Cocaine Nose: The Effects of Snorting Cocaine on the Nasal Passageways
As children, we’re taught to keep our fingers and foreign objects out of our noses. This is not only a matter of hygiene and cleanliness, it’s also a matter of safety as the nose is the secondary way humans take in oxygen. So when we hear about people snorting powder up their noses, our initial reaction may be to cringe at how gross that concept is. Once we understand this is something people actually do, our next reaction may be to ask “Why?” Cocaine is a powerful, short-acting stimulant that has had steady popularity as a “party” drug. People who use cocaine claim it raises levels of alertness and makes them more talkative. These socially stimulating effects are what make cocaine such a popular drug in the party scene. Cocaine is a popular drug in both Mississippi and Tennessee. One 2017 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) found that within the prior year, 32,000 Mississippians over the age of 12 had used cocaine at least once. For people in Tennessee, this number jumped up to 104,000 people over the age of 12. Despite cocaine being present in situations that are supposed to be “fun,” the effects of cocaine can be highly addictive and even dangerous. If someone snorts a small amount of cocaine at a party, this does not mean they will instantly become addicted. But cocaine affects the chemistry of the brain in such a way that makes the person want to repeat the process to achieve the pleasant results.
So Why Do People Snort Cocaine?
When people consume drugs with the goal of getting “high,” often the goal is to use them in a way that provides the desired effects as quickly as possible. This means the drug needs to enter the bloodstream and be circulated up to the brain. Cocaine is most commonly sold and purchased in the form of a grey, white, or beige powder. It can be consumed in a variety of ways that include smoking and injecting directly into the veins, but most often the drug is snorted up the nostrils. Even within groups of people who regularly use the drug, IV injection tends to be viewed the most negatively, so they generally prefer other methods of consumption. When the seasons change and the air becomes cold and less humid, some people get nosebleeds. This is because the skin inside the nose is quite thin and sensitive. When the air dries out suddenly, it can dry out the membranes of the nasal passages and expose the veins underneath, which causes bleeding. How is this related to people snorting cocaine? Well, because the mucous membranes inside the nose are so thin, they allow for cocaine to pass through them and be absorbed into the veins underneath. From there cocaine quickly ends up in the brain, leading to its stimulating effects. Over time, all of these effects can come together in a set of complications frequently referred to as “cocaine nose.”
What Are the Short-Term Effects of Snorting Cocaine?
While snorting drugs like cocaine makes people feel the effects very quickly, it can also rapidly lead to nasal problems. The fact is, the nose is simply not built to withstand snorting powders repeatedly. In fact, hairs in the nose are actually meant to keep dust and debris from being snorted into the lungs and sinuses. So each time a person snorts cocaine, they are directly going against the natural safeguards of the body, which often leads to problems. Even a single instance of snorting cocaine can cause nosebleeds, swelling of the inner lining of the nose, lung infections, and nasal blockage. These problems may not even be because of the cocaine itself. They may be due to other ingredients that street-level dealers add to the cocaine to increase its volume. In fact, it’s the added substances that can be the most dangerous. Deaths in Tennessee that involved both opioids and stimulants have increased over the past five years, and in 2020, 73% of stimulant-involved deaths also involved an opioid, including fentanyl. People who use cocaine can’t even tell it’s in their cocaine because fentanyl’s color and consistency are similar. If someone is a regular cocaine consumer, purchasing fentanyl testing strips as a way to guard against this is highly recommended as a harm reduction measure. Some of cocaine’s added ingredients can include:
- Powdered vitamins
- Talcum powder
- Creatine powder
- Powdered detergents
For the most part, the short-term effects of cocaine on the nose and lungs are relatively minor. If snorting cocaine leads to a lung infection, it can require medical treatment, but most of the other symptoms will subside within a day. These other minor symptoms include runny nose, nasal blockage, and inflammation of the lining in the nose. Because the short-term effects of snorting cocaine are fairly minor, this may lead people to the belief that it is not harmful. However, after repeatedly snorting cocaine, the serious long-term consequences begin to rapidly show up.
Long-Term Effects of Snorting Cocaine
Cocaine causes numbness to the touch. In the early days of dentistry, cocaine was even used as a local anesthetic because of these numbing effects. In reality, this numbing effect leads to the lessening of blood circulation in the affected area. Over time, this lack of blood flow can cause some major issues in the sinuses and nostrils of people who snort cocaine habitually and on a long-term basis. Some of these long-term effects of cocaine on the nose and sinuses include:
The septum is the piece of cartilage in the middle of the nose that separates the nostrils. Over long-term periods of cocaine use, the cartilage and mucus lining of the septum gets extremely irritated, even to the point of altering the shape of the septum. This leads to a crooked appearance of the nose and can lead to health problems such as difficulty breathing, pain in the nose and sinuses, sinus infections, and headaches.
