The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can You Overcome an Afrin Addiction?

One reader reports that spicy green chile salsa would open up the sinuses enough to help break an Afrin addiction. Others have used steroid nasal sprays or even saline spray to accomplish this goal.

Have you ever become addicted to your nasal spray? Millions of people do. Decongestant nasal sprays can be used safely for only a few days before they start to produce rebound congestion that can be quite uncomfortable. No wonder so many folks end up with an Afrin addiction, though any decongestant nasal spray can cause this problem. One reader found an unusual method to break the habit.

What Can You Do about Your Afrin Addiction?

Q. I got addicted to Afrin nasal spray. I couldn’t go any longer than 15 minutes without it.

It was a painful process to break the habit, but this worked for me. I would apply a hot compress to my sinuses (and cry because it hurt so much.) Then I would eat really hot green chile salsa, which would open up my sinuses. (I found this would also work if I was just starting to get a sinus infection.)

It helped to go for a run to get the sinuses open after eating the salsa. If I get a little stuffed up now, out comes the green chile. I have read that green chile has medicinal properties. Maybe this will help someone else break an Afrin addiction.

Overcoming Your Nasal Spray Addiction:

A. When people use strong vasoconstricting nasal decongestants for more than a few days, the nose adapts. Stopping the spray can trigger rebound nasal congestion, which may lead to a vicious cycle of nasal spray overuse.

Your strategy is intriguing. Others have found that gradually diluting the spray with saline solution can help.

Steroid Nasal Spray to the Rescue:

Some people also use steroid nasal sprays (Flonase, Nasacort, Rhinocort) to overcome nose spray dependency. Here is what another reader did.

Q. I have been using Afrin Nasal Decongestant Spray for two decades. My mom started me on it when I was a kid with bad allergies and then I couldn’t stop. I hated that nose spray addiction.

I finally got off Afrin by using Flonase and diluting the last bottle of Afrin with saline. It took about a week, and though I am still a little stuffy, I am so glad to be off the decongestant. I just thought others might benefit from my experience.

A. Thank you for sharing your success. Flonase is a corticosteroid nasal spray (fluticasone) that has recently become available over the counter. It can be helpful during the process of weaning off a nose spray addiction. It is also useful in controlling nasal allergy symptoms.

Side Effects of Steroid Sprays:

Side effects of Flonase may include headache, nosebleeds, nausea, cough and oral yeast infections. With long-term use, some people become more susceptible to cataracts or glaucoma.

To avoid getting into trouble with nasal spray, some people with allergies might want to try natural approaches:

Marie shared another way to avoid an Afrin addiction:

“Afrin is great when used only for occasional stuffiness. I never spray it in both nostrils; I alternate. Even with the worst cold, breathing through one clear nostril is fine. If you alternate nostrils you don’t have to worry about rebound congestion.”

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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Several folks have mentioned that by diluting afrin-type sprays with saline rinse what mix are you using and that is the time frame before you can expect to obtain breathing relief. Also, most of these bottles are one unit where are you finding a pump spray with the right mist spray that will work without getting too much. Any helpful information can be sent to thank you in advance.


I was so addicted to it I had to sleep sitting up in a chair for a tiny bit of air. I swore I would never use it again. Then I discovered that if I put a tiny bit on a Q-tip and swab my sinuses open enough to get through the night. This won’t totally clear the sinuses, but it will help you breathe.

I found Sinu-Orega nasal spray by NAHS. It is an aromatic spice formula (P73). to be my choice to never again be addicted. I use this because I use the machine for sleep apnea.

I was horribly addicted to Afrin in the early 70’s. I took 3 steroid shots a few weeks apart and got back to normal immediately. I don’t think I ever bought it again after the first shot.

Of course the shots hurt like hell and they contribute to cataracts. I couldn’t even breathe through my nostrils without an Afrin hit every 15 minutes. And then the tissues would swell up again and then another hit and . . . I couldn’t even sleep. I was very grateful for those shots. Back then Afrin was Rx only.

Ayr nasal spray or similar SALINE ONLY (distilled water and salt) spray works fine to lubricate nasal passages. I also use NeilMed sinus wash several times a week to completely clear out sinus passages. I tossed out steroid sprays in favor of NasalCrom spray which I use judiciously and not the several times per day as instructions say.

