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OTC Nasal Spray Abuse
Many people use over-the-counter nasal decongestant sprays when allergies and hay fever make them stuffy, congested and miserable, but if they use them beyond three consecutive days, they may run into greater breathing difficulty and damage to their nose. Millions of Americans in pursuit of a remedy for stuffy nose and sinus pressure abuse over the counter (OTC) nasal sprays because of their quick action, availability and presumed safety. But did you know prolonged use of topical nasal decongestants (TNDs) often leads to addiction? Topical nasal decongestants are liquid medications (Afrin, Neosynephrine, Zicam Extreme Congestion are some examples), which, after being sprayed into the nose, cause small arterial blood vessels in the lining of the nose to constrict. The nasal congestion rapidly decreases within minutes leaving the nose more open and somewhat dry. Long acting formulations of OTC nasal sprays initially last for 12 hours. Early on, people think they have discovered the cure for their sinus problems. Most people using OTC nasal sprays have no idea that as they continue to use the nasal spray beyond five days, the risk of addiction soars. Addiction to topical nasal decongestants doesn't change the structure of the brain the way cocaine or heroin do, but habitual use of over the counter nasal sprays leads to compulsive use and, eventually, physical damage to the user.
Nasal spray addiction does not change the structure of the brain the way cocaine or heroin do, but habitual use of the nasal sprays does lead in many instances to compulsive use, and eventually physical damage to the user. As nasal sprays are used beyond the recommended number of three days, the receptors in the arteries of the nose decrease in number. As nasal spray is abused, the decongestant effect of the nasal spray gets shorter, and the spray does not work for as long as it previously did. The duration of the relief of symptoms and the nose being open and clear, is often what leads to abuse of the nasal spray. As the benefit of the spray wears off, the rebound congestion that occurs is often intense and the user often experiences a total nasal blockage and is not able to breathe air through either nostril. Many individuals, not knowing about the rebound affect of the nasal spray abuse, continue to use the spray more because of the rapid return of blocked nasal passages. The most common side effects of OTC nasal spray abuse are increased mouth-breathing overnight causing the throat to become dry and irritated. The long term effects of OTC nasal spray abuse include the nasal lining becoming scarred, which may cause irritation, bleeding and over drying. In rare instances over the counter nasal spray abuse can cause erosion of the lining in the nose that is so bad, that a sepal perforation occurs (a hole in the mid wall of the nose that separates one nostril from the other). When damage from OTC nasal spray is severe, nasal surgery may be required.
The best way to prevent OTC nasal spray abuse is to try to avoid using them. If you must use an over the counter nasal spray, do so sparingly, and restrict usage to the recommended three days or less.