Senators Just Unveiled a Sweeping New Opioid Bill

It would set a time limit on prescriptions, free up funds for treatment, and more.

Charles Wollertz/iStock

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of eight senators unveiled a bill that would limit initial painkiller prescriptions to three days and authorize $1 billion for addiction treatment and prevention. If passed, the CARA 2.0 Act, a follow-up to 2016’s Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, will be the most significant legislation addressing the opioid epidemic since President Donald Trump took office. 

Here are some more details on what the bill would do:

  • Limit initial prescriptions for opioids to three days (with the exception of cancer or end-of-life care), which aligns with the prescribing guidelines published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2016
  • Eliminate barriers to prescribing buprenorphine, a gold-standard addiction medication, by making permanent a temporary provision allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to prescribe the medication. The bill would also allow states to waive the current cap on the number of buprenorphine patients per physician.
  • Require physicians to use prescription drug monitoring programs to see if a patient is already being prescribed opioids from a different provider
  • Require the federal government to come up with national standards for addiction recovery housing
  • Increase civil penalties for opioid manufacturers that don’t report suspicious orders of opioids
  • Authorize $1 billion to expand access to medication-assisted treatment, equip first responders with the overdose reversal drug naloxone, and provide recovery services to pregnant and postpartum women, veterans, and other vulnerable populations

All told, the legislation lines up with the recommendations put forth by both Trump’s opioid commission last year and and the surgeon general’s addiction report under President Barack Obama in 2016. CARA 2.0’s sponsors, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, included Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.V.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.)Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio),Dan Sullivan (R-Ark.), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).

The bill is part of an ongoing effort in both chambers to quickly identify how best to use the additional $6 billion that the two-year budget, passed by Congress last month, allocated to address the epidemic. (Many say $6 billion isn’t nearly enough to combat a crisis of such historic proportions—for reference, a White House report pegged the cost of the epidemic in 2015 at $504 billion.) 

Meanwhile, the White House is holding an opioid summit on Thursday, where Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, who is spearheading the White House’s response to the epidemic, is expected to speak. 


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend