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Drug-abuse bill is 'better than none,' says Obama

The misuse of prescription medications is the latest battlefront in what might be the nation's current war on drugs, assuming there is such a war still being waged. The latest volley fired in the struggle came earlier this month.

President Obama signed what is known as the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA) of 2016. While the title of the bill suggests something significant, the president hardly seems enthusiastic about it. In announcing the signing, the president said given the problem the country faces from opioid addiction, the law takes modest steps toward a positive response, and he said, "Some action is better than none."

As experienced drug crimes defense attorneys in Arkansas know well, addiction to opioids is a major concern of officials at the local, state and federal levels. The response to those concerns takes various forms. In the context of law enforcement, the focus is on arrests and prosecutions.

Taking prisoners and seeking the maximum penalty possible is a prevailing attitude in those ranks. Others acknowledge that there are better alternatives that can help those addicted to prescription pain pills conquer their problems and return to being productive members of society. Arkansas' drug court programs represent one such example. CARA ostensibly stands as another.

The problem with the law, in the view of the president, is that the Republican controlled Congress hasn't given it adequate funding to be successful. It does allocate $181 million a year in discretionary funds that can be used for various programs. That compares with $1.1 billion that the president had requested. He says he'll continue to press lawmakers for additional funds as he closes out his term in office.

What CARA does do is seek to expand prevention and education about misuse of opioids and heroin. It also allows police and other first responders to administer naloxone to counter opioid overdoses. The law also calls for expanding programs for monitoring the drugs to end doctor shopping.

It is clear from this development that government is not ignoring the prescription drug misuse problem. Whether the provisions of CARA will do much is something that will have to be seen. In the meantime, anyone facing drug charges need to know that conviction could have implications far beyond prison. Their whole futures could be on the line. Obtaining the best outcome will depend on a skilled defense.

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