Cocaine Nose: Signs And Treatment

“Cocaine nose” encompasses a wide variety of nasal problems associated with short-term or long-term cocaine use. These issues range from chronic runny nose and irritation to perforation of the septum and collapse of the nose.

“Cocaine nose” refers to the damage that often occurs to the nose and surrounding area with chronic cocaine abuse, especially from snorting this illicit substance.

This damage may be internal and hard to notice, but signs of it can be nosebleeds, constant runny nose, and severe nasal irritation.

If you or a loved one are experiencing substance abuse, it’s important to be aware of the many long-term and short-term effects of cocaine.

Read on to better understand how cocaine abuse affects the nose.

Short-Term Effects Of Snorting Cocaine

The nose is chosen as a method of cocaine ingestion due to the mucous membranes.

These membranes on the inside of the nose can rapidly absorb substances, bypassing the stomach and liver.

This fast absorption leads to a quick onset of the effects of cocaine. However, exposing this delicate area of the body to this harmful substance can quickly create lasting damage.

Even from a person’s first experience with the drug, the nasal side effects of cocaine drug use can be severe. In addition, snorting cocaine can damage the eyes and other areas of the face, as well.

Irritation Of Nasal Lining

Nasal passages are not equipped to handle the fast inhalation of powdered substances, especially ones that can lead to toxicity in the body.

The nose will often become highly irritated by the inhalation of drugs such as cocaine, and the inner lining and sinuses can experience severe swelling.


Nosebleeds are common with cocaine nose. This is due to a combination of factors.

For one, cocaine constricts blood vessels throughout the body, reducing blood flow.

In the nose, these blood vessels may burst when the cocaine has worn off and blood vessels return to their usual size.

Combined with the high amounts of irritation, plus increased nasal pressure due to snorting, broken blood vessels occur regularly, resulting in nosebleeds and scabs around the area.

Runny Nose

The inflammation of the mucus lining from cocaine use often causes drainage, nasal blockages, crusting, and runny nose.

A runny nose can become persistent, as damage to this area can cause the mucous membrane to overproduce mucus. This is often one of the first signs of nasal damage from cocaine use.

Alternatively, dryness in the nose may occur from this lining damage, instead, though this is less common.

Long-Term Effects Of Snorting Cocaine

Typically, nose damage only continues to get worse with time.

Long-term signs of cocaine use can be as minimal as a loss of smell or snoring, and can advance to nasal ulcers and perforated septum. Cocaine can damage the mouth through the nose, as well.

Lung And Sinus Infections

Sinus and nasal infections are common with this form of substance use. This is because the damage that occurs will leave tissue exposed to the elements, allowing infection to set in.

Lung infections will often occur due to drainage from the nose to the lungs.

The nose is also the first line of defense for cleaning the air that enters your lungs. If it isn’t functioning properly, it can allow harmful substances to enter the body.

These infections can easily travel to other parts of the body, such as the brain, where they become considerably more dangerous.

Deviated Or Perforated Septum

The septum is the cartilage wall that separates the two nostrils inside the nose. With cocaine use, septal perforation can occur.

Deviated septums, where this wall is displaced to one side, have also been reported. There have even been documented cases of the septum being entirely eaten away by repeated drug use.

Collapse Of The Nose And Necrosis

In some cases of cocaine abuse, the nose can collapse entirely. “Saddle nose,” the name for a nasal deformity in which the bridge of the nose collapses, reduces its height.

As mentioned previously, inhaling drugs such as cocaine, opioids, ketamine, and others can reduce blood flow to the nose. This lack of blood can cause nasal and septum necrosis to occur.

This is because every time a person snorts cocaine, the blood vessels constrict even further, preventing blood to reach the nose.

Over time, cellular death occurs in these areas, and flesh may then rot and fall off of the face.

Treatment Options For Cocaine Nose

The damage from cocaine nose can be substantial. Much of the internal nose damage is irreversible, but some of the external effects can be treated with reconstructive surgery.

A plastic surgeon can hide the appearance of a collapsed septum, restore the nasal lining, and more. Some of these procedures can be done via outpatient treatment.

Many who have had these forms of plastic surgery have experienced a significant boost to their confidence and mental health.

The critical part of treating this nasal damage is treating the stimulant addiction itself.

Services like detox programs, inpatient addiction care, and others have helped countless people treat cocaine nose and prevent further damage.

Cocaine Detox At Spring Hill Recovery Center

Addiction treatment is always possible. No matter your cocaine abuse symptoms, the addiction specialists at Spring Hill Recovery Center will be able to help.

Reach out to our helpline today to explore your options for cocaine addiction treatment at our New England drug rehab center.

  1. National Institutes of Health (NIH) | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Cocaine DrugFacts
  2. National Institutes of Health (NIH) | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — What are the long-term effects of cocaine use?
  3. Oxford Academic | Aesthetic Surgery Journal — Diagnosing and Treating Nasal Septal Perforations

Written by Spring Hill Recovery Editorial Team

© 2024 Spring Hill Recovery | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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