Rehab 4 Addiction

What is Cocaine? 

Cocaine is commonly known as a stimulant. In South American, people used to chew coca leaves for the exact effects we experience today. [1]

However, it wasn’t until about 100 years ago that the purified chemical was extracted and isolated. Before being used for pure euphoria in the 21st century, cocaine was used by surgeons as a local anaesthetic.

Yet with euphoria comes addiction, which can lead dependant individuals into a downward spiral.

Cocaine alters the function and structure of the brain.

It is commonly diluted with non-psychoactive substances such as baking soda and flour to increase the profit margins of street selling.

It can also be combined with heroin or amphetamines to form a more intensive high.

Cocaine can either come as a white power, usually snorted as small lines, or injected. It can also come as a yellow-tinted crystal, also known as crack cocaine. This is usually smoked.

How do users administer cocaine?

  • Orally
  • Snorted
  • Injecting

If you are a long-term cocaine user, your body builds up a tolerance and expectation. You will then need to take more, more often to reach the desired effects it once had.

These higher doses are where you take your life into your hands, with rather undesirable consequences. 2

Signs of Addiction

Users tend to have to use more and more often when their body and brain get used to the administering of cocaine.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of cocaine addiction can be a catalyst for early detection.

The most common signs are:

  • Social Isolation: a reduction in time spent socialising or time spent on regular activities.
  • Finance Struggles: users tend to spend more money on drugs such as cocaine, but this takes priority. They will go to the extents of stealing or selling everything to pay for addiction.
  • Changes in behaviour, daily routines and physical appearance.
  • Depression and serious anxiety.
  • Needle marks, or long clothes to cover the marks or infections.
  • Loss of nose septum and nasal infections.
  • Constant sweating and/or rapid weight loss

The risk of overdose is high, so you should look for the danger signs and symptoms of use:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Loss of libido
  • Severe weight loss
  • Running nose
  • Loss of smell
  • Hole in the roof of the mouth
  • Loss of nasal septum

Find out how long cocaine stays in your system.

Nose Jobs: Effects of Cocaine 

The latter signs of use refer mostly to nasal inhalation of cocaine. Cocaine is commonly administered this way due to the fast delivery.

Despite this, the damage comes with the additives, such as boric acid and chemical irritants. [3]

1. Nose bleeds

This is one of the most common side effects of the constant use of drugs. When cocaine is inhaled, it comes into direct contact with thin layers of skin. This skin becomes irritated, merely covering a heavy blood supply.

Cocaine can constrict blood vessels, leading to a high blood pressure. The development of high blood pressure is also a factor in the development of nosebleeds.

Constricted blood vessels make the heart work harder and faster. This extra force can cause a nosebleed.

A constant interaction between the nose and cocaine can result in the decay of both skin and cartilage, leading to a greater risk of nosebleeds due the even thinner layer of skin.

The body might be able to heal itself from irregular irritation, but not constant attacks from cocaine.

2. Loss of Nasal Septum

Also known as a perforated septum, cocaine can leave you with no cartilage on your nose.

There is a decreased blood supply to the nose, causing cells to die. The hole can alter the shape of the nose, leading to extreme breathing difficulties and different aesthetics.

In dangerous cases, the lack of cartilage leads to erosion of nasal support. This can cause a nasal valve collapse.

Regular use of cocaine perforates not only the nasal septum (between the nostrils) but the palate or roof of the mouth.

Cocaine nose will almost definitely leave users with infected parts of the nose, such as nasal ulcers.

The reason the nose is so common is that it is full of blood vessels. Yet this also means there are more negative outcomes.

Nose Damage: is it reversible? 

The damage inflicted by snorting cocaine can lead to irreparable damage.

If the inner parts of the nasal cavity have been completely destroyed and there are no signs of natural healing, even surgery might not be an option.

Long-term use is very damaging. With every snort, the blood vessels in the nose constrict and thin over time.

If the skin becomes so thin, it will erode and leave the cartilage exposed. This will then become infected, leaving cocaine users with perforated cartilage.

Individuals with holes will be able to hear whistling whilst they breathe through their nose, whilst experiencing heavy nose bleeds and mass infection.

The cartilage can erode even further, leaving a user with ‘saddle nose’, a collapsing of the entire septum.

If you still have some cartilage left, reconstruction might be a possible option for you.

Reconstruction of Cocaine Nose

Reconstruction is not simple, nor is it offered lightly. It remains a challenge for most surgeons to get right.

In order to be in with a chance of success, the user must stop using for up to 6 months before the cocaine rehab treatment and cannot smoke either. Continued use will only damage the nose more. [4]

Most of the time, doctors will perform what’s called a fiscial graft, or cartilage graft. Once the new cartilage is in place, the surgeon will place new skin over the top of it to protect it from erosion.

This skin can be taken from many places, but it’s commonly used from the forearm, transferred onto the nose.

This part of the procedure is known as ‘free flap’, and involves multiple reconstructions of the new skin itself in order to guarantee that it will fit onto the patient’s new cartilage.

If you or someone you know is suffering for the effects of cocaine use, it is never too late to get in contact with us.


  3. Schwartz RH, Estroff T, Fairbanks DN, Hoffmann NG. Nasal symptoms associated with cocaine abuse during adolescence. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1989 Jan;115(1):63-4. doi: 10.1001/archotol.1989.01860250065028. PMID: 2909232.

Boris is our editor-in-chief at Rehab 4 Addiction. Boris is an addiction expert with more than 20 years in the field.  His expertise covers a broad of topics relating to addiction, rehab and recovery. Boris is an addiction therapist and assists in the alcohol detox and rehab process. Boris has been featured on a variety of websites, including the BBC, Verywell Mind and Healthline.