Is Flonase Addictive?

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Flonase is a branded formulation of fluticasone that comes as a nasal spray. The medication is used to treat allergic symptoms like itching, sneezing, or runny nose.

Fluticasone (Flonase) is classified as a corticosteroid. This class of drugs is used to reduce inflammation. By reducing inflammation in the nose and relieving nasal congestion, Flonase can be highly effective when used as directed. This guide outlines the consequences of overusing a medication like Flonase.

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What is Flonase?

Flonase is a nonprescription nasal spray that contains fluticasone, a corticosteroid. This spray is used to relieve the symptoms of rhinitis like sneezing and runny nose. The spray may also help to relieve the itchy nose and watery eyes triggered by allergies or hay fever. 

Additionally, prescription fluticasone (XHANCE) may also relieve the symptoms of nonallergic rhinitis. XHANCE is also used to treat nasal polyps, a condition characterized by swelling of the nose lining).

Flonase is not indicated to treat the symptoms of common colds.

Is Flonase Addictive Like Afrin?

Nasal sprays like Flonase that contain corticosteroids are indicated for the relief of chronic congestion associated with allergies and irritants. 

Nonprescription corticosteroid nasal sprays like Flonase are safe for long-term use in adults. 

Afrin is another popular nasal spray used to relieve nasal congestion associated with colds, sinusitis, and allergies. Afrin is a branded formulation that contains oxymetazoline. Oxymetazoline is a topical decongestant and vasoconstricting agent. 

Vasoconstricting agents like Afrin cause the blood vessels and the capillaries in the nose to narrow. This reduces nasal tissue swelling and congestion. 

Some people who use Afrin nasal spray for a week or more experience the following side effects: 

  • Sneezing triggered by irritation
  • Runny nose
  • Stinging or burning sensation in nasal passage

The above side effects tend to present when Afrin starts to wear off, dissipating almost instantaneously after using Afrin. This phenomenon is known as rebound congestion. 

Rebound congestion is clinically termed rhinitis medicamentosa, a condition that can be triggered by sustained and excessive use of decongestant nasal sprays like Afrin. The concept of rebound congestion has led to the widespread but flawed belief that you can become addicted to Flonase, Afrin, and other nasal sprays.

Rebound congestion caused by Afrin overuse is not an addiction. An addiction – clinically termed substance use disorder – is defined by NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) as a chronic and relapsing brain condition characterized by the compulsive use of substances in the face of negative outcomes. 

If you are suffering from rebound congestion, this is a physiological reaction that involves tolerance to oxymetazoline developing in the nasal passages. There is no psychological aspect, and no cravings for Afrin. There is only one reason for people repeatedly using Afrin decongestant nasal spray – to breathe normally. 

Flonase is a corticosteroid nasal spray that works in a different way to Afrin. Flonase reduces inflammation, and it also counters the irritating effects of irritants like mold, dust, pollen, and pet dander. Flonase is not linked with rebound congestion like Afrin.

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Addictive Nasal Spray

DNSs (decongestant nasal sprays) are commonly used to treat congestion. Nasal sprays can provide almost immediate relief of symptoms. This is achieved by shrinking blood vessels in the nasal passages and streamlining breathing. 

If you use any DNS – Afrin, for instance – for more than three days, it may trigger rebound congestion (rhinitis medicamentosa). The clinical descriptor means rhinitis triggered by medication. 

Tolerance forms if you use decongestant nasal sprays repeatedly. This leads most people to use the spray more often in an attempt to counteract physical tolerance. While it is possible to become physical tolerant to a decongestant nasal spray, it is not possible to become addicted. 

According to NIDA, physical dependence and addiction are not interchangeable terms. You are physically dependent on a substance when withdrawal symptoms manifest in its absence. This can occur with nasal decongestant sprays in the form of rebound congestion. 

Addiction, by contrast, is characterized by intense psychological cravings and an inability to moderate or discontinue use. The diagnostic criteria for addiction – substance use disorder – are outlined in DSM-5-TR (the revised fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). The tolerance and withdrawal symptoms that can be triggered by decongestant nasal sprays are diagnostic criteria for addiction rather than addiction. There is no psychological component. 

If you have been using a decongestant nasal spray, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Have you been using the spray for longer than one week?
  • Have you started using the spray more frequently than directed?
  • Do you experience chronic congestion when you do not use the nasal spray?

Positive responses to these questions may indicate that you are overusing the nasal spray.

Research shows that recovery from chronic misuse of decongestant nasal sprays typically takes no more than one week. Withdrawal symptoms are easily manageable. Studies suggest that the most effective way to cut down on the overuse of DNSs is to switch to a corticosteroid nasal spray like Flonase instead.

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Nasal corticosteroid sprays are considered safe for long-term use. If you use Flonase to treat the symptoms of chronic rhinitis long-term, you should use Flonase intermittently, and at the lowest effective dose.
No. Potential Flonase side effects are physical rather than mental.


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