Home and garden addictions: nose drops and lip balm

There are many types of addictions. Of course we all know about serious addictions such as those to drugs, cigarettes or alcohol. However, there are addictions that are not so well known but that many more people suffer from. For example, the addiction to self-care products; are addicted to medicines or products that are freely available at a pharmacy or drugstore. Examples of this are the addiction to nose drops, painkillers and to lip balm or lip gloss. When the word addiction comes to mind, most people think of dangerous and serious addictions such as addictions to drugs, smoking, gambling or alcohol. However, there is a type of addiction that is much more common in the Netherlands but is less known: the addiction to self-care products. Self-care products are medicines or other products that are freely available at a pharmacy or drugstore, they are also called ‘over the counter’ (OTC) products. Examples of such self-care products are: nose drops, cough syrup, painkillers or laxatives. But ‘more innocent’ products such as lip balm, lip gloss or hand cream also fall into this category.

Am I addicted to…?

Answer (honestly) these questions:

  • Do you never leave home without your remedy? (nasal spray, lip gloss or painkiller)
  • Do you always have a spare supply at home (of your nasal spray, lip gloss or painkillers)?
  • Only for nasal spray users: do you (almost) always use nasal spray before going to sleep?

If you answered ‘yes’ to the above questions, there is a good chance that you are addicted to nose drops, lip gloss or painkillers. Be brave because later in this article you will find instructions on how to get rid of it.


Opposite effect

The use of these so-called self-care products can have the opposite effect: frequent use of lip balm or labello, for example, can actually dry out your lips. Your lips are no longer used to producing fat themselves, with the result that you need the product more and more often. Nasal drops cause the lining of your nose to shrink, making your nasal passages wider and allowing you to breathe better. After the drug has worn off, the blood vessels in the mucous membrane will return to their original size. However, if you use these nose drops for a long time (longer than 1 week), the blood vessels may swell more in response than before, causing the nasal passages to become more closed. You will therefore use the drug more and more often to be able to breathe properly. Long-term use of painkillers , including over-the-counter paracetamol and ibuprofen, can also have an adverse effect. For example, these drugs are often taken for headaches, but can have the side effect of increasing or changing headaches. More information about this form of headache, caused by painkillers and other substances, will be described by me in a separate article.

What causes the addiction to nose drops?

About 7 million bottles of nasal spray are sold in the Netherlands every year, mainly by people with a cold who want to get rid of their stuffy nose during their cold. The active ingredient Xylometazoline provides acute relief by causing the blood vessels of the nose to contract, which will shrink the mucous membrane of the nasal passages and make better breathing possible again. After the drug has worn off, the blood vessels in the mucous membrane will return to their original size. With long-term use of a nasal spray containing the ingredient Xylometazoline, the blood vessels in the nose will swell more than before after the drug has worn off, causing the nasal passages to become more closed. In response, the user will start using the nasal spray or drops more often and a vicious circle is created. In addition, the ciliated cells in the nose can be damaged by prolonged use of the nasal spray or nose drops, making you more susceptible to infections (and therefore more likely to catch colds…). However, after stopping the nasal drops, this effect will be reversed and the ciliated cells will (almost) heal. Nasal spray works well for a cold, but use for more than a week is not recommended.

Kicking an addiction to nasal drops

Kicking an addiction to nose drops can be done in different ways, some ways are easier or faster than others. The ways to kick an addiction to nasal drops are:

    • acute cessation;
    • stop per nostril;
    • gradually use less;
    • dilute the drops further and further until all the active substance has disappeared


Immediately stop using nose drops

This way of quitting – just quitting – is simple to implement, but will be the most difficult to maintain. The first days will be the most difficult because the mucous membrane of the nose will swell considerably and the nose will become very closed, making breathing difficult. The problems will be greatest especially when going to sleep. This method is therefore not suitable for everyone. However, by persevering, after about 2 to 3 nights, the swelling in the nose will gradually reduce and the problems will become less. However, it may take weeks before your nose is completely open again.

Stop using nasal drops per nostril

Here too, you immediately stop using the nose drops, but only in one nostril. By dripping only in one nostril, it remains open and you can still breathe a little through the nose. The other – untreated – nostril will then become very closed in response. Try to sleep on the side of the treated nostril: due to gravity, blood flows out of the closed nostril above and it will naturally open a little wider. By just persevering, you will notice that the untreated nostril will naturally become wider again after about a week and the worst will be over. Here too, however, it may take weeks before this nostril is and remains completely open again. Then it is time to ‘rehab’ the other nostril. Repeat the above method again.

Wean yourself off nasal drops by gradually using less

By consistently reducing the use of nose drops, you will automatically get rid of your addiction. This method works as follows: first keep track of how often you drip your nose on average for a few days. Also write down when that is. If it turns out that you use nose drops 10 times a day, for example, plan to only use these drops 6 times a day for a week. The following week you only use the drops a maximum of 4 times a day, then only twice a week, and so on. Reducing the last use – usually before going to sleep – will prove to be the most difficult, but persistence wins!

Withdraw from nasal drops by diluting the drops

Although this is the slowest way to kick your nose drop addiction, it is the most certain. It goes like this: take a new bottle of nose drops and use it on the first day as you always use your drops. Fill the bottle at the beginning of day 2 (or at the end of the first day if you have more time) with a (sterile) physiological saline solution (0.9% NaCl). This is available at the pharmacy. Fill your nasal dropper bottle all the way to the top. Then simply use your drops again and refill the bottle the next morning (or the same evening). By continually replenishing the bottle with physiological saline solution, you dilute your drops, as it were, so that you receive less and less of the active ingredient Xylometazoline. Refilling is best done if your nasal dropper bottle has a screw-off cap. If your bottle does not have this, buy a sterile bottle with a pipette at the pharmacy and pour the nasal drops into this sterile bottle. The diluted nose drops will work less and less well, you will notice that, but after a few weeks you will come to the conclusion that you are becoming less and less dependent on your drops and at a certain point you will not even need them anymore.

Kicking an addiction to labello or lip gloss

Kicking an ‘addiction’ to lip gloss or labello is simple: just use less. Allow the time between two applications to increase. Your lips will then gradually start to produce more of their own fat, which will virtually solve the problem. It is normal, for example, to get dry lips in winter, in freezing cold or in very dry weather or in a room with very dry air. Using a lip balm actually prevents the formation of cracks. Constantly moistening your lips with your tongue (saliva) actually causes dry lips and can lead to a so-called clown mouth, which causes an inflamed red border around the mouth. If you have very dry lips and no lip balm at home, apply something else greasy to them, if necessary some oil, such as olive or sunflower oil.

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