Can Nasal Decongestant Sprays Start a Cycle of Dependence?

Can Nasal Decongestant Sprays Start a Cycle of Dependence?

Dec 18, 2021, 7:03:54 AM Life and Styles

Like many over-the-counter medications, decongestant nasal sprays must be used carefully and carry a high potential for abuse. Being able to breathe clearly during a bout with sinus problems or seasonal allergies is a strong benefit of the sprays, and they are used by millions of people daily. However, the popular sprays may actually lock a patient into a cycle of dependence that's hard to break.

Patients who use nasal sprays for congestion often notice quick relief from just a spray or two. During use of duration longer than three or four days, the sprays can actually prompt the lining of the nasal areas to become irritated and swell, even if the seasonal allergy trigger or other problem is over. In turn, the user applies the spray again to breathe better, and the cycle continues. You can visit greatoaksrecovery.com to learn more about this cycle and its solution.

Some physicians have called the overuse of decongestant nasal sprays a type of dependence and warn that the problem can go on for years. Patients who have fallen into this cycle have started chat rooms and forums online, including for the nasal spray Afrin. Some of the visitors to the sites even give suggestions for how to stop dependence on the substance.

Doctors haven't yet confirmed a true addiction to nasal decongestant sprays but say that, similar to other drugs, people who fall into the dependence cycle often increase their dosage levels over time in order to achieve the desired effects. They also go through withdrawal when they kick the habit.

The name of the problem that can begin the abuse of nasal decongestant sprays is rhinitis medicamentosa, officially labeled more than 60 years ago. It is hard to determine exactly how many people have a dependence on nasal sprays or overuse them because many patients don't include the medication when seeing their doctor because it doesn't require a prescription.

Phenylephrine, the key ingredient in Neo-Synephrine, is a fast-acting chemical that constricts the blood vessels within the nasal membranes. The nasal sprays with longer-lasting effects contain oxymetazoline and xylometazoline and are believed to cause problems or exaggerate congestion if the label warnings aren't carefully read and followed.

Within a short timeframe, the nasal tissues become tolerant of the chemicals, and the sprays can interrupt the flow of blood to the membranes and cause visible tissue damage. Instead, steroids in nasal spray form may be recommended because they can help with nasal congestion for longer periods of time without the risk of increasing congestion or causing other problems.

For people who are dependent on nasal sprays for clear breathing, an abrupt stopping will work – but not without the risk of strong urges to use the product again. Once the dependence and the spray-induced congestion have cleared up, doctors and patients should work together to address the root causes of the patient's breathing problems.

Like other medications, the problem of nasal decongestant spray abuse may come down to education: patients should follow the label instructions carefully, and doctors can educate patients about the dangers of dependence. 

Published by mistyjhones

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