Word traveled fast through the nursing community about the Senate’s final approval (07/13/2016) of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). This historic moment was especially sweet for those of us who have been long-time advocates of expanded access for persons needing treatment for opioid dependence.
Furthermore, thanks to the ongoing support from and persistence of Senators Ed Markey and Rand Paul, this legislation will allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe buprenorphine. Previously, only physicians were able to prescribe this treatment.
In 2015, my colleagues and I published an editorial in Substance Abuse with an appeal for “all advanced practice nurses…to be allowed to join physicians in prescribing buprenorphine.” We were discouraged in knowing that there seemed to be limited interest in opening the 15-year-old Drug Addiction Treatment Act that restricted buprenorphine prescribing to physicians. Yet, we hoped that our voices would be heard.
Senator Rob Portman, chief author of CARA said, “This is also the first time that we’ve treated addiction like the disease that it is, which will help put an end to the stigma that has surrounded addiction for too long.” Like other health disorders, opioid and other substance use disorders can be effectively treated and recovery is possible.
I urge lay persons and health care providers alike, to become educated about these brain-based substance use disorders. Further, my colleagues and I urge you to read an additional publication in Substance Abuse and “carefully and intentionally consider the language used to describe alcohol and other drug use and disorders, the individuals affected by these conditions, and their related behaviors, comorbidities, treatment, and recovery.”
If signed, the CARA Act would broaden prevention recovery tools and efforts and be a big step forward in combating the U.S. opioid epidemic.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: DEBORAH FINNELL @dsfinnell
Deborah Finnell, DNS, PMHNP-BC, CARN-AP, FAAN, is an associate professor and director of the master’s and DNP programs at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. She has specialized in mental health and addictions for the majority of her career, and she brings her passion for the neurological bases of mental health and addictions to her clinical practice, teaching, research, and policy/advocacy.