Cocaine nose damage from addiction

What is ‘Cocaine Nose’? Facts, Identification and Treatment.

While cocaine provides a short lived high, its effects come with consequences that manifest both physically and psychologically. One of the most common physical signs of cocaine abuse is cocaine nose - changes to the nasal cavity caused by chronic cocaine insufflation. In this article, we discuss what cocaine nose is, how it develops, how to identify it and potential treatments. Contact us now to discuss your options

What is Cocaine Nose?

Cocaine nose (or coke nose) refers to physical changes that occur in the nasal passages of individuals who snort cocaine regularly over an extended period of time. When cocaine is insufflated (snorted), it comes into direct contact with the nasal mucosa and underlying blood vessels.  

Over time, this causes irritation, inflammation and damage to the nasal tissue. Blood vessels within the nose and septum also become constricted, leading to issues with reduced blood flow. These physical changes gradually deform the structure of the nose. Call us on 02031484945 to help stop this cycle. 

Some of the most common signs of cocaine nose include:

• Perforated nasal septum

- A hole develops between the two nasal passages due to tissue damage from snorting cocaine.

• Nasal septal perforation

- A more advanced stage where a large portion of the septum is destroyed from snorting cocaine.

• Deviation of the nasal septum

- The septum bends due to the weakness of cartilage and supporting tissue from snorting cocaine.  

• Nosebleeds and crusting

- Frequent nosebleeds occur due to fragile blood vessels. Crusting inside the nose is also common.

• Changes in nasal shape

- The structure and appearance of the nose alter, becoming narrower and more pinched.

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How Does Cocaine Nose Develop?

The cocaine molecule is caustic and can irritate nasal tissues from the first inhalation. However, regular snorting cocaine leads to a cycle of damage and healing within the nose that eventually causes irreversible changes:

• Cocaine constricts blood vessels, reducing blood supply to the nasal tissue. This causes cell damage and death within the mucosa and nasal congestion.

• The nasal mucosa then undergoes a healing process that involves laying down fibrotic (scar) tissue.     

• Scar tissue is less elastic and prone to tearing during repetitive nasal tissue compression from continued cocaine use. This results in further cell damage and death.  

• Over many years of regular cocaine addiction, enough fibrotic tissue builds up in the nose to distort its appearance. The septum also weakens and loses structural integrity causing nasal collapse.

Statistics indicate that long-term snorting cocaine users have up to a 50% chance of developing some form of cocaine nose. Heavy users (consuming >1 gram daily) have the highest risk.

How to Identify Cocaine Nose

The physical changes associated with cocaine nose often develop gradually over time and may go unnoticed by the individual. However, friends and family members can look out for the following signs:

• Frequent nosebleeds that won't stop without medical intervention.

• Visible deformity of the nasal septum or ridge. 

• An unusually narrow, pinched nose with decreased ability to flare nostrils and nasal congestion.

• Constant sniffing, wiping or rubbing of the nose due to nasal irritation and crusting.

• Difficulty breathing through one or both nostrils. This may be worse after cocaine binges.

• Hoarse voice due to drainage of mucus and blood down the back of the throat.

• Repeated sinus or nose infections that don't respond to treatment.


Powdered cocaine normally come sin two types: inhaled or dissolved by nasal passage, or injected in body. Generally inhalations of powder cocaine are the main causes of injuries to the nose and can cause septal perforations. Other methods for vaporisation are crack cocaine, a form of cocaine processed into crystal containing freebase cocaine that can be smoked. The drug is heated in order to produce vapor, which is absorbed by inhaling the drug into the lungs. 

What can be Done About Cocaine Nose?

Since cocaine nose results from long-term drug abuse and tissue damage, discontinuation of cocaine use is critical.

Supportive treatments include:

• Medical detox and rehabilitation

- To address the psychological dependence on cocaine and develop coping skills. 

• Nasal saline rinses

- To flush out mucus, crusting and irritants from the nasal passages.

• Antibiotics

- For managing secondary infections and inflammation in the nose.  

• Cauterisation

- A procedure to stop persistent nosebleeds by searing damaged blood vessels. 

• Surgery

- To repair a severely perforated septum or deviated cartilage. However, nasal surgery alone has a high failure rate without addiction treatment.

Cocaine nose is a common consequence of chronic cocaine abuse that involves permanent changes to the nasal anatomy and nasal collapse. While treatments exist, discontinuing cocaine use is essential to prevent further damage and progression of the condition. For those struggling with a cocaine addiction, professional treatment can provide the tools and support needed for long-term recovery.

If you or anyone you know suspects the possibility of cocaine nose, get in touch with us at Find Rehab now!

Call us on 02031484945 to start the healing process now. 

Call us on 02031484945

Frequently asked questions

What is cocaine nose?

Cocaine nose refers to physical changes that occur in the nasal passages of chronic cocaine users. The nasal tissues become damaged and inflamed due to repeated snorting of cocaine, leading to deformities of the nasal septum and passages.

How does cocaine cause damage to the nose?

Cocaine constricts blood vessels in the nose, reducing blood supply and oxygen to nasal cells. This causes cell damage and cell death. The nose then undergoes a healing process that involves laying down fibrotic scar tissue. Repeated cocaine use leads to further damage and more scar tissue formation over time.

What are the common signs of cocaine nose?

Common signs include a perforated or deviated nasal septum, frequent nosebleeds, persistent crusting and infections, and an altered nasal shape and structure.

How is cocaine nose identified?

Friends and family members may notice signs like frequent nosebleeds, visible deformities of the nose, difficulty breathing or a narrowed nasal shape. The individual using cocaine is often unaware of the damage occurring inside their nose.

What treatments are available for cocaine nose?

Treatments focus on discontinuing cocaine use, managing secondary infections, and surgical repairs if needed. Nasal saline rinses and antibiotics can provide some relief from symptoms but only stopping cocaine intake can prevent further progression. Rehabilitation programs are needed to address the psychological dependence on cocaine.

Can cocaine nose be reversed?

Once fibrotic scar tissue has formed within the nose, the physical changes associated with cocaine nose are largely permanent. Early intervention and cessation of cocaine use offers the best chance to minimise long-term nasal damage.

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