The Inside Dope on Nasal Spray Addictions

Can anyone become addicted to nasal spray? Many people believe that addiction to certain nasal sprays is a real concern but according to James Li, M.D., an asthma and allergy specialist at the world renowned Mayo Clinic, there is no such thing as a nasal spray addiction. In his column “Ask an Allergy Specialist,” Dr. Li states, “Addiction is a compulsive physiological need for and use of a habit-forming substance known to be physically, psychologically or socially harmful. Over-the-counter nasal sprays don't contain any habit-forming ingredients, and they don't cause the compulsive cravings that mark an addiction. However, it is possible to develop a tolerance to nasal sprays (Dr. James Li, 2008).” Developing a tolerance for a nasal spray will lead a person to use it constantly in their search for relief. They may confuse that need with addiction.

According to an article by Richard Saltus, “…relief provided by nasal spray decongestants like Afrin and Neo-Synephrine comes at a price: the risk of rebound congestion caused by overuse and, for some people, a vicious cycle of overuse and dependence that feels like an addiction. (Saltus, 2006).” Dr. David Vernick, an ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston was quote by Richard Saltus in the same article as saying "You're used to breathing well with the spray, and when you stop it, you get congested. So you use it a little more frequently, yet the congestion doesn't clear up for long (Saltus, 2006)." Many people abuse OTC (Over the Counter) nasal sprays in their quest for relief from nasal congestion but that abuse does not mean that they are physically addicted to the substance.

According to Clayton Traylor, who started the web site in 2005, approximately 10, 000, 000 Americans have fallen prey to nasal spray addiction. He claims to have fought the addiction himself for over 10 years. Going cold turkey and overcoming the addiction many times only to fall under its spell again a short time later. But can you accept his statements as fact when he pitching an e-book that sells for $39.97?

The active ingredient in Afrin and many other OTC Nasal sprays is oxymetazoline nasal which relieves congestion by constricting blood vessels in the nasal cavity area allowing them to drain. Bur nasal sprays containing oxymetazoline nasal shouldn’t be used for more than five days at a time because prolonged use can cause swelling and permanent damage to nasal cavity tissue. This swelling leads to chronic congestion which the spray no longer relieves and the sufferer resorts to using it more and more often in an attempt to find relief. This chronic need for relief is often confused with an addiction.

Dr. James Li, M. (2008, January 15). Ask an Allergy Specialist. Retrieved January 26, 2009, from Mayo Clinic. Com:

Saltus, R. (2006, March 14). Nasal Sprays Can Bring on Vicious Cycle. The New York Times.


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