I used Afrin for a few days and got completely stopped up. Took some contizone pills that cleared it. Now I use daily sinus rinse and Flonase. A prescription, Montelukast, seems to help control allergies. This combo works for me.


For many years I’ve been an on and off user of Afrin or similar (oxymetazolineHCL) to relieve congestion. Because of the addiction to it and the rebound effect I got off it years ago by getting a steroid spray (was not over the counter then). So, I’ve tried many other treatments like Flonase, Nasocort, and others. Around 7 or 8 o’clock in the evening is when the symptom of stuffiness appears in my right nostril. By lying my head to the left it moves to the left. Sitting up straight again, it moves to the right. I’ve been told I do not have a deviated septum, but allergy problems. Nothing seems to work. I’m not convinced it related to allergies since it happens all year long. It seems related to “evening pressure” if there is such a thing. Is there a cure for that? I’d love to sleep through the night wide open.

I have the same problem! I’ve had it for years: stuffy nose, wake up with sinus headache. When I lie down the “lower” nostril stops up, when I change sides, it moves. Also, when sitting up, my right nostril is usually the one that’s a problem. Any suggestions you have will be greatly appreciated.

No need for nasal sprays for allergies. I had allergic rhinitis for years using pills and sprays.
Now all I have to do a few times a day is massage both sides of my nose 50 times then pinch the bridge of nose tightly at the very top for one minute. Job done, and it works.

I had a full blown addiction to nasal spray before it was commonly known that it could happen. I sprayed one nostril only until the other cleared, and then stopped. As others have mentioned here, one nostril free breathing is tolerable. It took 5-7 days for each to clear.

I never cared for Afrin. I have been on nasal sprays 50 yrs. I only use it as needed, which is normaly when I wake and when I go bed. Saline only stuffs me up more. I would say to use with common sense like all other meds.

I have been addicted to Afrin twice in my lifetime. I can’t remember how I got off of it the first time, maybe cold turkey. I vowed not to get hooked on it again, but alas, I began using it again with a head cold and sinus congestion. This was the worst time of all, and it lasted several years. I was using it every hour during this time. I read a suggestion of stopping in one nostril at a time, and this worked for me. It only took less than a week, and I was free! I do still use a nasal spray occasionally when I have a cold, but never more than once every 12 hours. I will not go down that road again.

To kick nasal decongestants, I would pick a nostril and spray it as much as needed while leaving the other nostril untreated. In a couple of days the untreated nostril would pop open. Then I just quit the treatment all together. This method gave me easy breathing in one nostril the whole time.

Some years ago I started taking one capsule of stinging nettle Leaf a day to combat allergies. I have since recommended it to others. One of my friends has reported back that it has helped greatly in control of allergy symptoms. It is inexpensive.

XLEAR works extremely well for a lot of people, including me.

I rarely use 12 hour nasal decongestants because of the rebound associated with them. Phenylephrine 1% sprays (Neo-Synephrine) is not 12 hour, however prolonged use at that concentration can also cause some rebound congestion, though nowhere near as severe. I dilute it down by adding water, generally between 10 and 12 ounces total including the 1 oz of generic phenylephrine spray. You could also use saline to dilute it, although that could get expensive. It takes a little longer for relief during a cold, but doesn’t cause severe rebound like the 12 hour sprays do.

I used Afrin nasal spray for years every night and decided I was addicted to it. I was determined to get off of it so I replaced Afrin with normal saline nasal drops. It worked. It did not take that long.

Like Evelyn, I have been using Afrin only at night for years. It only takes a gentle, small spray to provide a restful easy breathing night’s sleep. I always liberally spray my nose with saline BEFORE I use the Afrin so I actually use the Afrin to open my nasal passages rather than clear congestion. I recently had major brain surgery, and while I was in ICU even though I was exhausted, I could not go to sleep because my nasal passages were closed. I managed to ask the attending nurse for my Afrin. I had brought it in my purse. After asking my doctor for permission, she brought it to me, and after only one small spray in each nostril, I was immediately able to sleep. Am I addicted?? I only use the Afrin at night. I use fluticasone when I have a cold. I’m not sure what to do??????

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