Coke and your nose

What damage does regular cocaine use do to your nose? And is permanent? The Mix explains what snorting coke does to those lovely nostrils of yours.

How does a nose work then?

Before we get into how cocaine effects your nose, it’s probably best to describe how it works.

Your nose is separated into two chambers by the septum – this is the fleshy wall you can pinch between your fingers. The inside is also covered by a thin, sensitive layer called the mucous membrane. This works like a filter, and basically protects against infection whenever you inhale and sweep up stuff your body doesn’t need, like dust motes, pollen, fluff particles … or coke.

What happens to your nose when you take cocaine?

In snorting cocaine, the drug is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream via the mucous membrane. One immediate effect within the membrane is to shrink the blood vessels. As a result, this sensitive lining becomes irritated and inflamed. Short-term symptoms include sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion and nosebleeds.

What’s the long term damage of coke to your nose?

If the mucous membrane becomes damaged due to cocaine misuse, (and also any substance with which it has been cut) it can impair the way that air is humidified before it reaches the lungs.

Continued misuse can cause sores to form in the membrane, and also perforation of the nasal septum. This is basically the appearance of a hole in the dividing wall that can continue to grow with your coke habit. If enough support is destroyed, the septum can collapse.

Can you reverse the damage?

Any damage is irreversible. Plastic surgery can improve the appearance of the nose, but patients are advised to seek treatment of the addiction before any attempt at reconstruction can be carried out.

I’m worried about my coke use, help!

Cocaine is notoriously addictive and it’s a tough habit to break. Try not to wait until your nose is collapsing in on itself before you get the help you need and deserve. The NHS run Club Drug Clinics for if you need help. You can also read our seeking help for addiction article which will point you in the direction.

Next Steps

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  • FRANK offers friendly, confidential advice on all things drugs-related. Call now on 0300 123 6600
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Updated on 29-Sep-2015

Photo of nostrils by Shutterstock