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What Is Cocaine Nose (Coke Nose)?

Written by Jonathan Strum

& Medically Reviewed by Benjamin Caleb Williams, RN

Medically Reviewed

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This article was reviewed by a medical professional to guarantee the delivery of accurate and up-to- date information. View our research policy.

Last Updated - 6/17/2022

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Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that people often use recreationally. In addition, it is sometimes used in medical settings as an anesthetic.

People who abuse cocaine typically do so by snorting powdered cocaine into their nose, where it absorbs into their bloodstream. However, snorting cocaine ultimately causes damage to the nose. This damage and the problems it creates are often referred to as “cocaine nose.”

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What Does Cocaine Do to Your Nose?

When cocaine is used, it causes blood vessels in the nose to constrict. For this reason, cocaine can be used medically for uncontrolled nosebleeds or during sinus surgery.

When cocaine is used over a prolonged period, however, the repeated constriction of blood vessels in the nose can cause the blood supply to the nose to be insufficient, leading to damage. Most of the nose damage caused by long-term cocaine use is due to decreased circulation.

In the short term, cocaine and the additives or impurities within it can lead to irritation in the nose. This leads to increased mucus production that causes stuffiness and a runny nose.

Nose Damage From Long-Term Cocaine Use

As cocaine is used over a prolonged period, the repeated constriction of blood vessels in the nose will lead to decreased circulation in the nose. Initially, this will cause the lining of the nose to be more fragile and prone to injury. This can lead to nosebleeds caused by irritation and damage to the lining of the nose. Damage to the lining of the nose also allows cocaine to penetrate deeper into the nose, which allows it to damage more than just the lining.

Sinus Infections

Cocaine use can lead to serious sinus infections for several different reasons. Cocaine decreases blood supply to the sinuses, inhibiting the immune system’s ability to respond correctly. Further, snorting cocaine generally involves putting an object into your nose, which introduces possible contaminants that could cause infection. In addition, damage caused by cocaine use can cause deformities that make it easier for sinus infections to start.

Sinus infections may just seem unpleasant and inconvenient. However, if bacteria from an untreated sinus infection reaches the bloodstream, it can lead to a condition called sepsis, which causes bacteria to grow in your blood. Sepsis is a medical emergency and a very common cause of death.

Septum Damage From Cocaine Use

Septal damage, also called a perforated septum, is a potential nose-related complication of cocaine use. The septum is the part of your nose that separates both nostrils. As circulation is decreased in the nose, the septum can become affected, and parts of it can slowly start to die and rot. This eventually causes a hole to develop in the septum or makes the septum deviate to one side, plugging one nostril.

Saddle Nose

Saddle nose is a condition in which the bridge of your nose collapses. This occurs with cocaine nose because the tissues inside the nose die and rot due to the decreased circulation that cocaine causes. Eventually, the amount of healthy tissue inside the nose is not enough to hold the outside of the nose up; this causes the bridge of the nose to collapse and creates a deformity.

Hard Palate Damage

One of the more serious and unpleasant complications of cocaine nose is hard palate damage. Your hard palate is the hard part of the roof of your mouth. The hard palate separates your nasal cavity from your mouth and consists mainly of bone.

When cocaine is used repeatedly, circulation to the upper part of the hard palate that lines the nasal cavity can be disrupted. Over time, this can actually cause a hole to develop in the roof of your mouth. A perforated hard palate will affect the sound of your voice and cause food and drink in your mouth to run out of your nose.

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How To Soothe an Irritated Nose From Cocaine Use

Irritation to the nose is very likely to occur when using cocaine. Stopping cocaine use will help prevent further irritation, and it is the best way to stop more irritation and damage from occurring.

Beyond stopping cocaine use, moisturizing the nose can be soothing. This can be done using nasal saline sprays that provide immediate moisture. Using a saline spray can also help wash off cocaine sitting on the surface of your nose, further reducing irritation. You can also moisturize your nose using Vaseline to lock in moisture.

If you are still using cocaine, taking measures like alternating which nostril you use, using soft, minimally irritating tools and not sharing the tools you use to snort cocaine may help to reduce irritation. However, stopping cocaine use is the only way to completely eliminate new irritation to the nose.

How To Heal Your Nose From Cocaine Damage

The best way to help your nose heal from cocaine damage is to stop using cocaine. Continuing to use cocaine will keep your nose from healing, regardless of what you do. If you have a cocaine addiction, stopping cocaine use may require getting professional help.

Healing the nose itself will often require medical treatment. If an infection is present, antibiotics will be necessary to help the nose heal. If a deformity like a septal defect, saddle nose or hard palate damage is present, plastic surgery will often be necessary. This is because these deformities rarely heal on their own.

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Getting Help for Cocaine Addiction

The best way to avoid the damage that cocaine causes — or recover from it — is to stop cocaine use altogether. However, stopping cocaine can be difficult, especially if an addiction has developed.

The Recovery Village Ridgefield offers medical detox and professional rehab services to help people safely and comfortably recover from cocaine addiction. The Recovery Village Ridgefield is an in-network provider for a range of insurance companies, including Aetna, Cigna, America’s Choice and many others.

If you or your loved one is struggling to stop using cocaine, we encourage you to get the help you need at The Recovery Village Ridgefield. Contact us today to learn more about cocaine addiction treatment programs that can work well for your situation.

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