If you have previously been addicted to alcohol or drugs but are now in recovery, you may be thinking about how to treat certain illnesses should you ever become affected by one. Obviously, you will want to avoid medications, if possible, especially those that are considered mood-altering. In most circumstances, it is preferable to try non-drug approaches, but this may not always be possible.

In reality, that medication should really be a last resort when it comes to dealing with minor illnesses and pain. However, most people reach for painkillers as soon as they feel a headache coming on or they have a twinge in their back. Medication should really only be taken when the benefits outweigh the risks. In light of what we have written above, below are a few common conditions with alternatives to conventional medication.


It may seem a good idea to take medication for anxiety, but medications such as sedatives and other mood-altering drugs should really be avoided in recovery as they could put you at risk of relapse. The best way to treat anxiety is to identify the cause and deal with this. Nevertheless, determining the cause is not always possible. If this is the case, then it is a good idea to learn how to cope with feelings of anxiety by practicing meditation or relaxation techniques. You can also lessen your anxiety by exercising or talking to a counsellor or sponsor.


There is no doubt that backache can be debilitating, but muscle relaxers and strong painkillers should be avoided. The reality is that much of this medication will not make your back any better – it will just numb the pain and sedate your brain.

Bed rest is wise if you have particularly severe pain. You can then start to move about slowly as it begins to get better. You may need to see a chiropractor if the pain is not getting any better. Heat pads, massage and hot baths may help with the pain, or try alternative treatment such as acupuncture.


A cough can be sore and annoying, and most people reach for over-the-counter remedies or prescription cough medicine to treat the problem. Nonetheless, many of these medications contain alcohol and codeine, so should be avoided. Cough medications often do not get rid of the problem; they just ease the symptoms. It is better to try humidification of the air by sitting in a bathroom with the hot water running, or placing your head over a basin of hot water with a towel over your head. This will help to ease the symptoms and make it easier to breathe. Warm liquids such as soup and honey and lemon drinks can also help. You might also use vapour rubs and throat lozenges. However, contact your GP if a cough persists for longer than a week with no improvement, or if you have an accompanying fever.


Painkillers are generally the first port of call for anyone with a headache, but this should be avoided, especially when these have added caffeine or if they contain codeine. Prevention is preferable for headaches, but this is not always possible. It is a good idea to try to figure out what triggers headaches for you and avoid these triggers. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, as this can help with the prevention of headaches.

Make sure you are getting enough sleep and rest throughout the day and learn how to practice relaxation techniques. Avoid stress if possible and cut down on things such as caffeine, refined sugar and known allergens. If you do get a headache, try to treat it without medication initially by lying down in a dark, quiet room. It may be hunger or thirst causing your headache, so have something to eat and drink and if that does not work then try some meditation. Professional and friendly addiction advice is available online and offline.

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