Help Me to Breathe
June 24, 2012 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know of any way to cure yourself of an Afrin (oxymetazoline HCl) and / or Dristan (phenylephrine HCl) addiction?

My real problem is that I'm incredibly, amazingly addicted to BREATHING. I'm seriously an oxygen junkie. So what happens is that my nose starts to get stuffed for one reason or another -- our two cats, our dog, our toddler bringing home germs, flowers, pollen, whatever -- and if it gets too bad, I realize I can't take it and need to do something.

The quickest answer is always to use a nasal spray. (Note that I listed Afrin and Dristan, but in reality I get the generic versions from Walgreens or CVS or the grocery store for 1/5th the price.)

The problem with the nasal sprays, of course, is that they last pretty much exactly as long as they say on the label. So 12 hours after a squirt, my nose puffs and swells (internally) and I cannot breathe at all. Breathing is way, way up there on my list of daily activities, and I can't go for more than a few seconds without doing it. (Breathing through only my mouth makes me miserable.)

I'm really looking for ANY cure. Are there old wives' tale remedies like squirt some lemon in your nose and sacrifice a chicken in the backyard? Do I need to buy one of those clunky Darth Vader masks to sleep? Can I call my doctor and tell him I need the antidote? I am desperate and my Google Fu has found nothing.

Hive mind powers: Activate!
posted by GatorDavid to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Afrin actually makes you MORE congested if you use it longer than recommended (2-3 days). That's probably causing the problem. Go see a doctor and get an allergy prescription!

Seriously, google "Afrin addiction" - it is a thing.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:11 PM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Nasal rinsing. I like this, but some people prefer a neti pot. Boil the water, or use distilled (!!!)

For quick hits during the day, use saline nasal spray.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:12 PM on June 24, 2012

Throw them away. Do not buy new ones, if you are so inclined do not even go to Walgreens or CVS. Give your car keys away if you have to.

Take some antihistamines. Benedryl or Claritin. Breathe through your mouth and be miserable for a few days. Take hot showers.

The only way to cure the addition is to stop using the products, I'm sorry to say. :(
posted by royalsong at 4:13 PM on June 24, 2012 [4 favorites]

Was going to come in to say exactly what guster4lovers said. Your frequent use of nasal spray is making your problem worse.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 4:13 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Read this
posted by guster4lovers at 4:14 PM on June 24, 2012

I have done this. You have to detox. It will be hell, but you can do it. You can try tapering off - do one spray instead of two. Then half a spray. Then go an hour longer. And so on. And get a neti pot to help for when you're hopelessly congested.

Once you have stopped using the nasal sprays completely, you will be AMAZED at how your nose is. No more oogy constant boogers. No more weird colored snot. I used to have a constant pile of kleenex next to my chair, like a snowdrift. Not since I stopped using the nose spray.

Get onto a steroidal nose spray if you must, like Nasonex or Flonase, and get OFF the Afrin-clones!
posted by Addlepated at 4:21 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you have allergies that are uncontrolled. Go see your doctor about some anti-histamines, and get yourself off the nasal spray. I have terrible allergies, and I need to take a daily OTC anti-histamine and a nasal steroid spray to control them.
posted by Joh at 4:21 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't have experience with this but it sounds similar to over-using lip balm. It then becomes 'a thing' and you always need lip balm.

If your allergies are serious, get a prescription from your doctor. It really sounds like you are overusing these and you just really need to stop. By stopping.
posted by bquarters at 4:23 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

My mother fought with her doctors to be allowed to bring her Dristan with her into the delivery room when I was born. It's no joke. I like to think that's the reason that I'm such a nasal spray junkie.

My doctor got me through detox this way: do a saline rinse to clear nasal passages, then use one spray of Afrin, then use the steroid spray (Flonase for me). I can't recall how long it took me to get off that, but it worked. I cannot use those nasal sprays any more. One spray, and I'm totally hooked. Now, even when I'm super sick with a cold, saline only.
posted by gladly at 4:53 PM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

A prescription steroid nasal spray from your doctor can help ease the transition as you taper off the Afrin.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 4:55 PM on June 24, 2012

I had this problem. My allergist gave me some Nasacort that I can POUR SOME AFRIN INTO and use every day. I don't quite understand it, but something about the Nasacort prevents the Afrin from doing the rebound thing.

(I also get allergy shots and take 1 Zyrtec per day, so maybe you also need more than a nasal spray.)

It is so awesome to be able to breathe through my nose every day. TL;DR see an allergist!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:58 PM on June 24, 2012

You're probably getting rebound congestion.
posted by OsoMeaty at 5:06 PM on June 24, 2012

Best answer: Only use the nasal spray decongestant on one side. You can live with one clogged nostril. Whenever that nostril recovers, quit using the nasal spray altogether and live with having the other side clogged for a while.
posted by Ery at 5:10 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have had the dreaded Afrin addiction and I have weaning off it down to a freaking science. What you need to do is stop using it in both nostrils over a two-ish week period, but we're going to do it one side at a time. Pick one side you don't mind being stuffy in for a week or so, and stop squirting Afrin into it. Go ahead with your business as usual on the other side until the stuffy side clears up. Once you can breathe on the one side that has been deprived of Afrin, stop using it on the other side too. In another week or so that side will also be weaned. Now throw away the nose candy and go see an ENT and allergist to find out the source of your breathing problems.

