“If I didn’t use it, it felt like I was suffocating,” Lisa Smits, 20, told RTL Nieuws about the time she was addicted. She looks like a cold in the phone, her nose is full. “But I’m not going to use the nasal spray, and then I’m going to screw up the process.”
Eight years ago, Lisa never imagined that her addiction would eventually lead to rhinoplasty. She caught a cold, like many people, when she bought a nasal spray at the pharmacy. “I’ve kept a cold for a very long time, so I continued to use the nasal spray for a longer time as well.”
The package leaflet for xylometazoline nasal spray says that you can use it for a maximum of one week. “But doing it just a little longer felt harmless. I didn’t realize I was spraying more and more.”
bottle a day
At the beginning of Lisa’s nose cold, it took at least a month with a bottle of nasal spray, she remembers. “Eventually, this became almost a bottle a day. I had a full stockpile in my locker. It ran out faster than expected. Then I had to go to the night drugstore in the middle of the night to buy another bottle. Not really without it.”
What made it so addictive to Lisa? “Being able to breathe freely. Only the nasal spray could open my nose, that I could breathe air. And when it started closing a little again, I used another spray, and another, and another” sometimes I would get up 20 times a night because my nose wasn’t fully open. Then I gently get out of bed to spray my nose so as not to wake my friend.”
Nasal spray addiction is a big problem in the Netherlands
The story of Lisa is familiar to Wytske Fokkens. She is an ear, nose and throat doctor at UMC Amsterdam and often sees patients with nasal spray addiction. “I hear stories like this all the time,” she says. It is unclear exactly how many Dutch people are addicted. “These numbers are not up to date, and many people don’t go to their GP for this problem at all. But every ENT doctor in the Netherlands you talk to about it knows this. It’s anyway a huge problem.”
Fokkens says that the nasal spray by itself can’t hurt. “It helps not to stuff your nose. If the cold goes away after that, don’t worry. But if it doesn’t, find out why you still have a cold. You have to look for the root cause. A problem, for example, you are allergic to something, but You shouldn’t keep spraying with the nasal spray anyway.”
Because if you do, you’ll become addicted in no time, says Fokkens. “Then you need the sprayer so you can keep your nose open, and still breathe. But spraying the nasal spray actually causes your nose to get closer and closer, because your nasal mucosa swells up a bit more after you use it.” However, you can use it again to open your nose, but then your nose is closed twice. And so you work yourself more and more in trouble.”
For Lisa, her nose spray has been everything to her at some point. “If someone else finished the nasal spray, they wouldn’t really be allowed to spray out of my bottle. Then I could get into a big fight about that. And if I sometimes saw someone spraying in the air, I didn’t really think it was funny. I felt the same as breaking a cigarette in Smoking addict.
I can’t breathe anymore
Lisa knew very well that one bottle of nasal spray per day was not healthy. “I tried everything to get rid of it, mainly because I finally wanted to sleep through the night. I was really exhausted from my addiction. I’ve tried saline nasal spray, inhaler ointment, baby nasal spray, and even tried cold turkey to stop. But I couldn’t keep up with that last one at all, I couldn’t breathe anymore and I was completely in a panic.”
After several medical examinations, it was decided to perform a nasal conchae reduction operation on Lisa. Wytske Fokkens, an otolaryngologist at Amsterdam UMC, explains that this is mainly for a “time out”. “We don’t do that kind of reduction very often, but sometimes it can help because it gives you some relief. You can breathe normally again temporarily and this allows you to break the habit and look for the underlying problem.”
Nobody wants this
The last time Lisa used the nasal spray was about two weeks ago. She hopes that you will never touch her again, and that others will not touch her either.
“By sharing my story, I want to warn everyone. The nasal spray shouldn’t be banned, but people should know it’s harmless. You really have to stop after seven days, even if you still have a cold. Because it gives everyone a nice feeling to breathe freely, But no one realizes that you can get addicted to it so quickly. And trust me, no one wants that.”
How do you get rid of nasal spray?
Otolaryngologist Fokkens says that it is very difficult to get rid of an addiction to nasal sprays on your own. With such an addiction, the nasal mucosa is completely destroyed. “Under the microscope, the mucous membrane looks like a major abrasion. This can be fixed just like a normal abrasion, but that takes a long time on your nose.”
This is why Fokkens advises anyone with a nasal spray addiction to see a doctor. “There is a reason to never get rid of the common cold. The doctor should look for that cause and thus consider the underlying problem. In addition, it is difficult to get rid of this addiction on your own, just like everyone else. Another addiction. You just need help with this .”
However, Fokkens has advice if you want to kick the habit at home. “First try to stop using the nasal spray with one nostril. Keep using the nasal spray in the other nostril. Do this until the problem is resolved in one nostril. Note that this can sometimes take months. Then try to stop the nostril other…”
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