Eric McCormack was addicted to using nasal spray for years


Eric McCormack called in to his buddy Sean Hayes’ podcast the other day. Did you know Sean had a podcast? I didn’t. It’s called Hypochondriactor and it “explores celebrities health issues.” As you can imagine, it’s not your ordinary medical show. The doctor on it, Dr. Priyanka Wali, is a licensed physician and a stand-up comic. Anyway, Eric called in and his celebrity health issue is a dependency on nasal sprays. He said it was a habit he picked up from his father and relied so heavily on it, he used to panic if he didn’t ave a bottle on him at all times.

Eric McCormack thinks he may have a “psychosomatic” dependance on nasal sprays after years of needing to carry one with him in stressful situations.

The Will & Grace actor, 58, explained on his former costar Sean Hayes’ podcast Hypochondiractor that it likely all started when he was a child and watched his dad constantly use nasal spray.

“My father had a lot of allergies. He was allergic to everything. Dogs and cats and pretty much anything he didn’t want us to have, suddenly he had an allergy to. And he would always use nasal spray. And I think I inherited this from him.”

McCormack said that after years of watching his dad “rely” on nasal spray, he developed his own “reliance” to having it on hand.

“I couldn’t get on a plane without knowing that I had the nasal spray in my pocket,” he said. “I couldn’t even go on stage. I don’t think I did an episode of Will & Grace where I didn’t [have it].

And I didn’t need it. It wasn’t like I was stuffed up. I just thought the only way I’m going to be able to really breathe is if I give myself a little squirt in each nostril.”

“It feels like it’s almost like something you touch on the way out, like an OCD thing, like a ritual,” he continued. “The difference is in a plane I would become claustrophobic if I thought, ‘Oh my god, I don’t have it on me. What if I can’t breathe?’ ”

McCormack said that he “got into the habit” of using nasal spray even when he wasn’t feeling stuffy.

[From People]

Eric wondered if he was creating nasal issues with continued use and Dr. Wali said he could be. Nasal spray does have medicine in it, even if it’s low dose, and sustained use is never recommended. If you use nasal spray, talk to your doctor, don’t take my advice, or Eric’s, or anyone else’s. Now that we have the disclaimer out of the way, I could actually see developing a reliance on a nasal spray. I’ll never forget when I was suffering a sinus headache and I thought to grab my husband’s prescription spray to relieve it. I’d pay money to feel that relief again. Right now, I am feeling the effects (allergies) of my newly adopted kitten and thinking how a little spray might set me right. It’s one of things that when you think about it, you start craving it, like chocolate chip cookies. And Eric sounds like his was both therapy as well as a hit. Dr. Wali suggested that another aspect was oxygen because when he sprayed, he inhaled, thus filling his lungs. And that’s a relaxant as well. People forget how much a deep breath can do for them.

Oddly, COVID helped Eric to break his nasal spray habit. Because he took less planes and with less work, he was not in the situations in which he relied on the spray. He said he’s been going for long stretches without anything. Hopefully he can keep it up now that he’s getting back into the swing of things. I kind of love the concept of this podcast, people talking about their weird medical stories. I might have to check this out.

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42 Responses to “Eric McCormack was addicted to using nasal spray for years”

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  1. Jezebeelzebub says:

    Yep. Rebound congestion. The more you use it, the more you need it. If you start to rely on it too much, switch to saline spray without medication. I say this as a TOTAL HYPOCRITE because I got Afrin in my purse right now. Between the weather, my allergies, and the damn rebound congestion…. screw it. But I’d spare others this ridiculousness if possible.

  2. MangoAngelesque says:

    Kaley Cuoco used to talk about her Afrin addiction, too. Apparently, that stuff is stout!

  3. GuestWho says:

    I was addicted to nasal spray for decades. I panicked too when I didn’t have any with me. Like, PANICKED. Kicked it by mixing saline with Afrin in larger and larger quantities until it was all saline (took months). It sucked. My sinuses are my Achilles heel. If you’re trying to back off the spray, try using those ant-snore nasal strips while sleeping.

  4. manda says:

    I have a friend who is addicted to it. It’s a real thing!

    • Ines says:

      Yeah, my mum was hooked on it once. I use it when I have a very bad cold but I’m very mindful of not using it for more than 4 days running.

  5. Andrew’s Nemesis says:

    I’m totally addicted to Otrivine/Sudafed (xylometazoline hcl) because I have a horribly deviated septum and the NHS is pretty useless when it comes to such things (an operation was deemed ‘cosmetic’ and denied – even though I argued vehemently that I didn’t want a nose job, thanks). I simply can’t breathe without it, my sinuses feel as if they’ve been packed with lead, and I get excruciating headaches. Ah, well – there are worse things to worry about.