While you wait for each side to wean off the junk, you should do whatever else you can to ease your discomfort. I recommend 12-hour Sudafed from behind the pharmacy counter, Advil for any face soreness or sinus pressure headaches, hot steamy showers and some saline rinsing with a NeilMed bottle.
posted by joan_holloway at 5:11 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you like ginger at all, making fresh, strong ginger tea can help with congestion. I happen to like it, and when I'm sick I make a cup or two per day...grate approx a 1" piece of ginger into some water in a pot, bring to boil and let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes, strain and enjoy. Lemon juice and/or honey can help take the gingery edge off.
posted by fromageball at 5:19 PM on June 24, 2012

Seconding the suggestion of Sudefed to help you through your detox period. Make sure you get the real stuff that you (in the US) have to ask for behind the counter. That fake stuff doesn't do anything.
posted by Weeping_angel at 5:44 PM on June 24, 2012

To clarify, you don't need Sudefed brand Sudefed. You just need something with psuedophedrine (which I probably spelled wrong) in it. The CVS/Walgreens brands are fine.
posted by Weeping_angel at 5:47 PM on June 24, 2012

I am desperate and my Google Fu has found nothing.

That's because the only cure is basically going cold turkey. There are some good suggestions about how to manage that transition here, but really, the only "cure" is to stop. In the future, I'd stick to using the stuff for a day, maybe two at most, and be really, really careful.

I've gotten to the point that I only use it if I'm really congested, and then only a hit before bed, every other day, no more than two times. It's fiendishly addictive.
posted by valkyryn at 5:54 PM on June 24, 2012

Ah yes, the Afrin addiction. I know her well.

In regards to the Afrin itself: don't use for more than 3 days. The way Afrin works is to shrink your sinuses so your nasal pathways open. The more you do this, the more you become addicted to the effects.

As a year-round allergy sufferer (pollen, dust, animals, etc.), I take a combination of things. Any, all or none of these things may work for you:

Claritin 24-hr
Prescription nasal spray (I use Veramyst currently)

Everyone telling you the only cure for getting over Afrin is going cold-turkey is 100% correct. The longer you take it, the more severe the congestion will be once you do stop. You just have to power through it.

There are some days where no matter what I take to mitigate congestion, nothing helps. These are the cases where I use Afrin, and never for more than the 3 days stated above.
posted by waitangi at 6:38 PM on June 24, 2012

I used the one-nostril approach described above, plus Sudafed. After a miserable couple of days, I have never used the stuff again.

Now when I get horrifically stuffed up, I use neti pots, sudafed, and a humidifier. Maybe some Vick's if I'm really desperate (they make a menthol syrup you can pour into your humidifier, which is great).
posted by elizeh at 7:09 PM on June 24, 2012

I had this problem, and spoke to my doctor about it. He recommended as above, to stop the use of over the counter nasal sprays immediately. This led to the realization that the root of my problems lied in nasal polyps, which I'm now treating properly.

I would recommend talking to your doctor about this. It's made such a difference in my life. I spent YEARS believing I was incurably congested.
posted by smitt at 7:34 PM on June 24, 2012

These nasal strips can also help get you through the night (and the day, if you have the nerve to wear them).
posted by Corvid at 7:46 PM on June 24, 2012

Ugh, I feel your pain.

Caveat: when I used Flonase, it made me smell like beer. This may not bother you, but I was 9 and someone pointed it out at Sunday School. The formulation may have been changed, but it is something to consider.

I LOOOOVE using a neti pot, and I was seriously one of those "this sounds like woo" skeptics before I tried one. I like the NeilMed squeezable bottle. However, as is the case with Afrin et al., if you overuse the neti pot, you will get rebound congestion.

Finally, Vick's makes a thing called a VapoInhaler and it is pretty awesome. It's like a little rock of Vick's Vapo-Rub in a tube. You stick it in your nose and inhale and your sinuses magically clear. Again, don't overuse.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:33 PM on June 24, 2012

I am not addicted at Afrin. But I've had your same thoughts that breathing is a fundamental right damn it! My problem is laying down to sleep at night closes everything up, I wind up mouth breathing, drying out severely and waking up choking.

So, I don't have the answer as to how to prevent these sorts of things but I thought I'd share how I cope with it and maybe it will work for you somehow.

I dilute the Afrin with saline spray. It's probably one third Afrin and the rest saline. I came up with this because I have to use it every night to breath effectively and don't want to use it full strength every day. My guess is that this solution percentage is enough to get me breathing well for initial sleep and once I've been out for several hours it wears off but by then I'm well asleep so I don't need the full strength.

Anyway, what if you began slowly diluting the Afrin with saline like I've been doing until you are using just saline?
posted by No Shmoobles at 6:52 AM on June 25, 2012

I had to power through my addiction to nasal sprays.

Things that helped included saline sprays, humidfier and a towel, vicks vapour drops the vapours really do help keep the mucous moving, mucus aid/Guaifenesin as it thins pretty much all secretions as well as mucus and lots of spicy food (I was eating horseradish on toast at on point). Took me about a week to get over it all.
posted by wwax at 7:44 AM on June 25, 2012

Oh god, rebound congestion. In 70's the permanent congestion resulting from my NTZ addiction was finally addressed with sinus cauterization. Nothing like wisps of smoke and the smell of burning flesh (followed later by the local anesthetic wearing off) to realign my perspective. I will use them these days, but only at night, in the prescribed dosage, and only for 1, 2, or worst case, 3 nights. After that ... sucks to be me until things resolve on their own. (But usually by then I can breathe well enough to sleep at least somewhat.)
posted by cairnish at 3:30 PM on June 25, 2012

Sudafed can help while you're detoxing, but I don't like the way it makes me feel and much prefer mucinex aka guaifenesin. You might try both to see which works for you.
posted by mosessis at 6:52 PM on June 25, 2012

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