Progress in controlling prescription drug abuse has been slowed by the stigma attached to addiction. Addictions continue to be treated as lifestyle choices or as arising from weakness of will. The impact of ths is that addicts are blamed for their addictions. We can see this easily in society's response to nicotine addiction. The decision to heavily tax cigarette sales is based on the belief that if smokers choose to pollute their bodies and our air, then they should pay extra. Even more striking is the 1996 decision of Congress that alcoholism and drug addiction are excluded as bases for obtaining social security disability benefits. The willful Congressional decision to stigmatize addictions is made in the face of increasing knowledge of the biological basis of addictions.
In the midst of this, it is rare to find students or parents who will openly acknowledge prescription drug addiction. One group that has worked hard to overcome stigma is the NOPE Task Force in Florida, started by parents of children who had died from prescription drug overdoses. As they note on their web site, "prolonged use of many [addictive] drugs change[s] the brain in fundamental and long lasting ways resulting in drug craving addiction. They quote Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) as saying that the brains of addicted people "have been modified by the drug in such a way that absence of the drug makes a signal to their brain that is equivalent to the signal of when you are starving." It is "as if the individual was in a state of deprivation, where taking the drug is indispensable for survival. It's as powerful as that."