CA Proposes to Tax Painkillers to Pay for Opiate Addiction Treatment 

The costs of addiction treatment are high, and the need for services is only increasing every year. In an effort to come up with the funds to make sure there are programs available to meet the need for care across the state, some California legislators are suggesting that taxes be placed on the sale of prescription painkillers for that purpose.  

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty has proposed a bill, AB 1512, that would place a tax on all prescription opiate medications sold in California at a rate of one penny per milligram, potentially raising millions of dollars for treatment services. Wholesalers would be required to pay the tax, but the cost would certainly be passed on to consumers.  

In a statement, Assemblyman McCarty said: “California’s opioid epidemic has cost state taxpayers millions and the lives of too many of our sons and daughters. We must do more to help these individuals find hope and sobriety. This plan will provide counties with critical resources needed to curb the deadly cycle of opioid and heroin addiction in California.”  

This is one of many ways in which California legislators, the medical community, and organizations across the state are working to address the growing opiate epidemic. Do you think that taxing medications is a good move to generate the much-needed funds for treatment?   


Part of the funds from taxation of painkillers has been earmarked for prevention efforts. Increasing awareness of the dangers of prescription drugs among prescribing physicians as well as among patients who may take the medications for short-term use or chronic pain management may help to limit the number of initial prescriptions handed out. It may also help those who are currently taking these medications to focus on implementing more holistic treatment methods in their pain management plan with the goal of lowering their dose, if not eliminating their use of the medication altogether.  

Additionally, reaching out to young people in an effort to help them understand that “legal” does not equal “safe” is important as well. Using painkillers to self-medicate stress or to get high can lead to addiction just as quickly as taking the drug for the treatment of pain. 

Harm Reduction

For those who are actively living in addiction, harm reduction methods and services can help them to survive another day and move a step closer to getting treatment that will help them heal. For example, increasing the use of naloxone by putting it in the hands of first responders and families with loved ones who are addicted to opiates can help to save a life when opiate overdose occurs. These measures can play a critical role in helping to get someone in contact with people who can connect them with treatment and turn what might have otherwise been the last day of their life into the first day of their recovery.   


The only way to prevent death due to opiate overdose is to stop using the drug. Because addiction changes the brain and therefore the impulse control of the person living with the disorder, it is not possible to simply decide to stop using and follow through on that desire. Rather, medical treatment that addresses both the physical and psychological impact of addiction is necessary. Additionally, long-term follow-up care and support to keep the person actively engaged with recovery is needed as they become firmly grounded in their new life without drug use.   

Will You Get Involved?

It takes time, manpower, and resources to help someone go from active addiction to active sobriety. None of this free, and it is a good thing that legislators are working so hard to come up with solutions to the problem. The more attention is paid to the widespread problem of addiction, the more likely it is that we will start to see the numbers of lives lost to overdose and the families devastated by addiction begin to decrease. This can be the year that happens, and you can play a part by:

  • Contacting your legislators and letting them know how you feel and what you would like to see happen in your community 
  • Sharing your story if you or someone you love has been impacted by addiction 
  • Volunteering in your community and working with nonprofit agencies who are active in outreach 
  • Helping your loved one to connect with treatment if they are living with an untreated addiction 

Will you get involved?  

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