Misuse of Benzedrex Nasal Decongestant Can Cause Heart Problems, Death, FDA Warns

Following reports of serious heart problems, hallucinations and other complications, federal drug regulators are warning about risks associated with misuse of Benzedrex, an over-the-counter nasal decongestant.

In a drug safety warning on March 25, the FDA indicates side effects of Benzedrex may include abnormal heart rhythm, high blood pressure, hallucinations and death, if the product is misused or abused. As a result, consumers are being urged to exercise caution with the nasal decongestant.

Benzedrex is the over-the-counter brand name for propylhexedrine, which is marketed as a nasal decongestant to temporarily relieve symptoms from colds, the flu, and other upper respiratory allergies. It is sold in inhaler form and should only be used for short term periods, not as a long-term treatment.

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Propylhexedrine works by reducing swelling and inflammation of the mucous membrane in the lining of the nose. Reducing inflammation can help improve symptoms such as congestion and stuffy nose. Propylhexedrine was initially formulated as a substitute for amphetamines and was later added to other medications.

In recent years, the FDA has received increasing reports of some teens and young adults abusing and misusing Benzedrex to get high. This can cause severe heart and mental health problems, as well as lead to complications like fast or abnormal heart rhythm, high blood pressure, and paranoia.

Symptoms or problems after Benzedrex abuse may include chest pain, chest tightness, severe anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, and paranoia. The FDA warns misusing Benzedrex can lead to hospitalization, disability, or even death.

The agency is calling on manufacturers to consider product design changes that support safe use. These could include modifying the inhalers to create a physical barrier that makes it more difficult to tamper with the device and abuse the propylhexedrine inside.

Other modifications could decrease the amount of medicine each inhaler contains, which may reduce the risk of serious side effects if the product was abused or misused. The FDA indicates it will continue to evaluate the abuse issue and will determine if additional actions are needed.

The FDA warning stresses that Benzedrex is a safe product when used as directed according to the packaging. However, the agency recommends consumers only use the product as directed, and as indicated on the Drug Facts label. It should only be inhaled, as misusing Benzedrex in other ways can cause serious harm and even lead to death.

Consumers who have used Benzedrex inappropriately should seek medical attention immediately or contact poison control at 800-222-1222. Side effects linked to misusing Benzedrex should be reported to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.


  • ErikSeptember 5, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    4 year battle, dozens of hospitals and a trail of evidence that shows the damage caused by this 2008 FDA blunder (again).

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