How Cocaine Affects Skin: Does Cocaine Cause Acne?

Cocaine is a party drug taken for its stimulating effects, but it can be highly addictive. Aside from damaging nasal cartilage, causing hair loss, and increasing the risk of heart attack, cocaine can also cause acne and other detrimental skin diseases.

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Dr. Langdon M.D.

Medically Reviewed By: Kimberly Langdon M.D.


There are a number of negative health effects from cocaine abuse including increased risk of stroke, drug addiction, weight loss, and more.

However, one of the lesser-spoken-about side effects of cocaine substance abuse is the effect it has on the skin—the largest organ in the body.

Cocaine removes oxygen from the blood and is thus called a ‘vasoconstrictor’. Naturally, the less oxygen in the body, the harder it is for the body’s organs to function properly.

Given this, cocaine can cause acne and other skin problems by reducing the skin’s ability to regenerate due to a lack of oxygen, which promotes the excess collection of dead skin cells.

The more dead cells accumulate on the surface of the skin, the more difficult it is for the skin to regenerate, especially if the amount of oxygen in the blood is already diminished.

This can cause a number of skin problems, such as breakouts and rashes, discoloration, and other skin conditions.

How Cocaine Causes Acne

Cocaine abuse causes acne by preventing the skin from regeneration by lowering blood oxygen levels and causing a buildup of dead skin cells.

Dehydration of the skin is another side effect of cocaine or crack cocaine abuse, resulting in acne being formed due to dry skin and loss of regenerative capacity.

Another cause of cocaine-induced acne has to do with proper nutrition or lack thereof.

Since cocaine is an appetite suppressant, people who use cocaine tend to eat less. This contributes to cocaine-related weight loss—which results in a lack of nutrients available for skin repair.

If the skin cannot clean and replace the surface-level skin cells, oils, dead skin, and other organic matter collects on the surface. This clogs the skin’s pores and results in acne development.

Is Cocaine-Induced Acne Reversible?

Luckily, cocaine-induced acne is reversible. The first step to restoring your skin to a healthy state is, of course, to cease cocaine use by seeking addiction treatment.

There are also other medicated lotions and scrubs, as well as natural vitamins and other skincare medications, which can help reverse the damage done to the skin by coke use.

Other Effects Cocaine Has On The Skin

In addition to acne, prolonged cocaine use can have detrimental health effects on the immune system, resulting in further skin conditions.


Since the regeneration of skin cells is vital to keeping skin smooth, any kind of impasse to the body’s ability to repair its largest organ can result in wrinkly and dehydrated skin.

Even short-term cocaine substance use can substantially alter a person’s physical appearance through premature aging.

Naturally, long-term cocaine use results in a host of other potentially fatal side effects, such as increased blood pressure and permanently damaged blood vessels due to liver disease.

Inflamed Skin

Vasculitis is another side effect of snorting or injecting cocaine, which is characterized by scabs, rashes, and other skin lesions forming on the surface of the skin.

Hyperpigmentation (Dark Spots)

Discoloration of the skin on the face and other areas is a common hallmark of cocaine drug use, as people who use cocaine consistently deplete their blood oxygen levels.

This results in the darkening of the skin, especially near injection sites if cocaine is being ingested through intravenous use, resulting in a gray or pale physical appearance.


Blisters forming on the skin can turn into permanent scarring as another side effect of using the illicit drug, as the body becomes unable to cleanse and renew its skin cells.

Treatment For Cocaine’s Effects On The Skin

Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options for persons suffering from damaged skin as a result of the short- and long-term effects of cocaine.

Some of these skin treatment methods are:

Treatment Programs For Cocaine Addiction

Each year, the treatment programs and services available for cocaine addiction improve, as new services and evidence-based treatment methods come into the clinical sphere.

Persons seeking recovery services for cocaine addiction can make use of:

  • inpatient and outpatient treatment programs
  • therapy and counseling sessions
  • mental health treatment
  • partial hospitalization programs (PHP)
  • detox services
  • medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • individual case management services
  • educational and vocational programs
  • residential treatment opportunities

Find Cocaine Use Disorder Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center

If you or a loved one are seeking recovery services for a cocaine use disorder, give our free helpline a call today to discuss enrollment at Bedrock Recovery Center.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
  3. National Library of Medicine (NLM)
  4. National Library of Medicine (NLM)

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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