The silent addiction - over the counter pain killers

  • 6 Mar 2009
  • Reading time 4 mins
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Today's Daily Mail published an article on the UK's over the counter pill addicts - a problem that the General Medical Association acknowledged in 2004 suggesting there might be as many as 50,000 painkiller abusers. Last year I wrote a book called How to Quit Without Feeling S**t that takes a new approach to overcoming addictions to not only over the counter painkillers but all drugs including nicotene and other more harmless seeming addictions such as to coffee and sugar. Chris, who is mentioned in the Daily Mail article, followed the recommendations in How to Quit and now, after nearly 20 years of an addiction to codeine she is free of her addiction.

If you’re addicted to sugar, caffeine, nicotine, painkillers, sleeping tablets or prescription or illicit drugs, you’ll know just how hard it is to give them up and how awful the withdrawal symptoms are. Some people don’t even realise they’re addicted and don’t connect symptoms such as cravings, tiredness, anxiety and stress with an addiction to something – when in fact what they’re suffering from is abstinence symptoms. While many people do successfully quit an addictive substance, instead of feeling fantastic as they thought they would, they find that several years on they are still feeling lousy. And those that can’t give them up find it so difficult because they believe that the bar of chocolate or cup of coffee will make them feel happier, or less stressed or more energised. And the more you have the more you need as you become tolerant to its effects, changing the way your brain’s chemistry works until you end up programmed for craving and addiction - so however much willpower you have, giving up becomes nigh on impossible.

Well, the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. It is possible to give up your addictive substance, whatever it is, without feeling terrible. What is happening when you are going through withdrawal symptoms is that your brain’s chemistry has gone out of ‘whack’ but with the right combination of nutrients the balance can be restored, so helping you to quit for good. The substance that you’re addicted to basically mimics the feel-good factor of our own neurotransmitters, so in order to help come off the addictive substance, you need to rebuild your neurotransmitters with nutrients. The most important of these are specific, essential amino acids depending on your addiction. These are found in protein. However, to reduce craving you do need to also supplement specific amino acids.

The brain's essential fats, found in nuts, seeds and fish, are also important. It’s also important that your body is efficient at methylation – as this process helps turn amino acids into neurotransmitters. To help improve your ability to methylate there are three important things you can do – stop doing things that tax the system – which include smoking, excessive caffeine, alcohol and other drugs; take B vitamins and zinc and magnesium as methylation depends on these nutrients and make sure you eat plenty of protein, root vegetables and green leafy vegetables. As well as following my top nutrition tips below it’s also important to look at your lifestyle. Sleep is extremely important so you should ensure you follow good sleep hygiene such as keeping your bedroom quiet and dark, wear comfortable clothing to bed and exercise regularly before 7pm. You should also find ways to raise your endorphins such as through exercise, laughter and touching – even stroking pets helps. And raise your vital energy through yoga or meditation to help you become more able to turn away from negative patterns of addictive behaviour.

My new book, How to Quit provides the 12 keys to ‘unaddicting’ your brain as well as a specific programme which includes dietary and supplement advice to help you quit your addiction with minimal withdrawal symptoms and without substituting one drug for another. Top tips for feeling good when going through withdrawals

• Eat high quality protein three times a day

• Eat a low GL diet to help keep your blood sugar even

• Make sure you eat plenty of essential fats – from things like fish and eggs, nuts, seeds and their oils

• Avoid all damaged and processed foods including trans-fats and deep fried foods • Include lots of antioxidants from fresh fruit and vegetables

• Make sure you drink 8 glasses of water a day

• Supplement specific amino acids, essential fats and B vitamins depending on your addiction.

If you'd like to find out more about the How to Quit programme visit or a order a copy of my book How to Quit Without Feeling S**t. If you would like to be kept up to date with all the latest health news and ensure you are doing what is best for your health then join up to my 100% Health Club