Virtually anything can be addictive for the "right" person at the "right" time -- one of stress or disorientation, when that experience holds out significant and powerful associations for the person, when the person is not inclined or able to be restrained.
While advances in science no doubt help us in countless ways, and in no way am I suggesting we impede the development of medicines that improve the quality of our lives, we need to keep a watchful eye on the cultural pressures some unwittingly create.
Millions of people believe that psychiatric medications have saved their lives, while millions of others report that their psychiatric medications were unhelpful or made things worse. All this can result in mutual disrespect for different choices.
We have to acknowledge that a certain percentage of the population will never be entirely drug-free, and we have to figure out what to do about that. It's costly and regressive to continually respond with arrests, drug courts and incarceration.
I know that prescription medications can help many people turn their health around, and I don't want to suggest that prescription drugs are all bad. But they are powerful enough to change our physiology and for this reason should not be taken lightly.
It's a rare case when a person's problems are satisfactorily resolved by a prescription alone. Much more commonly, anxiety or depression or other symptoms are part of a larger picture, requiring a more complex solution.
Children are learning that success comes not by training, practice and hard work, but by taking shortcuts. We tell young people, "Don't use drugs," but our beliefs and actions encourage them to win at all costs.
Just like ending alcohol prohibition, making the current crop of drugs legal simply means changing the laws. But changing the laws has been turned into a bloody legal and political battle that is about everything except drugs.
Based on data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 4.8 million adults aged 50 and older used an illicit drug -- whether it was an illegal substance or non-medical use of a prescription -- last year.
You would think that the Supreme Court's ruling might end the debate about health care and allow Congress to focus on creating jobs. But it won't because GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the Republicans want to repeal it.