‘They not only helped my pain but also my mood’ … Selda Mehmet became addicted to painkillers
ARE we a nation addicted to painkillers?
Experts say Brits are over-using tablets such as aspirin and paracetamol for minor aches and pains.

And medics now claim they may cause MORE headaches than they cure.

Heavy use can trigger headaches by causing nerve damage and they can also lead to other complications including internal bleeding and stomach erosion.

Painkillers are big business in the UK, with Brits spending around £500million a year on tablets to zap aches and pains.

Health watchdog NICE have issued new guidelines to GPs to combat the problem.

Paracetamol and aspirin should not be taken for more than 15 days in a row and another form of pain relief, called triptans, for no more than ten days a month.

Professor Martin Underwood, a family GP who helped draw up the guidelines, said: “Patients with frequent tension-type headaches or migraines can get into a vicious cycle, where their headaches are getting increasingly worse so they take more medication which makes their pain even worse.”

Selda Mehmet knows how hard the habit is to break after becoming addicted to over-the-counter painkillers.

At her lowest point, the beauty therapist, 29, from Ware, Herts, was spending £200 a month on pills.

Here, she tells her story.

"Being addicted to painkillers has affected my life, my job and my relationships. It’s a daily struggle and a hidden problem that young women won’t admit to.

Painkillers are so easily available but they can be as dangerous as alcohol.

The addiction started after I fell and hurt my back in April 2004.

I was bedridden for two months and prescribed a high dose of anti-inflammatories and painkillers because the pain was unbearable. When the prescription ran out I was told to take a combination of paracetamol and codeine with ibuprofen, all bought over the counter.

I started taking them the moment I woke up. They not only helped my pain, but also my mood — I’d wake up aggravated and snappy but after taking some painkillers, I’d relax.

To not arouse suspicion, I would buy the pills at different chemists throughout the week, spending around £50 on my addiction. Most of them I could get from any corner shop, garage, or supermarket — they are even easier to buy than cigarettes or alcohol, but in my opinion just as dangerous.

I was taking up to 20 a day — about 140 a week — but I’d hide the tablets and packaging from my family because I was so ashamed of my addiction. It became my grubby secret and I tried to stop several times, but when I didn’t take enough tablets I’d wake with cold sweats, shaking and anxious.

I simply couldn’t get through the day without my fix. It was a dangerous spiral — the more I took, the more I needed.

But after two years my family and boyfriend confronted me.

It broke my heart to see how worried they were. It was then I sought help from my GP. It was humiliating to admit I was an addict but I knew this was the first step towards getting my life back.

I was referred to a programme for addicts as an outpatient, had counselling and was put on a medication to wean me off painkillers — in the same way methadone can help heroin addicts.

I had to go back to the clinic fortnightly for assessments to ensure I wasn’t cheating and was keeping to the programme, which I completed.

I started to see the world through normal eyes again and I haven’t taken a single tablet since 2009.

If I get a headache I drink water or use natural therapies.

I have found acupuncture helps, but every day is still a battle.

There are thousands of young women who constantly have painkillers in their handbag or medicine cabinet and rely on them all the time.

My story is a warning to people who think a pill that can be bought at a High Street chemist can’t be dangerous.

I am proof that it can be as addictive and debilitating as any other drug addiction.”

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