Nose Damage From Cocaine Abuse

Cocaine abuse can lead to many types of nasal damage, some more serious than others. Some damage can be reversed, but other types cannot. Cocaine addiction treatment can include inpatient or outpatient work.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


Much like other hazardous, illegal drugs, using cocaine can have a multitude of short-term and long-term effects on your body.

One physical effect of cocaine abuse that is often overlooked is the damage it can cause to your nose, ranging from mild to severe.

Why Cocaine May Cause Nose Damage

The ways and amount that the use of cocaine can damage your nose is based on the method and frequency of use.

Snorting cocaine not only exposes the mucous membranes in your nose to cocaine but everything it’s mixed or cut with as well.

Snorting Cocaine

As you may have guessed, the method of cocaine use that leads to nose damage is snorting cocaine.

Snorting cocaine is one of the most common ways people use cocaine, as it typically comes in a powder form.

Snorting the substance involves dividing the powder into thin lines and inhaling them through the nose.

This method is popular as it allows the drugs to enter the bloodstream faster than it does with oral use. However, this can quickly lead to health problems.

As snorting cocaine exposes the nasal cavity to chemicals and substances it should not be exposed to, your body may not be able to function normally and endure damage.

Frequency Of Use

Another factor that can affect the risk of nose damage from cocaine abuse is how frequently you use it.

When it comes to hazardous substances like illegal drugs, the more often you expose your body to cocaine, the more likely it is that you will suffer from damage or negative effects.

Common Types Of Nose Damage From Cocaine Use

Nose damage from cocaine use can range in severity, with some damage being inconvenient and others being serious.

There are a few common types of nose damage associated with cocaine abuse, all with ranging side effects.

Perforated Septum

One of the more disturbing kinds of damage cocaine use can lead to is a perforated septum. The nasal septum is the piece of tissue inside of the nose that separates the two sides, in between your nostrils.

When abusing cocaine, this part of the body can actually become perforated, which essentially is a hole.

As cocaine is snorted, the cells in the nose experience a decreased blood flow and numbing sensation. This can cause the cells to die over time, leading to a hole.

The hole can cause issues such as bleeding, whistling, and irritation. Depending on the severity of the perforation, you may need plastic surgery to repair it.

If the nose collapses from nasal trauma, known as ‘saddle nose,’ you may need long-term care to repair the damage.

Sinus Infections

Another way cocaine use can damage your nose is by causing sinus infections. This issue is more temporary, but certainly aggravating and can be recurring.

Sinus infection due to cocaine use can actually occur as a result of a perforated septum. With a hole in the nose, your body and its tissues are more at risk for developing infections.

Restricted Breathing

Cocaine abuse can also lead to restricted breathing when snorted. This is because the nose is, of course, connected to your lungs.

When you breathe in cocaine, you’re exposing your nasal passages, airways, and all of the structures involved in breathing to substances they’re not made to deal with.

Over time, this can lead to serious issues like COPD, pneumonia, asthma, lung damage, or collapsed lung. All of these conditions can cause breathing problems, making it more difficult to get enough oxygen.

Chronic Runny Nose

Lastly, a common effect of frequent cocaine use is a chronic runny nose. Though this kind of damage may not be particularly concerning, it is still an issue.

Along with constantly having a runny nose, many people who use cocaine find that they develop frequent nosebleeds as well.

This is a result of the damage done to the blood vessels in the nose when cocaine is snorted.

Other kinds of nasal damage caused by cocaine use include loss of smell, nasal congestion, and difficulty swallowing.

Can Nose Damage From Cocaine Be Reversed?

When it comes to nose damage from cocaine, the kind of damage determines whether it can be reversed.

In every case, in order for damage to be reduced or reversed, you must stop using cocaine.

Problems like septum perforation and restricted breathing are more permanent issues than other types of damage. Once you have developed a health issue like COPD or asthma, you can’t reverse the damage.

On the other hand, issues like sinus infections and chronic runny/bloody noses can typically be resolved by stopping cocaine use.

Treatment For Cocaine-Induced Nose Damage

Treatment for cocaine-induced nose damage varies based on the damage done. As mentioned above, when it comes to septum perforation, treatment may include surgery to repair the hole.

Similarly, treatment for sinus infections due to cocaine use can be resolved by surgery, if caused by septum perforation, or can be as simple as taking antibiotics.

Restricted breathing caused by cocaine abuse is the hardest damage to treat, as many of the issues are chronic. Treatment for this damage can involve oxygen or an inhaler to treat symptoms.

Finally, runny or bloody noses are often resolved shortly after stopping cocaine use.

Treatment Programs For Cocaine Addiction

In addition to nasal damage, cocaine use often leads to addiction, which is a serious medical condition that often requires professional treatment.

Located in Canton, MA, Bedrock Recovery Center is a recovery facility designed to help you or someone you know get past drug, alcohol, or opioid addiction.

Cocaine treatment options at Bedrock Recovery Center include detoxification, medication-assisted treatment, and inpatient programs, depending on your specific needs.

Find Drug Rehab Program For Cocaine Abuse At Bedrock

If you or your loved one is struggling to stop using cocaine, call our helpline at Bedrock Recovery Center to learn about your treatment options.

  1. Center for Integrated Healthcare
  2. National Drug Intelligence Center
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Written by Bedrock Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Bedrock Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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