Can you become addicted to eyedrops?

Q: I've heard about becoming addicted to nasal sprays, but I wonder if one can become addicted to eyedrops. I have severe dry eyes. I need eyedrops in the morning and throughout the day.

A: You may well be experiencing rebound redness from overuse of eyedrops. The same ingredient that is found in many nasal sprays is found in eye products.

Oxymetazoline is a long-acting topical drug that constricts (shrinks) blood vessels. That is how it relieves congestion in the nose. But people who use nasal decongestants for allergies, colds or sinus problems are warned to use them for three to five days. After that they may have rebound congestion. The same thing can happen in the eyes. You may be better off with artificial tears rather than anti-red drops.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. They can be reached at