Over time, the lack of blood flow to the nose can actually lead to a perforation, or hole, in the septum. This is because the lack of blood flow means oxygen is not getting to the cells in the septum. Blood flow is crucial in the healing of cells, and if a person continues to snort cocaine, the hole in the septum will continue to grow, leading to a whole host of health problems in the sinuses. The resulting death of nasal tissue is also known as “nasal necrosis.” Damage to the septum can progress to the point of wearing away the cartilage completely, leading to a condition known as “saddle nose.” This is a change in the appearance of the nose that happens because there is no longer cartilage to support the nose’s structure, leading to a wide and flat appearance.
Damage to the Hard Palate
The hard palate refers to the bone that is at the roof of the mouth. Long-term cocaine use can lead to damage to the roof of the mouth in the same way it damages the septum and sinuses. The bone on the roof of the mouth may start to wear away, leading to holes on the roof of the mouth.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction at Vertava Health – Mississippi
Vertava Health offers several treatment options for cocaine addiction. We believe that every client is different, and each treatment plan is tailored to the individual client. The first step of most treatment plans will be to cleanse your body of harmful substances through our medical detox program.
Detoxing from cocaine is not as dangerous as detoxing from other drugs, but a medical detox may still be recommended to reduce the intensity of physical withdrawal symptoms. Detoxing at Vertava Health Mississippi includes support for the psychological effects that can often keep someone from successfully completing detox. Our team will help you decide if a cocaine detox is necessary or if you should enter our program at the residential or intensive outpatient level of care. The detox process for cocaine use disorder generally has three stages. The first is “crashing,” where the person may experience mood swings and low energy. The second is the craving phase, where people desperately want the substance. After this, the final process begins. At this third stage, while cravings can show up, they are usually infrequent, and those cravings tend to leave after around 30 weeks of treatment. Sometimes, this final period can be shorter or longer, depending on the person. No matter what, people typically have withdrawal symptoms during their detox process.
Cocaine Withdrawal Symptoms
During the detox process for cocaine addiction, it is common for people to have withdrawal symptoms. Cocaine withdrawal symptoms differ from the withdrawal symptoms for other substances, such as opioids. For example, there typically isn’t any vomiting with cocaine withdrawal. That said, the usual symptoms of cocaine withdrawal consist of:
- Depressed mood
- General feeling of discomfort
- Vivid and unpleasant dreams
Cocaine withdrawal can have lasting effects. According to the National Library of Medicine, “The craving and depression can last for months after stopping long-term heavy use.” It is during this time after the detox process that addiction treatment is important because the chances of relapse are greatest during the withdrawal phase.
Inpatient (Residential) Treatment
Here at Vertava Health Mississippi, our residential treatment programs are designed to help clients focus completely on their recovery. This can be very helpful for someone who is trying to gain control of their cocaine addiction. Residential treatment is helpful for people starting the recovery process as there is staff available at all hours to provide supervision in a controlled environment. Instead of having to deal with the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal by themselves, clients will have the support of trained professionals that will know what they need, even when the client is unsure. Residential treatment includes group therapy, one-on-one counseling, and even recreational activities such as yoga. Vertava Health Mississippi offers two types of residential treatment: long-term and short-term. With long-term residential treatment, the goal is for the client to develop life skills such as gradual goal-setting, relapse prevention, and recovery support building.
Recovery From Cocaine Addiction Is Tough, But So Are You
The recovery process is a journey, and we are here to help you along the way. Our goal at Vertava Health Mississippi is to help our clients with their individualized journey to recovery so they can live out their best future. We’re located in Southaven, Mississippi, just outside of Memphis, Tennessee. Call us today at (888) 956-6369 to start your journey toward long-term success in recovery.
Why do people snort cocaine? When a person snorts a drug, such as cocaine, it passes through the mucous membranes of the nose and sinuses and directly into the bloodstream. People snort powdered drugs because it is one of the quickest ways to feel the effects of the drug. Of course, this method of use comes with its own unique set of risks. What is nasal necrosis? Nasal necrosis refers to when the tissues of the nose begin to die and rot away. Nasal necrosis occurs when the veins in the nose are no longer able to supply fresh, oxygenated blood to the nostrils and sinuses. When this occurs, the nasal tissue begins to die, leaving holes and sores on the septum and in the sinuses.