What is Cocaine Nose?

Last Updated: February 6, 2024

Cocaine nose is an informal term for any damage caused to the nose by cocaine. This can include symptoms like stuffiness and nosebleeds but can also include severe deformities of the nose. Cocaine nose typically only occurs in people who use cocaine heavily or over prolonged periods of time.

Why Do People Snort Cocaine?

Cocaine is used in many ways and can be eaten, injected or inhaled. However, snorting is the most popular method of using cocaine. This is due to the fact that snorting cocaine is a fast and easy way of getting high on it. Other ways of rapidly getting high on cocaine, such as inhaling it or injecting it, are more complex and cumbersome. Additionally, it can be safer to snort cocaine than to inhale or inject it.

What Does Cocaine Do to Your Nose?

In the short term, cocaine can be irritating to the nose. Any foreign substance in the nose causes irritation; cocaine and any contaminants within it contribute to this irritation, leading to dryness and stuffiness.

Over time, however, cocaine has effects that are much more serious. Cocaine causes constriction of blood vessels in the nose when it is used, which is unlikely to be serious when the drug is used once. However, cocaine causes decreased blood supply to the lining of the nose when used repeatedly. This causes the lining of the nose to become more fragile and prone to damage. In severe cases, it can affect more than just the lining of the nose and cause decreased circulation to the internal tissues of the nose, ultimately making them die and rot.

Cocaine Nose Bleeds

One of the few medical uses for cocaine is to treat nosebleeds. This is because cocaine restricts blood supply to the lining of the nose. When used repeatedly, however, cocaine can increase the risk of nosebleeds. This occurs because a prolonged lack of blood supply to the lining of the nose makes it more susceptible to damage.

When objects are inserted into the nose while the lining is prone to damage from decreased blood supply, it can damage the lining and start nosebleeds. These nosebleeds are often more difficult to control than normal nosebleeds, as the tissue in the nose is less able to heal.

Cocaine Nose Scabs

When nosebleeds from cocaine use occur, they often eventually stop by forming scabs. These scabs can block the nose, creating discomfort and making it more difficult to breathe through the nose. However, these scabs are what stop bleeding in the nose. Removing them will often make the bleeding resume and also affect the lining of the nose around the scab, making the bleeding even worse.

Cocaine Nose Holes (Nasal Perforation)

Nasal perforation, also called septal perforation, is a more serious nose-related complication of cocaine use. When nasal perforation is present, it means that more than just the lining of the nose is affected.

As blood supply is restricted to the nose, it can affect more than just the lining. One area that can be affected is the septum, the piece of cartilage that separates the two nostrils. With the severe restrictions in circulation that cocaine can cause, a hole can develop in the septum as its tissue dies and rots.

Deviated Septum From Cocaine Use

While often considered less severe than a perforated septum, a deviated septum is caused by the same thing. Instead of the lack of circulation leading to a hole in the septum, however, the tissue of the septum is typically less damaged. It does still result in some damage that makes the septum unable to keep its normal shape. With this condition, the septum falls to one side, blocking or restricting airflow through one nostril and causing the nose to become misshapen.

“Saddle Nose”

The term “saddle nose” refers to a condition in which the bridge of the nose collapses, causing it to take on the shape of a saddle. This deformity occurs because the tissue inside the bridge of the nose slowly dies from lack of blood supply, and it rots until the nose is no longer able to keep its normal shape.

Hard Palate Damage

The hard palate is the bony area in the roof of your mouth that separates your mouth from your nasal cavity. In severe cases of cocaine abuse, blood supply to the hard palate can become restricted, leading to hard palate damage.

Most people only notice the side of the hard palate that is located in the mouth. However, the side of the hard palate that is most affected by cocaine is located in the nose. As a result, many people do not realize that hard palace damage is occurring until a hole develops between the nasal cavity and the oral cavity. This can cause food and liquid in the mouth to come out of the nose, affect the voice and lead to other complications.

Cocaine Sinus Infections

One potential complication of cocaine use is sinus infections. Decreased blood flow makes the immune system less able to respond. In addition, snorting and the regular insertion of foreign objects into the nose can expose the nose and sinuses to potentially infectious materials.

Sinus infections caused by cocaine will not heal well due to limited blood supply. These infections can lead to a severe complication called sepsis, which occurs when bacteria enter the bloodstream. This can ultimately lead to death if not quickly treated.

Other Long-Term Effects of Cocaine on the Nose

Besides the major effects of cocaine on the nose, there are also other long-term effects that can occur. Most of these are related to tissue in the nose dying, rotting and coming off as blood supply is restricted. Other long-term effects of cocaine on the nose can include:

  • Pain
  • Foul odors
  • Loss of smell
  • Lung infections
  • Snoring
  • Nasal blockages
  • Dryness in the nose

Because most of the problems that cocaine causes in the nose are related to one thing (decreased circulation), many of these symptoms will occur together.

How To Heal Your Nose From Cocaine Damage

The first and most important step in healing your nose from cocaine damage is to stop using cocaine. Trying to heal your nose while still using cocaine is like trying to put out a fire while pouring gas on it. The nose can only begin to heal when cocaine use is stopped.

While the nose may heal on its own if the damage is minor, many of the more severe nose defects caused by cocaine will require more advanced treatment. Nose deformities can require plastic surgery to restore the nose to its normal shape and function.

Finding Treatment for Cocaine Addiction in Orlando, FL

The best way to avoid or heal damage caused by cocaine use is to stop using cocaine. However, this can often be easier said than done, especially if an addiction has developed. Many people benefit from professional rehabilitation.

If you or a loved one is struggling to stop using cocaine, Orlando Recovery Center is here to help. We offer medical detox services to make withdrawal safer and more comfortable, and our cocaine rehab treatment options provide the tools needed for long-term success. With offsite activities, yoga, art therapy and many other amenities, our clients are able to begin the healing journey in a calm, supportive environment that fosters lifelong recovery. Contact us today to learn more about cocaine addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

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Richards, John R.; Laurin, Erik G.; et al. “Acute Toxicity from Topical Cocaine for […]tment with Labetalol.” Journal of Emergency Medicine, March 2017. Accessed July 2, 2022.

Downs, Brian W.; Sauder, Haley M. “Septal Perforation.” StatPearls, May 1, 2022. Accessed July 2, 2022.

Vartanian, A. John. “Saddle Nose Rhinoplasty.” Medscape, July 16, 2020. Accessed July 2, 2022.

Villa, Peter D. “Midfacial Complications of Prolonged Cocaine Snort.” Canadian Dental Association, 1999. Accessed July 2, 2022.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Sepsis.” MedlinePlus, June 20, 2021. Accessed July 2, 2022.

Trimarchi, M.; Bondi, S.; & et al. “Palate perforation differentiates cocain[…]is with polyangiitis.” ACTA Otorhinolaryngologica Italica, August 2017. Accessed July 2, 2022.Plastic Surgery Chicago. “Cocaine Nose.” Accessed July 2, 2022.

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