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January 09, 2011


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Matt Crowley

My mother was addicted to nasal sprays from at least the mid 60's until her death in 2000. Her drug of choice back in the 60's was Privine, which at that time came in small brown glass bottles, and had a white plastic dropper tube with a black rubber bulb.

She would rant and rave about the evils of rock music and the "drug culture" and claimed that the Beatles started the "drug culture" in America. Some years before she died, a GI bleed put her in the ER. All her meds now came from the hospital. My father and I visited her in the hospital, and I could see her going through withdrawal from the sudden loss of nasal spray. She wanted me to go home and bring back her nasal spray to the ER!

No, she never saw her own drug addiction as addiction, obviously. I suspect many people will think your blog entry is some kind of a joke or a hyperbolic account, but yes, vasoconstrictor nasal sprays are physically addictive. Few people know this or talk about it. I'm glad you did.


Sorry about your mother, Matt. This was an OTC medication, so when I read the 3-day warning, I kind of thought, "How unsafe could it possibly be?" But you're right, Matt, this was no joke, and I'm glad the side effects weren't worse and Afrin doesn't create some kind of emotional dependency or high. I just wanted to breathe, and I know I'm not the only one who's had to deal with this. But you just don't hear about it very much, do you?


I was so freaked out by the fine print of those nasal sprays the only ones I'll use are the saline ones that are pretty much like taking in a little water while swimming in the ocean. When I use it I feel like I'm on spring break. The salt sterilizes whats-up-there and there is no addiction.

I'm pretty sure my boss is addicted to the bad stuff. He has constant sinus problems and is always spraying something up there. He's also the type of guy who is too "manly" to blow his nose properly so he either sucks it all back in (ew) or honks so loud he blows it into his ears. People, teach your boys how to properly blow their nose. It is amazing how many seem to think blowing it into their ears is a good idea.


Good advice all around, there, Hil. :)


Admittedly I liked the chocolate cake post better than this one . . . But for a while when I was younger, Flonase was the big new thing, and it was getting prescribed to everyone in my family on a fairly regular basis. Now I feel as though I dodged a bullet.

Hil's right, you can usually not go wrong with saline. I also sometimes use a neti pot! Which is fascinating, kind of gross, and awkward, but totally old fashioned and homeopathic and useful.


Kelly, you are not alone. I have heard of SEVERAL people becoming addicted to Afrin.
Sure it doesn't evoke images of black leather pants or disco lights, but that stuff should seriously not be OTC. Glad you're okay now.


I get sinus headaches that become migraines if I don't treat my allergies. I didn't really even realize the headaches were caused by allergies because the other symptoms were so mild... just a slightly runny nose, pretty much all the time. I just thought that was how my nose worked because I've been living that way for so long (and my mom has lived that way all her life).

To ensure the migraines didn't return, I used Afrin for about two weeks before my doctor would refill my Flonase (I accidentally took it wrong, so my refill request went in too soon). Actually, I only needed to wait a week for my prescription, but Afrin made such a fast, noticeable difference that I didn't want to stop... but I, too, read the warning, and I knew I shouldn't be messing around with it.

I've been on Flonase and off Afrin for a week now, and my sinuses are still messed up. Before Afrin, my allergies just caused post-nasal drip and stuffiness in my head. Now I literally can't breathe from my nose when I wake up in the morning, and when I blow my nose, there's constantly blood. And I have to blow my nose even more than before.

I still have the Afrin here. I don't know why I can't throw it away, but I just can't. Not until I get back to my own weird normal. But it freaks me out to see it, too, and I'm staying away from it for now. I have a friend that's been using it for months, so I can't even imagine what she'd have to do to get off of it.


Did you seriously just compare nasal spray to heroin? Seriously?


Sarcasm, hyperbole, and exaggeration are the cornerstones of this blog, Adam. Also butter.

Rick Morgan

I am finally waking up; have been using Afrin for months to treat severe nasal congestion. My wife has reached the point of total frustration with me because of snorting Afrin continually and then waking at night after a loud snoring episode. I am going cold turkey. Last night was miserable with little sleep and mouth breathing. I retreated to the family room to watch three hours of the golf channel and a total gym infomercial. I expect this to take two to three days so its a good thing it's the week end with nothing scheduled. I'm beginning to figure out that my fatigue over the last month is related to a lack of sound sleep at night and waking to snort, take a Halls mint and lie there for 30 minutes before falling back to sleep. I have begun Neil med saline rinse that I've used before but this time in earnest. No more Afrin ever. I have seen the evil of my ways and am akin to a reformed sinner. Wish me luck


Oh Rick, GOOD LUCK to you! I hope you start breathing easier soon. I'm sure it's a different experience for everyone, and I can't help feeling like mine was easier than most. I must say that I haven't touched Afrin since then and I'm back to normal. I never experience that cold WHOOSH of "fresh" air when I breathe anymore, just plain old room temperature air, but that's alright with me. You can do it! Hang in there!


As both an oxymetazoline and a heroin addict I can say heroin is a bit worse, I got a little chuckle when I read you saying it was every bit as serious. This is an awful habit but withdrawal from heroin was definitely more painful than what I am going through trying to quit the nasal spray.


