Title: Addictions and withdrawal.

Key words: Ritalin hyperactivity, food intolerance, smoking, alcohol, prescription drugs, holistic health

Date: April 2001

Category: 7. The mind

Type: Article

Author: Peter Bennett

Addictions and Withdrawal

There are many substances, actions and feeling to which we can be addicted, some of them such as a mild addiction to exercise or chocolate may not be too harmful and can even in some ways be interpreted as beneficial as an `addiction to life’ certainly can be. Most addictions whether recognised or not though are harmful to the body over the long term. The same addiction to chocolate as above may be an indication of a psychological condition; loneliness, fear or even a plaintive cry by a body short in essential fatty acids looking for something to satisfy its craving which has been misinterpreted by the brain as a desire for a tasty treat and quick high.

As has already been discussed under the topic of food intolerances, many sensitivities can actually be identified by the unusual situation where the body is addicted to a food that it is actually intolerant too. The exact reasons why this occurs is not entirely understood but many similarities have been drawn between these cases and drug addictions. In neither case is continued intake of the addictive substance helpful to the body in the long term but as any addict will tell you it certainly feels beneficial in the short term. If however, we are going to exchange negative addictions for the most positive of all addictions (the addiction for life as identified above) it is the long term side effects of addictions that will need to be balanced against the short term rewards in conjunction with methods for moving forward and out of the circle of addiction.


We are all aware of the growing number of people addicted to illegal drugs in this country and around the world and of the potential damage to society this can cause, but how many people are also aware of the many people addicted to legal drugs. Smoking (particularly cigarettes) and drinking alcohol are two of the legal, although in some cases becoming less socially acceptable, drugs that cause many problems in people’s lives both through their immediate consequences (particularly in the case of alcohol) but also in their long term health effects.

Further to the drugs listed above are the hundreds of pharmaceutical drugs that are prescribed daily in an effort to help just about every medical condition known. Unfortunately many of these drugs only help the symptoms and not the root cause of the problem itself. As such, by taking the drug alone the individual may have difficulty getting better - but they may feel better. If they come off the drug however, after a long course of treatment they may well feel worse again for one of two reasons:

  1. The symptoms are no longer hidden and so they experience their original problem again. It is possible that the original problem may now be worse as with the symptoms masked the subject may not have been resting or easing the load which originally caused the condition.

  2. Certain drugs such as tranquillizers, anti-depressants and sleeping pills are well known to lead to addiction and so in addition to the underlying condition returning there may also be withdrawal effects to cope with.

This is certainly not to suggest that many pharmaceutical drugs do not provide benefit as many patients do find them invaluable. There is however, the danger of some drugs being used over enthusiastically and excessively until a patient is taking a handful of different pills a day. Some of these probably dealing with the side effects caused by others, but none fundamentally helping the person hidden within the chemical overload.


One drug causing a huge amount of concern today is Ritalin. It has been proclaimed as a wonder drug for children diagnosed with attention deficit disorder because it can calm them, reduce their hyperactivity and therefore improve the quality of family life. It is however a highly addictive central nervous system stimulant.

Prescription rates for Ritalin have been absolutely phenomenal. As an example Ritalin use rose by approximately 700 per cent between 1990 and 1998 and in some Canadian communities one of every four young boys has received this drug for hyperactivity and inattentiveness1. Ritalin can cause appetite loss, insomnia, headaches, delayed growth, tics, depression and possible psychosis. Many of the children on drugs such as this grow up to be involuntary addicts, psychologically and physically dependent on the effects of these pills and others to live their lives.

One very alarming statistic worth bearing in mind during this discussion on the negative side of prescription medicine comes out of research undertaken at the university of Toronto in 1998. Statistics from thirty nine studies done in U.S. hospitals spanning four decades found that 2.2 million serious injuries and more than 100,000 deaths were attributed to prescription drugs taken as directed. Not taking into account any accidental or intentional overdoses the ingestion of prescription drugs was found to be one of the four leading causes of death, along with heart disease, cancer and stroke2.


In today’s world we have many people stuck on different cocktails of drugs that after the drugs have served their purpose, need help withdrawing from them. Although many people may find it difficult to remove harmful foods from their diets the removal of addictive drugs is often even harder.


Perhaps focussing on a more comprehensive, holistic method of healthcare may help reduce the over dependence on drugs as the principal weapon in the disease orientated western medical system. Then fewer drugs may be needed for shorter periods of time to help support the healing process rather than, as in many cases, just hiding the need for it.


  1. Joan Gadsby. Addiction by Prescription. 2000. Key Porter books.

  2. Drugs doing damage? JAMA 15th April 1998.