    • Amber says:

      That’s absurd to me and sounds like a cop-out on the NHS side, because I had my deviated septum fixed and it didn’t change the look of my nose at all. I asked the surgeon beforehand and he promised that a septum is all internal and it wouldn’t change my face–and I probably wouldn’t even have swelling. Indeed, I was a little swollen on my nose for about two days after the surgery and after that I looked totally normal, no bruising or anything. If it had been a cosmetic rhinoplasty, there would have been a lot of bruising and swelling, esp under the eyes. A true deviated septum fix shouldn’t change the way you look, at least that’s what my surgeon told me, because the septum is on the inside of the nose, not the outside part. But you have all my heartfelt sympathy, I lived with a deviated septum for 24 years. People don’t understand how miserable it is to not be able to breathe through your nose. It makes things like exercising and even sleeping (!) so much harder. Even after the surgery I still have problems.

    • Jo73c says:

      I only discovered Otrivine about a year ago. It was the first time in about 10 years I could breathe properly, and got a decent night’s sleep without waking up with a sinus headache. I’m not addicted to the spray as such, I have become addicted to being able to breathe!

  6. Chaine says:

    I use the otc saline spray. I have to have it if I’m flying, or even in powerful air conditioning too long My sinuses will otherwise get so dry I end up with post flight migraine.

  7. TeresaM says:

    I was addicted to nasal spray for a long time about 10 years ago when a certain type of spray was sold without recipe in our drugstores. At some point I used 2 bottles in a day and got quite a high out of it. The downside being I wasn’t able to breathe without it.
    I went and quit cold turkey and the first weeks without it were terrible to put it mildly.

    • Call_me_al says:

      It was probably an opioid. I treat someone who was addicted to a nasal spray opioid that was prescribed for migraines.

  8. sa says:

    My high school health teacher warned us about how easy and how common it is to become addicted to nasal spray. He was so intense about it that I’ve been scared of nasal sprays ever since.

  9. Lucy2 says:

    I knew someone who was addicted to this too!

    I have terrible allergies and was prescribed a spray by my former doctor and told to use it every single day. Now I use over-the-counter Flonase, and only when I’m feeling very congested or know I’m going somewhere with high allergens.

  10. KNy says:

    I only use Afrin if I have a viral cold (thankfully rare since masks!), but I will use the Arm & Hammer nasal saline spray if I am starting to feel stuffed up. It has no medication. It’s kind of like using a neti pot. I end up using it about once a month, but during times when I do feel like I am getting a cold, I will increase the usage and I really think it helps my colds clear up quicker. If there is one thing I am addicted to, it’s Vicks. I will put it almost everywhere!

  11. StellainNH says:

    My father was a pharmacist who owned a pharmacy. When he got it, customers would go through three cases of nose spray a month. He managed to get some of his customers to quit and ended up only ordering one case a month.

    He kept talking about how addicting they can be and there was no need for them. He was also the type who would never buy cough drops, said they were nothing but bad tasting hard candy.

    A good pharmacist, a lousy businessman.

  12. Piratewench says:

    People who suffer constant allergies have all my sympathy. There’s no easy fix! My husband did the injections routine where you are slowly given trace amnts of the allergens you react to, and it gives your body the ability to become more robust against those allergens over time. It has helped a lot!
    He was using spray constantly also, before the allergist started him on the injections. It sounds intense but there were no side effects and I recommend it to anyone else who also suffers from being allergic to so many things and is constantly stuffed up and uncomfortable.
    I only have allergies in the Fall and WHOA. It’s such a bummer! Year round allergies really interfere with life and I can see how people develop a crutch.

    • lucy2 says:

      I was in the middle of allergy shots when the pandemic hit. Sad clown noise.

    • Meghan says:

      My boss just had her first serious sinus infection a couple of weeks ago and I get them all the time she was like how do you make it through life like this?! She suffered for about 5 days then finally actually took some meds and felt better but it took over a week to get her back to normal.

      I did just see a Flonase commercial the other day that said the more regularly you use it, the better it works. Which i was already questioning and now I definitely am. One time during a particularly bad sinus infection the doctor said I could do 2 snorts in each nostril and it burned like hellfire. Never did that again.

      • Sigmund says:

        I take Flonase and have discussed it with my doctor before. According to her, Flonase is more of a delayed release and really does work better the more you take it, but that doesn’t mean it will work best if you take a bunch of sprays at once or something. It means it will work best after several days of sustained use.

  13. Astrobiologiste says:

    Life-long allergy sufferer here! (Not a doctor). Oxymetazoline (Affrin) is not meant to be used for more than 2-3 days. If the issue persists, there are wonderful allergy meds out there that give long-term relief. I used to get bad sinus congestion in the spring and fall and whenever I travelled and my allergist found a wonderful solution.

  14. SarahCS says:

    This happened to me in my 20’s! I would use it when I had a cold as particularly at night I couldn’t sleep with a blocked nose. Gradually it crept and crept until I was using it every night. Fine in the daytime but once I was in bed my nose would block and I had to use the spray. It took me years to realise that the spray was the issue and I would totally panic if I was away overnight without it.

    Once I realised what was going on I went cold turkey while staying with my grandparents as I figured I could nap during the day to make up for not sleeping at night. It worked and I still use it occasionally when I have a bad cold but I now know the difference between a blocked nose due to mucus and my sinuses being inflamed because of the spray.

    I’ve recently bought a puressential one that’s natural ingredients like eucalyptus oil rather than the sinex type ones so will test that out when I need to. I’m sure the colds will hit again this winter when I’m no longer staying home and avoiding people!

