Nasal congestion is a problem for many people in the U.S. That is the conclusion reached in several studies, including one from the online publication Pharmacy Times. It revealed that around 1 in 4 Americans experience the condition daily and that an estimated 85% of people struggling with it have had their lives turned upside down as a result, from being unable to get a good night’s sleep and being unable to smell or properly taste food to being unable to enjoy outdoor activities thoroughly. Many people who suffer from temporary or chronic nasal congestion typically take over-the-counter nasal decongestants to alleviate their symptoms. One of the more popular ones is Afrin.
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Shedding Light on the Nasal Decongestant Industry
Before taking a closer look at oxymetazoline, also known as Afrin, let’s take a moment to familiarize ourselves with what is happening in the nasal decongestants market. Firstly, the U.S. nasal decongestant market had a valuation of more than $24 billion in 2022, largely thanks to extremely profitable drug manufacturers, such as Johnson & Johnson, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Bayer, the maker of Afrin. The roughly $24 million generated collectively by these and other companies speaks to how widespread nasal decongestant use is in this country. Second, the top growth drivers when it comes to this class of over-the-counter drugs, according to an article published by Linkedin, include the following:
- A rise in the demand for convenient, effective nasal spray solutions
- An increased prevalence of chronic respiratory diseases and nasal disorders
- The high number of new nasal spray products for various disease treatments coming to market
- The increased awareness and adoption of nasal drug delivery systems
The Future of the Nasal Decongestant Market
Nasal decongestants are well on their way toward becoming a more prominent player in the world of over-the-counter drugs. That is at least according to one study published by Global Market Insights, a premier market research and consulting service in Delaware. It revealed that the valuation of the nasal decongestant market will grow by more than 6.7% between 2023 and 2032. That means the companies that manufacture Afrin and other nasal decongestant products stand to see a sharp boost in revenue. But that soon-to-come boost in revenue raises concerns among consumers who regularly buy these products, most of which revolve around how safe they are and whether or not they are addictive.
What Current and Prospective Consumers Should Know About Afrin
Several studies show that many people might be misusing Afrin. To understand how multiple studies could arrive at this conclusion, we need to know more about the drug’s intended therapeutic use. According to Bayer, Afrin is an alpha-1A adrenoceptor agonist used to treat nasal congestion. It works by shrinking blood vessels in the nasal passages that have become swollen due to inflammation of the sinus tissue. Generally speaking, swollen nasal passages are a byproduct of colds, allergies, sinusitis, or hay fever.
Afrin does an excellent job of reducing the swelling in nasal passages caused by colds, allergies, sinusitis, and hay fever and restoring normal breathing. But that can’t be said for nasal polyps, which are also known to block sinus openings and impede normal breathing but require an entirely different treatment. The same applies to chronic sinusitis and other problems that negatively affect nasal passages. When individuals use Afrin to treat a condition that the manufacturer did not intend for it to treat or use it more than they should, they can run into problems. Even when used correctly, the nasal spray can trigger several side effects. Some of the more notable of these include the following:
- A severe burning or stinging sensation in the nose
- Chest pain and dyspnea
- Sneezing and runny nose
It is also worth noting that the longer someone uses Afrin, the worse these side effects can become. While we are on the topic, it would be a good idea for anyone diagnosed with the following chronic health conditions to speak with their physician before taking Afrin:
Afrin is also not recommended for anyone taking MAO inhibitors or tricyclic antidepressants. Taking Afrin with these drugs can give rise to unwanted drug effects and interactions.
Is Afrin Addictive?
According to Bayer, individuals who need Afrin should avoid taking it for more than three days. Taking it any longer than that can cause the blood vessels in their nasal passages to become sensitized to the drug’s active ingredients. When blood vessels in the nose grow accustomed to the vasoconstriction triggered by the nasal spray, it can have a paradoxical effect after the medication has worn off insofar as the blood vessels in the nose immediately swell back up, a phenomenon known as rebound congestion.
Also known as rhinitis medicamentosa (RM), rebound congestion is a type of nasal congestion that occurs when someone overuses a nasal decongestant spray. Most people who suffer from rebound congestion complain of itchy nasal passages, runny nose, sneezing, and stuffy nose. Ironically, these are the very same symptoms that probably motivated them to use a nasal spray in the first place. When someone thinks Afrin is not working, they sometimes take more than they should. Some people also use the nasal decongestant spray for the wrong reasons. Examples include using it to treat nasal polyps, a deviated septum, or a nasal bone spur. Although each, like allergies or the common cold, can cause sinuses to become blocked and impede normal breathing, Afrin is not a viable treatment solution for any of them. Using Afrin to combat these issues or overusing it, even for its explicit therapeutic purpose, can cause problems.
What Happens if You Constantly Abuse Afrin?
When someone develops rebound congestion, their struggles with nasal congestion become worse. They often feel chronically congested even if they never had a cold or have been exposed to allergens. Both can lead to them taking too much Afrin, which can compromise their health. Some of the many dangers and side effects that can stem from rebound congestion include bradycardia, dizziness, drowsiness, and fainting. But it does not end there. Like other nasal spray decongestants, prolonged use of Afrin can also lead to chronic nasal inflammation, damaged nasal lining, and an increased risk of developing sinus infections, all of which are in addition to the usual side effects that go hand in hand with the use of the product. Some studies also show that stress, anxiety, and isolation are associated with prolonged use of Afrin.
How to Overcome Afrin Dependence
No one sets out to become dependent on Afrin, but it happens. In that way, it’s a lot like people who start out taking prescription-based drugs for legitimate health reasons and eventually become hooked on them. But like addiction to prescription-based drugs, overcoming one’s dependence on over-the-counter Afrin or any other nasal decongestant is possible with enough commitment. The first step in overcoming that dependence, which is pretty much psychological, entails seeking help from a licensed physician. Many physicians will recommend an alternative that can help alleviate nasal congestion and restore normal breathing if a patient is experiencing issues with Afrin. Alternatives to Afrin could be corticosteroids, such as Flonase or Nasacort, or another type of pharmacotherapy. In extreme cases, some physicians may recommend sinus surgery to alleviate a patient’s nasal congestion. The second step would be seeking help from a licensed rehab facility. Most of them have addiction recovery programs that can help individuals overcome the psychological aspects of quitting Afrin.
How to Avoid Rebound Congestion
Most would argue that avoiding rebound congestion is much easier than overcoming it. For that reason, many people turn to at-home treatments to relieve nasal congestion instead of Afrin. Some of the ones that cause little to no side effects and that are also among the most effective include the following:
- Taking long, hot showers
- Using a humidifier
- Staying hydrated
- Using a Neti pot
- Using a nasal saline spray
- Avoiding chlorinated pools
- Using a bioelectronic sinus device
These alternatives do an excellent job of relieving nasal congestion and restoring normal breathing without putting individuals at risk of developing rebound congestion. There is also little to no chance of becoming psychologically or physically dependent on them.
In summary, Afrin is not physically addictive, but many people do develop a psychological dependence on the over-the-counter nasal spray. For some people, overcoming such a dependence can be just as difficult, if not more so, than overcoming a physical addiction. If this resonates with you and you need help ending your relationship with Afrin, consider speaking with a Live Free Recovery Services addiction expert today.
Published on: 2023-12-20
Updated on: 2023-12-20