Afrin addiction is a growing problem in the United States. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. However, it’s not an addiction as you know it. It’s still a problem, it’s still uncomfortable and it’s still an issue that needs to be addressed, but it’s not quite as cut and dry as you might think and we’re certainly not suggesting that oxymetazoline, which is the active chemical in Afrin, is some kind of super-powered legal stimulant that gets you high and puts you on the road to addiction.
However, a legal stimulant, and an addictive one at that, it may well be.
Is Afrin Addictive?
Afrin addiction is a real thing, although it doesn’t present with the same symptoms or severity as other addictions do. It’s not going to grip you like heroin addiction will and it’s not going to make your life a misery when you quit like alcohol addiction does. However, dependance is a problem with Afrin.
The issue here is something known as Rebound Congestion. Simply put, Afrin clears congestion and allows the user to breathe easily. Once they stop using it, however, the congestion returns worse that before. So, to keep their airways clear they keep using the Afrin, returning to it again and again.
The congestion returns with a vengeance and it comes back worse than before. So you use more and more. This is basically what addiction feels like and it is why Afrin addiction is a real problem.
This is also an active stimulant and the body responds to it like it does to other stimulants, producing feelings of stimulation and well-being, albeit to a much lesser extent than recreational drugs like amphetamines.
The reason that congestion returns after repeated use of Afrin is because it inflames the nasal passages, which makes congestion a likely outcome. It is often used to clear the airways when an allergy or sinus problem is present and it works well for this. But the repeated use causes immflamuation and because users have become accustomed to using Afrin for such issues, they keep reaching for it.
There is also an element of becoming reliant on Afrin for its ability to keep you awake and to promote feelings of wakefulness, but these effects may be more pronounced in some than in others.
This is an issue that has caused so much concern that even The New York Times addressed it over 10 years ago. It seems absurd that anyone would consider Afrin addiction to be a serious problem when there is an opioid epidemic killing thousands in the United States, but all addictions are serious and when you are trapped in a cycle of use and abuse, it’s not something that should be ignored, overlooked or belittled in anyway.
The active ingredient in Afrin is a chemical known as oxymetazoline HCL. So, if you do have an Afrin addiction then this is the drug you are addicted to, much like a “coffee addiction” is the result of the drug caffeine.
How Many People Are Addicted to Oxymetazoline?
It is hard to put an exact estimate on just how many people suffer with Afrin addiction. There are countless online communities out there that deal with oxymetazoline addiction though, as well as other drugs and sprays that combat nasal congestion. It makes sense on an instinctive level as breathing easily is something that we all want and need to do and there is an element of panic and frustration when we can’t do that. So it’s only natural that so many people would develop such a reliance on these drugs.
Of course, it’s very debatable whether oxymetazoline is a true addiction or not. It certainly causes dependence and it can be a difficult crux to kick, but that doesn’t necessarily make it an addiction, at least not to everyone. However, they used to say the same thing about tramadol, a drug that can produce very serious side effects and withdrawals that are similar to the ones you will feel after abusing codeine.
In other words, you need to listen to the people who have used, abused and withdrawn from this drug as opposed to the people selling it or writing about it. And if you do listen to those people then Afrin withdrawal becomes as real and as unpleasant as the addiction. Relapse is common because it’s so widely available and advertised as being harmless and acceptable (it’s easy for a recovering addict to convince themselves that one relapse won’t hurt if everyone else is convincing them of the same thing).
On the plus side, withdrawal will not likely be serious if it does present and may be more akin to the unpleasant but quick and non-life threatening detox from caffeine, sugar and nicotine—substances that produces a lot of frustration, cravings and agitation, but little else.
How Quickly Does Afrin Addiction Develop?
How quickly oxymetazoline addiction develops depends on how much you use and how bad the problem is. If you use it only occasionally and do not take large amounts, then it’s unlikely that you will experience a problem. The same goes for anyone who only uses Afrin and similar sprays when they have a sinus issue or an allergy outbreak.
However, as soon as you begin to use more and more, whether because you are chasing the Afrin high or because you want to be able to breathe easier, then you are at risk of developing addiction. The label warns against using it for more than 3 days in a row, but this is just to be on the safe side and addiction shouldn’t develop as quickly as three days. It may develop after just a week or two though.
Afrin Side Effects
Because Afrin is a stimulant, consumption may result in an increased heart-rate, high blood pressure, lightheadedness, insomnia, anxiety and agitation, all side effects that are common with stimulants. Oxymetazoline use may also lead to a runny nose due to the increased flow of mucous; blurred vision; drowsiness; nervousness; and trembling.
If you have heart problems or a preexisting medical condition, consult with your physician before using oxymetazoline. Just because it is sold as a nasal spray to be used to combat allergies and stuffy noses doesn’t mean it’s harmless. In fact, as stated above, that’s far from the case.
Will Afrin Get You High?
Afrin is not a recreational drug. The addiction, as discussed above, relates more to the cycle of use and abuse and the symptoms that this causes than any need to chase a euphoric “high”. Of course, many nasal decongestants use some form of stimulant as these contract the blood vessels in the nose and allow for easier passage of air. It’s much the same reason why decongestants are a main ingredient in the production of methamphetamine and why these drugs are abused in large numbers by users seeking a quick, cheap and legal high.
There is some stimulant activity in Afrin if a higher dose is used. This does produce an Afrin high of sorts and is also one of the reasons why this drug causes addiction. However, it is generally not considered to be as strong as many other recreational stimulants.