/ July 14, 2011/ Default, General, Nasal hygiene, Nasal Irrigation/ 10 comments

Nasal Spray Addiction

What is nasal spray addiction? Nasal spray addiction is caused by rebound congestion, otherwise known as rhinitis medicamentosa. The purpose of a nasal decongestant is to constrict the blood vessels in your nose in order to open space in the airways and reduce congestion. When you have a cold, allergies, sinus infection, etc., the blood vessels of the nasal passages become swollen, causing mucus to block the passages. When you use a decongestant, the blood vessels become constricted, opening up the space in the airways and allowing the sinuses to empty.

There are two main types of nasal decongestants: sympathomimetic amines and imidazolines. Sympathomimetic amines cause vasoconstriction in the blood vessels of the nasal passages, which reduces the size of the blood vessels; imidazolines also cause vasoconstriction, as well as decrease the blood flow in this area, reducing the congestion in the nose.

Have you ever found that after discontinuing use of a nasal decongestant, your symptoms have worsened and you are congested once again, possible even more? Sometimes, adverse nasal congestion may occur after using medications other than topical decongestants. This is called rebound congestion and can occur after using nasal decongestants for more than three days. In this case, if you experience congestion without runny nose, postnasal drip, or sneezing, you may be having rebound congestion.

Many people suffer from dependency on nasal decongestant sprays and it can be very difficult to discontinue use while keeping congestion under control. The chronic or excessive use of decongestants can cause the mucosa in the nasal passages to become aggravated. This can lead to loss of the cilia (small hair-like projections) in the nasal passages, cell damage of the nasal mucosa, and swelling in this area—which are all important for getting rid of dust and pathogens in the nasal cavity. Additional symptoms of rebound congestion are headaches, snoring, insomnia; the need to breathe through the mouth causes dry mouth and sore throat. In addition, psychological dependence causes anxiety and restlessness.

How can you avoid getting caught in this trap? Only use a nasal decongestant for the shortest time necessary. If you feel you already depend upon nasal sprays, the first line of treatment is to discontinue use; however, this can result in rebound swelling and congestion. You should consult with a physician to discuss other treatments, such as combination treatment with nasal decongestants and oral medications.


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About Alisha Mehta

My name is Alisha Mehta and I am a graduate student at Tufts University, working on my MS in Nutrition Communications and Didactic Program in Dietetics to become a Registered Dietitian. I grew up in Northern California where the Redwood forests, mountains, and beaches are abundant—of course, all these outdoor opportunities cannot come without allergies. I have been through (and continue to deal with) my fair share of allergy and sinus issues. As a weary sufferer of sinus problems, I became a daily user of Sinus Rinse ever since its development. I am passionate about natural health, food, nutrition, and fitness. Through this blog, I hope to create an ongoing dialogue on sinuses, allergies, and any additional health topics of interest. Please share any and all of your experiences and questions.


  1. I used Afrin from when I was 12 until 25.  I had the rebound effect and inability to breathe etc. and anxiety.  I can vouch for it being hell to get off of.  Nothing will work like it, you’ve just gotta do it.  After about 3 weeks (tough ones) you can break the habit…then comes how do you control your sinuses not working.  8 years after I quit I still need help with moving mucous, which is why I am on this site.  I have used the neti pot & bottle with pretty good success.  I recently had a 4 hour sinus surgery (supposed to be 90 minutes) but when they got into my Frontal Sinuses there was scar tissue galore.  He couldn’t keep me under anesthesia any longer so he only cleared out one frontal and spheniod sinus as well as both maxillary/ethmoid.  I now have to go back and get the other frontal/spheniod sinus done and he’s expecting the same amount of scar tissue.  It’s that thick that he couldn’t balloon it. How’d that scar tissue get there…thank you Afrin!  If you are on it, quit!!!!  If you use it to breathe, Quit.  I’d say unless the benefits outweight the repercussion (maybe traveling on an airplane with a sinus infection or something) don’t touch that stuff.  

  2. that is totally me as well it completely sucks as i am young and my ENT doc told me i’ve completely ruined my nose and family doc told me its hard to get off it its basically like a heroin addiction but obviously not as bad i have also been using equate brand sprays cause theyre cheaper than otrivin and cant live without it my mom introduced me to it when i was 11 or 12 and imu00a0going on u00a027 and still using it constantly 🙁

  3. Stay strong; you can do it! I just gave up my genericu00a0Afrin after using it for about ten years. I have not used it for about two months now and I feel great! My doctor prescribed me a safe nasal spray, which has helped me a little in the transition period.

  4. It’s not pitiful, it’s a physiological response 🙂 I take a nasal spray because of a dust mite allergy and I know when I don’t have it for a few days the effect wears off and I get back to normal again, able to breathe better now I’ve moved house and there’s not so much dust. u00a0It’s a psychological thing too I think, can be hard to beat when you’re panicking though, I sympathise.

  5. Wow, Carmen…that’s me, too!u00a0 I’m quitting smoking and doing well, so I’m gonna give this a go, too.u00a0 I HATE being addicted to anything.

  6. I have been addicted to nasal spray for 15+ years.u00a0 I am a miserable person when I cant breathe.u00a0 I have a bottle in my purse, in my car, in my bedroom and an extra one for back up at all times!u00a0 I have tried to quit using the nasal spray, but I can not handle the anxiety of not being able to breathe.u00a0 Pitiful, I know!!!!

  7. I’ve been addicted for about 8 years and need help nu00a0

  8. This happened to me, too.u00a0 I was addicted to it for 6 months, and finally I stopped using it cold turkey and had to suffer 2 weeks of misery.u00a0 But, now I’m normal again!

  9. I used a spray “fine mist” and another one for 4 days and now no sense of smell for 3 months now

  10. This happened to me several years ago. u00a0It took almost 3 months to wean myself off the spray. u00a0After that, I swore I would never use decongestant nasal spray ever again and I haven’t.nnI truly believe nasal spray to be evil stuff and I would never recommend it.

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