Snorting cocaine through nose.

Many people who use cocaine choose to inhale it into their nasal passages. Nasal tissue is far more delicate than you might think and susceptible to a variety of side effects from cocaine use. Complications include everything from nose bleeds to a devastating condition known as “cocaine nose.” Repeated exposure increases the likelihood of experiencing serious side effects.

Your nose is a prominent facial feature. Love it or hate it, it’s a critical part of what the world sees when they look at you. Even more importantly, it performs vital functions. It filters the air you breathe to remove dirt, allergens and other particles that could harm your airways. It also humidifies and regulates the temperature of the air to protect your airway and lungs.

Understanding cocaine’s nose-related side effects are the key to minimizing symptoms and avoiding irreparable harm to your nose.

Dangers of Snorting Cocaine

Snorting cocaine is both dangerous and addictive. But it’s important to note that snorting anything is dangerous. The lining of your nose isn’t made for that activity and even innocent substances like cocoa powder can damage the delicate tissues inside your nose.

Even as a fine powder, cocaine is made up of small crystals that can irritate the inside of the nose. Additionally, it could contain impurities and cutting agents like powdered laundry detergent or talc. Even in its purest form cocaine use sets off a chain reaction in the body and nose. At its worst, cocaine-related nose damage could be irreparable or require surgery to fix it.

Short-Term Effects of Cocaine Use

Cocaine is a vasoconstrictor that narrows the blood vessels in your nose. In turn, it can increase irritation and cause inflammation. Many people who use cocaine experience short-lived side effects similar to a cold or allergies. That’s because cocaine use can trigger non-allergic rhinitis, which includes symptoms like:

  • Runny nose caused by overstimulating the mucous glands in the nose
  • Stuffy nose caused by swelling in nasal passageways
  • Sneezing and nasal pressure
  • Snoring caused by inflammation and congestion
  • Post-nasal drip (mucus in the throat)

Cocaine Nose Bleed

A nose bleed is among the most common side effects of snorting cocaine. It can seem like a strange reaction because doctors can sometimes use related drugs to stop nose bleeds. Cocaine constricts blood vessels, reducing the blood flow inside the tissues lining your nose. So why does cocaine make your nose bleed?

There are two main factors at play. For starters, snorting cocaine irritates your nasal passageways. That alone is enough to increase your risk of a nose bleed. But there’s another factor at play that might be even more serious. Because the blood vessels carry less blood when you use cocaine, the delicate tissue inside your nose becomes damaged. That damage can worsen over time, leading to nose bleeds or even the death of sensitive tissues and membranes inside your nose.

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Use

Long-term cocaine use effects on the nose can range from irritating to devastating. Depriving nasal tissue of blood flow has a catastrophic effect. Heavy use for even a single day could cause permanent damage. Some long-term effects of cocaine use on the nose include:

  • Loss of smell: Damaging the lining of your nose could also damage the receptors responsible for your sense of smell. This can also affect your sense of taste.
  • Sinus infections: The damage to your nasal tissues, irritation, and inflammation can all increase the odds of infection.
  • Damage to the septum: Depriving nasal tissues of adequate blood flow and oxygen causes the cells to die. Over time, this leads to damage to those tissues, including the septum.
  • Inflammation in nasal bones: Doctors call this nasal bone osteomyelitis. It’s simply the inflammation of the nasal bones and bone marrow. It can increase pain and discomfort and can also contribute to collapsing nose tissue.

Collapsing Nose Tissue

Have you ever seen pictures of a cocaine-destroyed nose? This happens when the damage cocaine does to the tissues and structure of the nose causes it to collapse. Prolonged deprivation of blood flow and oxygen leads to cell death. It starts with the lining and moves to the cartilage below. Over time, the septum can no longer support the structure of the nose and the tissues collapse. The resulting flattened, bleeding nose is often called “cocaine nose.” Not only can your nose collapse from cocaine use, but you could experience holes in the flesh around your nose.

Preventing Nasal Damage

The best way to prevent cocaine nose damage is to quit using it altogether.

If you or someone you love is struggling with cocaine addiction, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is here to help. Representatives are available to speak with you about treatment options and a plan that could work for you. Contact us today to learn more.


Brazier, Yvette. “What is Nonallergic Rhinitis?” Medical News Today, February 19, 2018. Accessed October 3, 2019.

Wang, Alexa. “How Snorting Cocaine Can Seriously Damage Your Nose.” Flux. Accessed October 2, 2019.

Gajanan, Mahita. “It’s Not Just Chocolate Powder. You Shouldn’t Be Snorting Anything, Doctors Say.” Time, July 11, 2017. Accessed October 3, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.