This was me on Thursday, in more ways than one. I'll explain.
My name is Kelly, and I was addicted to Afrin nose spray. This is what Afrin is:
You can buy it anywhere for around $4.00. It's in the cold and flu section along with the other items that unclog a person's nose, although it's ususally on the bottom shelf, hmm. And if the commercial above is to be believed, it is the only thing you'd need to get back to normal when you have a cold. Within seconds.
I always thought that nose sprays were somehow unladylike because come on, putting a foreign object even a little bit inside your nose and then squirting stuff in there is gross. But one night a few years ago, I was struggling with one of those evil colds that had my nose clogged up so completely that I knew I would be unable to sleep. Jeff gently but firmly convinced me to try Afrin, and who can blame him for not wanting to spend the night with a mouth-breathing zombie? Feeling like Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights when Julianne Moore convinces him to try cocaine for the first time, I borrowed Jeff's little bottle and tentatively took a couple of hits. Within a few seconds, WHOOSH!, exhilarating icy air flowed through my nose and into my lungs, and I slept peacefully the rest of the night. I got over my cold within a day or two and stopped using Afrin, which was a miracle drug as far as I was concerned.
Then last June we both came down with a sinus bug that brought me to my knees. I don't drink or smoke, and I don't like to use medicine at all if I can help it. The decongestant pills I took made me feel druggy and unable to paint. Then I remembered how great Afrin was, and once again it had me feeling better within seconds. What a relief! Each spray lasted about twelve hours, so I could use it at bedtime and in the morning.
Except this cold never seemed to go away. It rambled on for months, but the Afrin made its lone symptom--congestion--go away. When the Afrin wore off, the congestion would creep back, and I'd use it again. The instructions on the package warned me, in words that any idiot could understand, that I shouldn't use Afrin for more than three days in a row. But they didn't say why not, and I figured that my neverending, low-level cold was somehow exceptional and those instructions did not apply to me.
Around the holidays, though, I noticed that my cold had become worse, and I needed to use the Afrin more often. I was taking hits a few extra times during the day and waking up from suffocation nightmares during the wee hours of the night before snorting some more. Hmm, I wonder if people can get addicted to Afrin? I thought. I googled "Afrin abuse" and what do you know? LOTS of people were addicted to Afrin!
I found a massive number of message boards with accounts of people who had developed major habits, some that had lasted decades, and some that required Afrin three or more times per hour! HOUR. Apparently Afrin creates "rebound congestion": if you don't use it, your nose plugs itself all the way up, so to get relief you use it again, and this escalates until you reach the point where you're taking it all the damned time. Listen to this doctor (you can tell he's a doctor because he has a teddy bear wearing a stethoscope):
The side effects of Afrin abuse are not good. It can mess up your nose and sinuses. One man's doctor said the inside of his nose resembled "a baboon's butt," which looks like this. Some people needed surgery to correct the damage. All of this scared the hell out of me.
I found lots of different tips on how to quit Afrin, some extreme (steroid injections right in the nose, Prednisone), some that seemed like a pain in the ass (taking apart the Afrin container, pouring out most of the stuff, and replacing it with saline solution and slowly weening yourself), and good old fashioned cold turkey, which sounded really hard. It took this one guy almost a month to get off it, with many sleepless nights and general mouth-breathing misery. That was the consensus: get ready to breathe through your mouth for at least three or four days before your body begins to heal itself and you can get any relief. So that's what I decided to do.
The first thirty hours were awful. I could not breathe through my nose at all, and the hours poked by. I barely slept that first night. To spare Jeff, I camped out on the living room couch with a box of tissues, some Tic Tacs (I had the breath of the damned), multiple pots of tea, and lots of movies. Our three cats slept on me that entire night, possibly in an attempt to align themselves with my various chakras. I felt like Jamie Foxx in Ray during that brutal scene where he's detoxing. <sarcasm alert> Yes, Afrin abuse is every bit as serious as heroin abuse. </sarcasm alert> The one good thing to come out of that night was a pretty good tweet I made about The Social Network:
...but nobody retweeted it because they were fast asleep in their warm, cozy beds. So I breathed through my mouth for thirty hours. The dry air caused three canker sores to blossom inside my mouth, and the watery snot flowed like wine.
But later that morning I felt a real change. My red baboon nose was slowly opening up. Later in the day, while I was still a little stuffy, I began breathing freely again and feeling like a normal person. Over the weekend, I've noticed some mild congestion that fades in and out, but it's nowhere near as bad as before. I'm on the mend.
The people online who managed to quit Afrin cold turkey kept saying to throw out all of the Afrin bottles you have in the house because you will be tempted to cheat. I'm just not that kind of person--I hate to ruin a streak, and quitting was so hard that to even think about going back to square one is infuriating. One of my Afrin bottles is within arm's reach right now, and honestly it disgusts me. Lousy bastard! Screwing up my nose!
So that is my little tale of woe. If you suspect that you are addicted to Afrin, you probably are, and you should quit it as soon as you can.