcement-related provisions. Below are some resources that will help members and the public understand this new law.