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Oxymetazoline Addiction and the Best Rehab Centers for Treatment

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

February 19, 2019

Oxymetazoline is a nasal spray which helps people with congestion symptoms by clearing a person’s nasal passages and aiding in relief. However, with this effect comes side-effects of dependence and tolerance. When people use oxymetazoline for more than a few days their nasal passages no longer respond to the effects of it, but the spray is so effective it often fosters addiction.

How Does Oxymetazoline Work?

As the U.S. National Library of Medicine explains, “Oxymetazoline is in a class of medications called nasal decongestants. It works by narrowing the blood vessels in the nasal passages.” This reduces swelling and consequent congestion. However, oxymetazoline is only to be used for a short period of time. Directions suggest the use of no more than three to five days and only every 10 to 12 hours.

Unfortunately, after only a short time, the nasal spray will not produce the same effects. For people who have constant issues with congestion, experiencing relief can be a victory they want to experience again and again. But oxymetazoline and other nasal sprays like it can cause a “rebound effect.” This means that the nose may become accustomed to needing the spray in order to relieve the congestion, according to Everyday Health.

How Is Oxymetazoline Abused?

Because repeated use can cause a rebound effect, a person may begin abusing oxymetazoline to seek relief from congestion. When people use a medication for longer than prescribed, more frequently than directed, or for other reasons than intended, they are engaging in medication abuse. Oxymetazoline is an over-the-counter medication, is relatively inexpensive, easily obtained, and provides instant relief to troubling symptoms. These factors make it a prime target for abuse.

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Over time, a person may not be able to find relief from his or her symptoms, even with use of the spray. This condition is known as tolerance, and points to an addiction. Some other signs of a developing addiction are if a person’s congestion is no longer relieved with use of the spray, yet the person continues use of the medication, and if a person experiences withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms can vary, but some include anxiety, headache, nausea, restlessness, or trouble sleeping.

What Are The Side Effects Of Oxymetazoline Abuse?

Use of oxymetazoline may produce a number of side effects, and prolonged abuse can enhance the severity of them. Some potential side effects include:

  • an increase in nasal discharge
  • an increase in sneezing
  • burning in the nasal passages
  • dizziness
  • dryness in the nose
  • headache
  • nausea
  • stinging in the nasal passages
  • trouble sleeping

Long-Term Effects Of Oxymetazoline Abuse

In addition to the development of addiction, those abusing oxymetazoline may experience adverse health conditions as well. Long-term congestion which does not respond to nasal decongestants is one potential outcome. Also, as WebMD states, “the longer you use a spray decongestant, the more likely you are to get the rebound phenomenon. It can lead to chronic sinusitis and other serious, long-term problems.” Sinusitis is a blockage of the nasal passages and tissues that line the sinuses. Before any adverse health effects result from abuse, treatment for oxymetazoline addiction is the best course of action.

Who Is Affected By Oxymetazoline Abuse?

Oxymetazoline nasal spray is a medication easily bought at the local drugstore. Therefore, it is hard to measure exactly the percent of people who are abusing the medication. Little research has been done into the numbers of those affected by nasal spray abuse. However, one article on Medical News Today quotes a doctor who states that, of the 50 million or so Americans with chronic sinus problems, as many as one in four may be affected by nasal spray addiction.

What Are The Consequences Of Addiction?

Addiction can have staggering effects to a person’s mental, physical, and emotional health. It can also affect a person’s life—work performance, school involvement, and personal relationships. Addiction is a disease of the mind. While people may choose to use a substance or medication the first time, once their brain undergoes changes, they may be powerless to stop abuse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, “Once addiction develops, these brain changes interfere with an individual’s ability to make voluntary decisions, leading to compulsive drug craving, seeking and use.”

What begins as seeking relief from some troublesome congestion issues may end with addiction. Addicted individuals may also develop chronic congestion or sinus issues that last even after they have completed treatment for the oxymetazoline addiction. Prolonged abuse can also cause severe nose bleeds and irritation of the blood vessels in the nasal passages.

What Are The Symptoms Of Addiction?

Symptoms of addiction vary from person to person. Abuse of medication is the addiction many people don’t see coming. Once addiction has started, the best recourse is treatment, as inpatient rehab centers offer the support needed to overcome addiction, and the best therapy methods for recovery.

Some common addiction symptoms include:

  • a feeling that a person needs to use the drug, whether daily or several times a day
  • experiencing strong urges to use the drug, or cravings for it
  • developing tolerance to the effects of the drug
  • keeping a steady supply of the drug, even if a person no longer needs it for medication
  • taking risks to obtain the drug: spending money you don’t have, getting the drug through illegal means, etc.
  • changes in how a person responds to obligation: poor work performance or falling behind in school
  • withdrawing from family or friends
  • lack of interest in activities or events which used to interest a person
  • inability to stop using the drug, even if a person really wants to
  • experiencing withdrawal symptoms when stopping use

Oxymetazoline Addiction Treatment

Inpatient rehab centers help addicted individuals stop use of a substance and prepare them to re-enter society. The best rehab centers, such as those we can connect you with at, will provide comprehensive treatment plans tailored to an individual’s specific needs. There are rehab centers that treat the separate needs of men and women. There are rehab centers that offer alternative therapy for those who need a different form of treatment. There are even rehab centers which offer faith-based healing.

Whatever treatment you choose, it may be best to complete it at a rehab facility. Completing treatment on your own is possible, but you won’t have the support that makes a margin of difference in your recovery. Inpatient rehab centers not only provide daily care, they are the (temporary) home of many others who are experiencing similar addiction issues. Further, completing treatment in an environment removed from the triggers of substance abuse can be the key to successful healing from addiction.

How To Reach Out For Help

There are millions who suffer daily from addiction, and many never get the treatment they need. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, don’t wait until it takes a toll on your health or your life. Contact us today at to speak with our experts and learn more about our rehab centers.

Everyday Health - Is Your Nasal Spray Addictive?

Mayo Clinic - Drug Addiction Symptoms

Medical News Today - Millions Suffer From Addiction To OTC Nasal Spray

National Institute On Drug Abuse - Medical Consequences Of Drug Abuse

U.S. National Library Of Medicine - Oxymetazoline Nasal Spray

WebMD - Can You Overuse Your Nasal Spray?

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