Antihistamine Withdrawal: Allergy Medication Addiction

Antihistamine Withdrawal: Are You Addicted to Your Allergy Medication?

When a person’s body is exposed to allergens such as pollen or dust, it produces a chemical known as histamine. The chemical helps the patient’s body fight seasonal allergies, most common in fall and spring when there’s a lot of pollen and dust in the air. 

Allergic reactions to allergens affect over 60 million Americans every spring. These turn to antihistamine, a medication used to treat and prevent allergies (1). There are several different types of antihistamines, most of which are available over the counter. These drugs help reduce allergy symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and runny nose.

Common Side Effects of Antihistamine

Over-the-counter antihistamines come with a variety of different side effects. Some of the less common side effects of antihistamines include drowsiness, dry mouth, dizziness, and difficulty concentrating (2). Some of the antihistamines’ more common side effects include headache, fatigue, dry eyes, and itching. Some antihistamines have been known to cause hallucinations, delusions, and trouble sleeping in extreme cases.

People who take antihistamines regularly may build up a tolerance to the drug, which means they need to take higher and higher doses to get the same effect. This can lead to addiction. Antihistamines are often addictive because they work by blocking histamine receptors.

Symptoms of Antihistamine Overdose

When taken regularly, antihistamines reduce the symptoms of these conditions and make it possible for people to live normal, productive lives. But when people stop taking antihistamines, they experience a withdrawal reaction. This occurs because the body has become dependent on the medication and will experience withdrawal symptoms when it’s no longer present.

The most common signs and symptoms of antihistamine overdose are:

  • Respiratory problems, such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

People who take antihistamines for a long time can develop an allergic reaction that results in these symptoms.

In most cases, the symptoms of an antihistamine overdose will go away on their own once the person stops taking the medication. However, the symptoms may be more severe in some cases and require medical attention. In these cases, the best treatment is to reduce the dosage of the offending medication as soon as possible and consult a medical professional. Also, drinking plenty of water can help to reduce the adverse side effects of antihistamine withdrawal.

Alternatively, the person should be taken off of the drug and then institute a regime of antihistamine withdrawal. This should be done under the close supervision of a medical professional, as it is not uncommon for people to experience a relapse following antihistamine withdrawal. 

In order to treat the overdose, the person should be taken off of the drug slowly for a few weeks while administering a series of antihistamine detox treatments. This will help wean the individual off of the drug while preventing relapse.

Who Is More Likely to Abuse Antihistamine?

People who abuse other drugs such as alcohol and nicotine are more likely to abuse antihistamines. The categories of people who are more likely to abuse the drug are classified into risk groups:

  • Highly impulsive people
  • People who are genetically predisposed to addiction
  • People who have addictions in their homes or among their peers
  • Those with brains that have characteristics of being addicted to sedatives
  • Victims of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
  • People with aggressive behavior, especially from a young age
  • Children without parental supervision
  • People living in poverty

Although anyone can become a victim of antihistamine abuse, people who abuse other substances are more likely to get high on these allergy medications. Since these medicines are readily available, even people who don’t belong to any of the above risk groups can get addicted. 

Antihistamine Withdrawal Timeline

When people become addicted to antihistamines, they experience withdrawal symptoms when the source of the drug is discontinued. The severity and duration of the symptoms vary from person to person.

Most commonly abused antihistamines include Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Allegra. The antihistamine withdrawal timeline depends on the specific drug. The withdrawal signs usually begin between 48 and 96 hours after the last dose. They usually peak between days 3 and 5 and can last between 1 and 7 days.

When should one stop taking antihistamine medication? It’s a common question, and the answer depends on the specific drug. Like Benadryl and Zyrtec, some antihistamines are safe to take over the long term. In these cases, people can continue taking their medications as prescribed.

While there’s no set timeline for when someone should stop taking an antihistamine, one should speak to a doctor or drug rehabilitation specialist if they feel like they have become addicted to your antihistamine. The severity and length of an antihistamine withdrawal will depend on the specific drug. 

Treating Antihistamine Withdrawal

It’s important to note that the withdrawal symptoms of antihistamines are very similar to the symptoms of opioid addiction. Both require long-term medication use, and the withdrawal is difficult due to the body’s natural response to the drug (3). The long-term use of antihistamines can cause these withdrawal symptoms. 

If someone experiences the above withdrawal symptoms, they should speak to their doctor to ensure that antihistamine withdrawal is not due to a medical issue. The doctor will help them figure out the cause of the problem.

Getting Help

Itching – This is the body’s first line of defense against allergens. When a person stops taking their medication, their body will produce more histamine to make up for the lack of antihistamine. This results in extreme itching. It’s common for someone who’s addicted to an antihistamine to scratch until they’re raw and bleeding.

These withdrawal symptoms of antihistamine are very similar to the symptoms of opioid addiction. Both require long-term use of the medication and withdrawal and the need for someone to take care of them.

Antihistamine addicts will often deny that they have a problem, so a rehab center is so important. Wellness Retreat Recovery Center provides the structure, support, and encouragement that someone needs to recover. We have professional staff who can help a person get the most out of their treatment. Contact us today, and let’s help you or your loved one realize the true extent of their addiction, which will allow them to begin the road to sobriety.