What the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Means to Colorado - AspenRidge

As I travel throughout Colorado, I hear about the devastating impact heroin and opioid addiction has on families and communities across our state. From the Eastern Plains to the Western Slope, drug overdose deaths continue to rise. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act aims to address the drug addiction crisis and reverse this disturbing trend.”

~Colorado Senator Cory Gardner

In July, president Barack Obama signed into law an ambitious and aggressive strategy in the battle against opioid addiction – the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act of 2016. Over the next five years, CARA will authorize $900 million to focus on evidence-based education, prevention, law enforcement, treatment, and recovery.

What Are Some of the Highlights of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act?

Our country is in the midst of an opioid addiction crisis. This bill will help drive resources toward evidence-based tools to help individuals suffering from addiction and to support efforts by health care providers to offer effective treatment while preventing further abuse.”

~Colorado Senator Michael Bennett

The new law calls for a number of initiatives and improvements on existing efforts:

  • Increasing the assistance available to individuals most at risk
  • Expanding preventative educational efforts – particularly those aimed at teens
  • Improving support for high school/college students in recovery
  • Launching more community-based treatment services
  • Demonstrating to addiction recovery programs across the nation how to implement Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) and early intervention programs
  • Requiring the use of evidence-based addiction treatment for people in prison
  • Creating standard “best practices” for the treatment of addiction to prescription opioids or heroin
  • Tightening prescription monitoring programs
  • Creating more drop-off sites for unwanted/unused prescriptions
  • Making the anti-overdose drug Naloxone standard issue for EMTs, police officers, and other first responders

Why is CARA So Important to the Residents of Colorado

Renewed focus and support from the government could not have come at a more critical time for Coloradans struggling with substance abuse.

Right now, there are increases in abuse, addiction, and overdose rates in virtually every major class of drugs, especially prescription medications, methamphetamines, and heroin.

Prescription medications:

  • Colorado ranks #12 in the country for the misuse/abuse of prescription medications– 224,000 Coloradans every year.
  • Everymonth, 35 Coloradans die from unintentional prescription medication overdoses.
  • 2011-2013, 86% of ER visits for overdose in Colorado were because of prescription opioids.
  • Prescription opioids were the most frequently-listed drugs in Alcohol or Drug (AOD) death reports in the Denver area in 2012– making up almost half of all reportable deaths.
  • The powerful prescription opioid Fentanyl – which is up to 100 times stronger than morphine – is the drug most often stolen from hospitals.
  • At least two Colorado healthcare workers a month are fired for suspected drug diversion.
  • Colorado youth are especially at-risk – 18-25-year-olds overdose on prescription opioids twice as often as other age groups.
  • Among Colorado adults, 40% admit to misusing prescriptions.
  • Approximately one out of every three Colorado citizens admit to using another person’s prescription.


  • Since 2008, there has been a 27% increase in heroin abuse among Colorado adults 18-24.
  • Heroin deaths in Colorado have tripled in the last four years.
  • There were 151 deaths due to heroin overdoses in Colorado in 2014, up from only 37 in 2000.
  • One generation ago, 1643 people in Colorado checked into drug treatment programs for heroin abuse – in 2013, that number had nearly tripled to 4556.
  • In 2014, heroin killed more people in Denver than any other illegal drug.


Kent MacLennan, Executive Director of the Colorado Meth Project

  • In 2014, Federal border agents seized 15,000 pounds of methamphetamines – the highest amount ever seized.
  • Since 2010, arrests for meth possession arrests in Aurora and Denver have risen more than 140%.
  • In 2014here were 416 arrests for possession in Colorado Springs–double 2010’s total.
  • Almost one out of every 5 Colorado treatment admissions are for methamphetamines—higher than every substance except alcohol. In 2012, it was one out of 33.

Other substances:

  • This region of the country has the highest alcohol-related death rate in the country.
  • Two Colorado counties – Pitkin and Summit – ranked #2 and #3 in the entire US for any type of alcohol use.
  • An estimated 530,000 Coloradans use marijuana at least once a month – #2 in the country.
  • One out of every 8 2014 DUI arrests in Colorado was for marijuana.
  • One out of every 12 treatment admissions in Colorado is for marijuana abuse.

Any way you look at it, Colorado has a pervasive, across-the-board problem with substance abuse, and that’s why the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act is so important. It allocates more resources on combating the drug problem, and then focuses on using those resources where they can be of the most help.

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