Hi all,
I have been using nasal spray generally twice a day for years. In the last two weeks, I have had such a terrible sore throat that I am worried about all kinds of awful maladies. It occurred to me last night that the sore throat only comes on at night and gee, is usually after I have used the nasal spray!!! Hmm, I wonder, is it the nasal spray causing this? Whats worse, is my 6 year old son uses it too, but not every day, but a few times every week. He has allergies. Has anyone suffered from an awful sore throat as a result of this stuff, one that lasts all night, not just a few hours after use?
Thanks, Jo


I am currently an Afrin addict, I've been using it for over a year and half. I was also addicted to drugs and alcohol, including heroin, for many years and have been clean for over two years. While obviously using heroin is much more dangerous to your health than Afrin...I would take heroin withdrawal over Afrin any day! For me heroin withdrawal was a few days of feeling pretty shitty. I would tell my family and friends I had a flu bug or something. I needed rehab to learn how to change my life and stay off of drugs...but honestly the withdrawal wasn't that bad (I understand that I was lucky and other people go through it way worse). Now Afrin on the other hand, I am in complete MISERY when I don't have it. I am cranky and hate life and act like a B**** when I have rebound congestion...and it lasts FOREVER. I wish I had never started Afrin!! I feel like someone has poured concrete in my sinuses! My boyfriend stopped using Afrin weeks ago and is still having rebound congestion. I can't put myself through the cold turkey symptoms like that. I just found out about titration and will try that.


Have been using Afrin continuously for the past few weeks after having the flu. Got to where I was using it at least 2 to 3 times an hour. Rebound congestion is horrible! Woke up last nite with bad sore throat. This AM my throat was very swollen & sore. Took my usual wake-up hit of Afrin. Got ready to go to work. I stopped at Sonic to get my morning Coke when the rebound congestion hit all-of-the-sudden. I could barely breathe thru my mouth due to my badly, swollen throat. Nose was completely shut off. I panicked big time. Took one more Afrin hit while in the car. Sonic manager saw I was in distress, came & got me out of my car, and walked me around parking lot while keeping his finger on 911 that he had on speed dial. Almost had to call an ambulance. I got a little better and went on to work. I finished my shift and it hit again on the way home. Almost passed out while driving. Luckily, my aunt lived right next to where I was driving when it hit. Had to call my mother to take me to the ER. They gave me steroid and antibiotic shots along with prednisone to start tomorrow, a prescription of antibiotics for the throat infection, and steroid nasal spray. Doctor said to dispose of the Afrin immediately! That stuff is evil if you use it for the long-run! Rebound congestion is bad enough alone, but if it coincides with tonsillitis, strep-throat, croup or any illness that can affect your throat, you can find yourself in a real medical emergency. Lesson learned!


I've been using Afrin (or its generic equivalent) for about 4 or 5 years now. Basically I was to the point of needing to use it every 3 or 4 hours or face severe congestion. I'd wake up in the middle of the night routinely because of nasal blockage & use some Afrin.

Started using some Nasacort (Triamcinolone acetonide) which is a nasal corticosteroid that is OTC (over the counter) as of 2014. After about 3 days of use, I noticed that I was able to go longer without using Afrin. I'm 5 days in now, and I haven't used Afrin for about 12 hours & my nose is perfectly un-stuffed. Give this stuff a shot.

*I do seem to be getting a headache that I didn't get before the Nasacort - so there may be some side effects... But it's worth it IMO. I backed the dose down from 2 sprays at once in the morning to one spray in the morning and one in the afternoon - we'll see how that goes.


It's "The Nights' Watch" not "The Night Watch"!


I have been using Afrin for over 3 years and it got to the point where I couldn't go more than a couple of hours without needing to spray because of the blocking up of my nasal passages. I suffer from migraines,allergies, and am a school teacher. When my nose is blocked it causes my head to hurt worse so of course I am desperate to find something to relieve it. After visiting my ENT, I was put on prednisone to help come off of the Afrin and because of a deviated septum I am scheduled for surgery. However, the congestion is back after the prednisone and I am trying soooo hard not to get back on the Afrin. It. Is. A. Struggle.

Laurie Mason

I just had surgery 2 months ago for a deviated septum and deformed sinuses. My DOCTOR told me to use Afrin only at bedtime for recovery. It worked so well....too well....then I started having to use it in the morning and at bedtime. Now its 2 months later and Im using it 4-5 times a day and cant breathe if I dont use it. I had no idea you could become addicted to it and I dont even know when I healed from my surgery. I just took an allergy pill instead of Afrin to see if that allows me to breathe so I can ween myself off. If not Ill be calling my Dr in the morning for help and a support group.


Nasacort. One spray, each nostril, every other day, turned me from an allergic, mouth-breathing, sleep-deprived snore monster (for 20 years) into a nose-breathing babe in a manger. It'a miracle drug with zero side effects. And it's completely and utterly tasteless and non-irritating, whereas Afrin stings and tastes bitter.


Use Flonase instead . It cured me in just a few hours . You can get it over the counter. Expensive but worth it to get off afrin !

Robert Patrick

I can not believe people are comparing afrin to heroin. Holy smokes. There are so many ways to treat congestion if you're trying to stop using afrin. Support group?!

Jill b

I just quit cold turkey after being on Afrin everyday for the last 28YEARS!!!! Holy shit it's hard but I am so glad I did. I just took tons of melatonin to go to sleep for 3 days and I am still stuffy but not as bad as I thought. I used it up to 9 times a day! Everyday. No joke.


Addiction is a stupid word to use. You don't get addicted to nasal spray like you do other drugs. There just isn't the change in brain chemistry and what not. A better word would be dependency, meaning you nose doesn't work properly without the drug. The "withdrawal" everyone faces is just the fact that no one hates losing sleep because they can't breathe, and no one likes the congestion that can last for a while. It's purely psychological...


^^^Nasal spray is absolutely addictive, my mom snorted that crap hourly my entire childhood, couldn't go a day without it. She was finally able to quit a couple of years ago but just recently she got a super bad cold and started back, addictiction comes in many forms, it's not just about not wanting to lose sleep. The actual definition says nothing about it having to be a physiological change. How closed minded of you.

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