The thing about ...

Whatever happened to aspirin? Do you remember? They were the little round white pills people used to take for headaches. You don't see many of them these days. The Nineties response to the question "Does anybody have an aspirin?" is not "Have a look in the bathroom cabinet", but "Sorry. I've only got Nurofen, Anadin Extra, Codeine..."

Since the Government's deregulation of drugs and the increased availability of previously controlled substances without prescription, we seem to have turned into a nation of wimps. The advent of Nurofen on the open market has revolutionised our attitude to pain: and not for the good. Sure, they work; Nurofen work like a dream, actually, but their widespread use for the control of minor afflictions does bring the words "sledgehammer" and "walnut" to mind.

The thing about these powerful, sexed-up painkillers is that the only beneficiaries from their use in the long-term is the drugs companies. A hundred aspirin retail at pounds 1.02 in Boots. The equivalent quantity of Nurofen costs pounds 7.95. Two pounds twenty five will buy you 24 Anadin Extra and 24 Panadol cost pounds 2.17. Many retailers now refuse to stock generic Ibuprofen because the profit margins are so much higher on the branded versions.You sigh with relief, they laugh all the way to the bank.

And there's more. A recent report suggested that the regular use of painkillers increases the incidence of pain. Most tablets work by blocking the pain receptors. Pain, of course, usually exists for a reason, like telling you not to walk on your broken leg. So the wily old body adjusts over the course of time and makes the pain receptors more sensitive. The result? More, and fiercer, headaches.

No one would suggest that you never take a pill, but there are ways of not having to. If, for instance, you concentrate on and visualise your pain - give it a colour, a shape, a name, and pinpoint where it is - you can also visualise drawing it out of your body and throwing it away, or (my personal favourite) giving it to an enemy. It takes about five minutes and a certain amount of practice to get right, but the results can be staggering. Sure, be sceptical. But you never know, the New Agers might just have the last laugh.

Serena Mackesy