nasal spray, nose spray addiction

Q. I need help with my nasal spray addiction. I’ve been addicted to Dristan for more than 15 years. It costs me $18 every two weeks for three bottles. I keep one with me everywhere I go: to the movies, in the car, out to eat, even at my bedside.

I know the instructions say to use it every 12 hours, but if I don’t use it every two to four hours I get congested and can’t breathe. Then, I become a mean and nasty person, according to my wife! If I don’t use it at night, I absolutely cannot sleep.

I’m 57 and wondering if this abuse has anything to do with my high blood pressure or prostate problems. Do you have any suggestions for getting off this stuff?

A. It is possible that the oxymetazoline in your nasal spray could affect your blood pressure or your enlarged prostate, especially at the extreme doses you are using. You will need help from an ear, nose and throat specialist to gradually wean yourself since you are now experiencing drug-induced rebound congestion.

Some people start by adding a tiny bit of saline to the nose spray. Use that for just one nostril. Continue increasing the amount of saline gradually. When one nostril is clear, repeat the procedure in the other nostril. Your doctor may prescribe a steroid nose spray to help you through this difficult withdrawal period.

Another reader suggested this approach for clearing blocked nasal passages:

“I’m one who suffered for years with sinus and hayfever problems so great you would not believe it. A doctor who operated on my sinus suggested I start flushing my nose with a saline solution. (One heaping teaspoon per quart: the water should be boiled for three minutes and cooled before use.)

“This has worked wonders for me. I used to use it every day, but now I use it only about two to three times per week unless I have been working in a very dusty atmosphere, in which case I flush immediately after exposure.”

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  1. Ann

    I have been battling vertigo for 15 years. Was told Sinex would help my inner ear to get rid of fluid. After using Sinex 2 weeks I started getting high blood pressure attacks very very high every afternoon. Now I found out it was due to me using Sinex nasal spray. I will never use it again. I felt like I was going to have a heart attach when my blood pressure went up do high.
    So this is a warning to everyone look out this could put you in the hospital. Be sure and tell your dr you using it. I am going to move to the coast to get sea air for my sinus issues. My allergy dr told me to move there if I could. Cedar pollen and elm keeps me very sick here in the hill country. Stay away from Boerne and Kerrville Tx. Too many problems with pollens in the air will keep you sick. Stay away from nasael sprays use netty pot instead. I learnd the hard way almost had a stroke.

  2. fbl

    All that sinus nonsense, nasal drips, clogged sinuses, headaches etc, ended for me in 1985 with allergy testing. I eliminated the irritants and haven’t had a sinus problem, cold or flu since.
    OOPS, just broke my record and got a flu bug last week. But the first flu or cold in almost 29 years isn’t a bad batting average when all I have to do is avoid fungus, dust mites, yeasts, corn, soy and carrots. Yup, carrots. The whole allergy clinic had a good laugh at that one.
    In ’85 the only way to test was the needle under the skin system. Now there is a an easy test called Food Safe. Our Dr. carries it now and did away with other allergy testing systems. One simply drops blood from a finger prick on a mail-in card.
    My hubby took the test four years ago and it has changed his life for the better. He was gluten sensitive and we had no idea. He’s lost weight (and his gut) and feels great now (well not quite at the moment as he got the flu too.).

    • KDelphi

      Yeah, well, its not silly when you have:
      1) an allergy to a very common plant, as well as a unbeatable household fungus—these cannot be completely avoided; and
      2) have a very deviated septum from having had your nose severely broken…yes, I had had m,y septum fixed, twice. When is has been entirely moved to the side of your face (by your ear) , it is nearly impossible to keep the septum straight. Yes, I saw an allergist who found me allergic to dust mites, oak trees, lambsquarters (which are everywhere) and feathers…so avoiding those is just not always possible.

      I don’t have the money to see a specialist now (I am on Medicaid, so I can forget about even paying for one if I wanted to—I could go to jail, and they are NOT kidding)…and I have very high blood pressure (which is prob NOT just from nasal spray, but when it is as high as mine, everything matters), which just shoots up all the time, it is never constant. I cannot exercise, as the accident left me unable to move my left side correctly. So, if anyone has ideas for me, I would love to hear them, but there is nothing “silly” about it. It is very dangerous and the packaging, commercials, etc would give no indication that you need be worried about much of anything.

  3. Malan

    I also am curious about the acupuncture procedure.. I’ve been using afrin every night for the past 16+ years, my problem is that I get really panicky if I can’t breathe through my nose when I’m trying to go to sleep.. I don’t sleep very well anyway, & it’s almost impossible with a stuffy nose.. I can’t take any benzos to stave off the anxiety.. I can handle being stuffy during the day, but nights are horrendous.. Any suggestions? I haven’t had any luck with the saline drops..