    • Jess says:

      Eucalyptus oil in your sinuses and all over mucus membranes doesn’t sound safe!

      • SarahCS says:

        Maybe I didn’t get that right! The bottle is upstairs and I’m feeling lazy today…

  15. Sarah B says:

    My mom was absolutely addicted to it. Then she got nasal polyps that had to be removed and they were all filled with mold because of the constant moisture from the Afrin spray. She finally kicked the habit but had to use this fancy Netipot with a saline solution every night.

  16. Jocelyn Cox says:

    This brought back childhood memories of my mom contantly using Dristan. Looking back I would say she was definitely addicted.

  17. I'm With The Band says:

    I was also addicted for years. Had terrible rebound congestion, and couldn’t travel anywhere without my nasal spray as my nose would get soooo blocked, I could barely breathe through it. Fast-forward to 30 years later, and I’m suffering frequent nose bleeds as the membranes inside my nose are screwed.

    I came off it last year – cold turkey – prior to surgery to remove nasal polyps, straighten my septum, and clean out my sinuses. It took about a week to stop needing it, but was easier than I imagined. I haven’t needed it once, since October last year, and haven’t had a single nose bleed either. That sh1t is bad for your nose if used for more than a few days in row. I use Rhinocort allergy spray once a day when My allergies flare to keep my symptoms at bay.

  18. Veronika says:

    As someone who has never used nasal spray, not even once, this article & all of your comments are absolutely fascinating!

  19. Bonnie says:

    Here to say using saline nasal spray is not the same as using one with medications in it. I use Lil Noses saline spray which is made for babies once daily (horrible allergies) and it helps. Of course, if I miss using it, I don’t worry too much or have rebound issues.

  20. Suze says:

    My husband swears by Afrin, but he also only uses it for two days at a time. He knows he could easily get addicted to it – you breathe so easily after!

    Me, I swear by Neti pots / sinus rinses. They aren’t as immediately effective as Afrin or other medicated sprays, but I do feel like they clean the buildup out of my sinuses.

  21. PoppedBubble says:

    I became addicted to it as a teen. I quit cold turkey after realizing what was happening. I have no idea why I came to the addiction conclusion on my own at that time, but I did. I was miserable for MONTHS, but eventually the clogged feeling went away. Have never used it since.

  22. North of Boston says:

    It’s interesting that he says it was a habit, but I wonder if he was also suffering from rebound congestion after using it, so that he felt like he had a need for it because of physical symptoms.

    I was completely distracted from the article by the picture of him and his wife. If their coloring was more similar they would be complete twins. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a celebrity couple who looked more alike … Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid were close, but I think the McCormacks top them.

  23. Steph says:

    So interesting to read all the comments about being addicted! I was, too, a few times over the years – if I didn’t use it, I’d get so stuffed up I could not breathe at all through my nose, which made me claustrophobic and panicky. Had to have a bottle with me at all times!

    Pro tip: when trying to kick the habit, use it only in one nostril until the other nostril quits being stuffed up (takes a few days to a week or so), then stop using it altogether. That way, one side no longer has the rebound effect and you can at least breathe on that side while the other clears up.

    Now when I have a cold I’ll use it sporadically but know how to quit with minimal discomfort. That stuff is both a blessing and a curse, for sure.

  24. olliesmom says:

    I just came here to say that damn, Eric McCormack just keeps getting better with age doesn’t he?

  25. Coji says:

    Tealily is absolutely right, neti pots ARE where it’s at. They are super weird the first couple times you use them but they help so much with nasal and sinus issues.

  26. Anne Call says:

    Ok, all the comments about nasal spray are super interesting (use it very rarely) but wanted to come on and just say that Sean Hayes is also on MY FAVORITE PODCAST, SMARTLESS with Jason Bateman and Will Arnett. I have never laughed so much and the three of them are so great together. They have a guest on every week and it is just delightful.

  27. Amber says:

    I allow myself to use Afrin once a week at the most but it’s the best feeling in the whole world. I look forward to it all week, because I can actually breathe on that day. My dad overused it and it exacerbated his already really bad hypertension because when you use certain nasal sprays it can raise your blood pressure. I am totally dependent on Flonase which is some kind of steroid, or else I would literally not be able to breathe through my nose–even after getting sinus surgery. I’m not allergic to anything–I’ve been tested a million times. I just have permanently irritated sinuses.

  28. Rise & Shine says:

    This IS actually a thing and people have medically had problems with it for decades I have had sinus issues, go with the only saline now on occasion, but on a plane I do the actual nasal spray so my whole head and ears and nose don’t plug up. But only when flying, and not been doing much of that of late. As for Eric, I think he is a total sweetheart. I remember meeting him once, briefly, when he was doing the PR shows for Will and Grace. He was so gracious in thanking everyone involved, the writers, the crew, his costars. It was kind of shocking to see someone in that situation be so appreciative and sincere. And yes, he is really handsome and charming in real life too. That said, there may have been a lot more than nasal spray going up some of the noses on the Will and Grace show at times. Hopefully that is not happening anymore, like them and wish them well.