“I’ve been a junkie, but I’ve been clean for four years”

“I started using a nasal congestion medication (of which there are two well-known brand names) when I was 12, and have managed to get off it by almost 23.” This is how her testimony begins with this portal, Marta, a 27-year-old girl who never imagined that an allergy would generate a dependency on decongestant sprays.

The technical sheet of this type of nasal solutions, as stated by the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS), “contains oxymetazoline as an active principle, which when administered through the nose produces local constriction of blood vessels”.

  • These are drugs that should not be used for more than three days, since excessive or continued use “may lead to rebound nasal congestion.”

Nasal sprays for congestion should not be used for more than three days freepik

The package insert for nasal congestion solutions is clear: they should not be used more than twice in 24 hours, and of course, do not prolong its use over time.

However, many of the patients have found that they practically cannot live without a bottle in their backpack, or in their purse, or on their nightstand.

In fact, there is a group on Facebook, with almost 3,000 followers, of people “hooked” on these nasal solutions, which aims to give visibility to this problem and, most importantly, publicize their cases to encourage each other to overcome this addiction.

“I had boats all over my house and bags”

Marta’s case is not isolated. And most of these patients start the same way: during a cold or allergy.

  • “I couldn’t breathe, there was no way I was getting air through my nose, and I went to the doctor, who prescribed a spray that at that time was called breathe”.

Of course, the health professional did not mince words. “It was a quick and effective solution, but also very damaging.”

And, although , should not be used for more than 96 hours, Marta resorted to this medicine every time “I got sick”, which in those years “was every two for three”.

But he was not aware of what was coming. And before long she found that she couldn’t get off the decongestant sprays anymore. Now they were part of her life and her day to day.

  • “I found that when I tried to quit, I had to work to breathe. And although sometimes I managed to go a few days without using it, I would relapse as soon as I got sick again ”, he explains to ‘Health Guides’.

The dependency was on the rise and “I had a streak in which I had bottles everywhere: in each of my bags, in my room… In fact, if I left the house and realized halfway there that I didn’t have it with me , I had to run to a pharmacy to buy a spray,” he says.

Nasal congestion is one of the main symptoms of colds or colds

And at this point, “I realized how crazy I was doing, since it was giving me an itchy nose, severe headaches and bloodshot eyes.”

His ten-year dependency on nasal congestion sprays ended when he woke up one day with earaches and barely able to move. “I went to the doctor and I did not hide from him that he used this medicine daily and that he was unable to stop it.”

“A horrible dependency”

That is how, at the age of 22, he received an answer that could be said to have marked him for life, and which led him to throw away the numerous cans accumulated in bags, backpacks and drawers throughout the house.

  • “He told me: you have to stop now, because you are about to have a stroke.”

“What my doctor told me scared me so much and also how I was feeling, fatal, that as soon as I got home I threw all the cans away and got down to work to try to quit,” he stresses.

But it was not a path of roses, as has also happened to the thousands of members of the group of Facebookwhere they share their odyssey to end a dependency relationship that, in many cases, exceeds 15 years.

  • “I was unable to sleep for more than a month due to nasal congestion and had to take steam baths to open the nostrils, and they even had to administer corticosteroids on a couple of occasions to help me breathe better.”

A horrible dependency, as she herself points out, which has had consequences:

  • “It does not occur to me to take it anymore in life and, honestly, I have felt like a junkie from this medicine, although fortunately I have been clean for more than four years.”

Decongestants have a vasoconstrictor function freepik

Currently, he suffers from occasional episodes of nasal congestion, due to an allergy for which he is already being treated, but he no longer resorts to the best-known nasal sprays on the market “to prevent it from turning into a spiral again.” of addiction”.

The risks of “misuse”

The pharmacist Mª José Divins Triviño, points out in one of his studies, published in the specialized magazine Farmacia Profesional, that the use of nasal decongestants has numerous drawbacks derived from abusive use. Side effects range from nervousness, agitation, palpitations or insomnia.

If used for longer than it should be, the reduction in blood flow caused by these medications so that air can circulate better can “produce an increase in mucosal congestion, by decreasing the vasoconstrictor effect and even atrophy of the nasal epithelium (a barrier that acts as a defense against inhaled polluting particles)”.

To correctly use this type of over-the-counter medication, the instructions on the package must be strictly followed

  • For this reason, an alternative could be the products known as seawater, which stand out for their “harmlessness”, which means that “they are widely recommended by the pediatrician community, although they lack the speed and spectacularity of the action of vasoconstrictors.

It must be remembered that oxymetazoline nasal decongestants cannot be used in children under 6 years of age because “they may be especially prone to the appearance of adverse effects of this medicine.”

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