  4. Mathieu


  5. Mathieu

    Hi Sarah in Oregon, do you now know what procedure your acupuncturist used?
    I have used Vick’s SINEX nasal spray since I was 16 after a car accident broke my nose. I have had surgery to correct my nose and make the nostrils bigger but I was still addicted to nasal spray for over 20 years on and off and I have developed high blood pressure at the age of 36. I have to take 2 types of medication each day to keep it under control.
    Although I have now stopped using nasal spray its seems as if my blood vessel are now like a balloon that has already been blown up once already and are easier to blow up now now will be on medication for ever maybe?
    I spoke with my GP (general practitioner doctor UK) and he said prolonged use was OK (?)even though it says `consult your doctor if symptoms persist` on the packaging. Lots of people on the web with similar stories and many suggesting saline solution which is boiled water with added salt, cooled down and put in the same sort of container as sinex or what ever and used in the same way. I have not tried saline/water but find the ‘rebound congestion’ goes away almost completely after a few weeks off the nasal sprays.
    Nasal sprays are banned in some countries like Japan and banned in some sports. Not good stuff to be on for a prolonged period so good luck All.

  6. Sarah in Oregon

    ACUPUNCTURE CURED ME IN ONE TREATMENT. Here’s my story. I developed an addiction to nasal spray which lasted for at least 10 years. I never went anywhere without a bottle. I had them in my purse, bike bag, bedside table, bathroom, and on the kitchen counter. About 8 years ago I was at my acupuncturist’s for treatment for an injury. He noticed I used nasal spray at some point during the session. He questioned me about it, and when I told him I was hopelessly addicted, he said, “I can help you with that.” He needled me; I can’t remember exactly where he put the needles, but some were on my face. I decided to give abstinence a try. What did I have to lose? I waited a few hours, and then a few hours more. I kept waiting. My nose kept recovering. I have never had to use nasal spray again. I am really grateful.

    • K

      Sarah in Oregon,

      Please come back. We need at least the information of the acupuncture. I am desperate to find a accupuncture working on me. All acupuncturists are not the same.

  7. HL

    I also had a long addiction to nasal spray (4-Way brand). I used it for 30 years at least, always at night to sleep and often during the day – but not at the rate this writer consumed. A trip to the Dr. finally and was prescribed Nasonex and proposed procedure to fix deviated septum and also a “liposuction-like” surgery to reduce the size of turbinates (nasal membranes). I have not done surgery but the Nasonex was almost miracle like and takes only an occasional squirt or two.
    I do not have allergies or hay fever, and was told Nasonex works for approximately 35% of the people without allergies, and 70% of people with allergies..
    Hope this helps

  8. Renee

    I am a 51 yo female; I have used Flonase every other night for more than 2 yrs with great results for swollen sinuses from years of nasal allergies. In late December, after 2weeks of eating a reduced meat diet (which helped my nasal allergies – go figure) I noticed spikes of high blood pressure, along with an irregular heartbeat (I’ve had occasional PVCs for many years).
    Long story short, after several trips to my dr and the ER and a thorough cardio evaluation, no one can tell me why this happened. I recently noticed that moments after using Generic Flonase, I’d have episodes of irregular heartbeats which would last for several days. I stopped using it, tho I can’t find any literature that says Fluticasone can cause high BP or arrhythmias; my dr. and my cardiologist both say it is not likely to cause this problem, but I stopped anyway. Sometimes you have to figure things out and be your own doctor!

  9. DTG

    I was addicted to a product called NTZ Nasal Spray for 5 years. My ENT doctor gave me a super dose of Prednisone. As it happened I was leaving for Miami on vacation the next day, and he remarked that the ocean salt air would be as good as it gets for me. I feel for you and know you can beat this. Mean? Nasty? I would have seriously hurt someone to get my fix. Good Luck.

  10. Michele M.

    I took nosedrops since I was a child, sleeping holding the bottle. About
    10 years ago, the problem became really severe and my nose
    was hardly ever clear.
    With embarrassment I went to see my doctor and she prescribed Claritin
    and rhinocourt to get me over this. I have a small nose bridge
    and still feel congested at times.
    Over the counter saline nasal spray does the trick. I tried a neti pot but
    the spray is so much easier to use and convenient.

  11. Vick

    I was locked on Afrin for many years and always had a bottle in my pocket and by the bed. I had a major heart attack and was in intensive care and was taken off Afrin and did have a problem sleeping. A nurse allowed me to use once more and that was it. I used the Saline Solution which did help while in the hospital. I still use it about once a week, sometime more depending on my sinus. It’s a lot cheaper and works fine if you follow the directions.

  12. Mary

    I you find that the saline solution by itself is irritating, just add a little bicarbonate of soda to the solution.
    That made a big difference to me.

  13. Les

    I use Flonase, or Fluticasone prescription. Can this raise blood pressure? I’ve stopped.

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