Snorting Cocaine: What are the Risks? – Cocaine is a powerful stimulant drug that despite having some potential for medical use is generally used illicitly. Powdered cocaine can be administered in several ways, but it’s most commonly snorted. Snorting coke can be detrimental to a person’s mental and physical well-being, and sudden death by heart attack or stroke is possible even after just one use.
People who regularly snort cocaine are at a heightened risk of developing an addiction. Prolonged use can result in severe inflammation and damage to the nasal cavity and mouth that may cause the nose to collapse or holes to form in the roof of the mouth.
What Happens When Someone Snorts Cocaine?
When a person snorts cocaine, fine powder penetrates the nose’s mucous membranes. Once the drug reaches the blood vessels in the nose, it takes just a few minutes to enter the brain. At this point, the user begins to experience a euphoric high and energetic rush that can last for up to 30 minutes.
During this time, cocaine constricts the blood vessels, and this decreased blood flow limits absorption of the drug. It also puts significant strain on the heart, however, and a runny or bloody nose may result.
Over time, the obstructed blood flow cocaine produces can permanently damage the fragile tissues inside the nose and other organs in the body.
Short-Term Effects of Snorting Cocaine
People use cocaine for its invigorating, excitatory effects. As a stimulant, cocaine increases heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and body temperature, making the user feel more energetic and alert.
As cocaine progresses through the veins, it sends the cardiovascular system into overdrive. Excitement and energy can rapidly give way to labored breathing, chest pain, sweating, and heart palpitations or arrhythmia. Cocaine abuse can result in heart attacks, strokes, seizures, coma, and death.
Other short-term side effects of snorting coke include the following:
- Decreased appetite
- Restlessness and insomnia
- Anxiety, panic, or paranoia
- Sneezing and nasal discomfort
- Muscle twitching
- Abdominal pain and nausea
Combining alcohol with cocaine is particularly risky. When a person drinks while snorting cocaine, a toxic byproduct (cocaethylene) is produced that is harmful to the liver and heart.
Snorting a combination of cocaine and heroin, a drug cocktail known as a speedball, is also extremely dangerous and significantly increases the risk of overdose and death.
Cocaine use impairs function in the regions of the brain involved in decision-making, and this can result in risky and impulsive actions. Some cocaine users exhibit bizarre, aggressive, and even violent behavior.
Long-Term Effects of Snorting Cocaine
Habitual use of cocaine alters the way in which the brain deals with its continued presence. Cocaine is extremely addictive, and people who snort coke can rapidly develop a tolerance, and require increasing amounts of cocaine to achieve the desired high.
When someone who is dependent on cocaine stops abruptly, they will probably experience withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms of cocaine withdrawal, or a cocaine comedown, include depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, increased appetite, and sleeping difficulties.
Other long-term effects of snorting cocaine include the following:
- Severe headaches
- Heart attack and heart disease
- Lung damage
- Sexual dysfunction and infertility
Long-term intranasal cocaine abuse can also lead to significant damage to the nose, mouth and nearby tissues.
When a person first begins abusing cocaine, she may suffer from a frequent stuffy/runny nose and nosebleeds. She may also experience recurrent sinus infections and a reduced sense of smell. These symptoms may easily be dismissed as inconsequential or allergies.
Snorting Coke Can Cause Nasal and Oral Deformities
Due to cocaine’s effect on blood constriction, snorting it decreases the flow of oxygen to tissues in the nose. As a person continues to snort cocaine, chronically low oxygen levels damage the lining of the nasal septum, which is the vascular wall that separates the left and right nostrils.
With little or no blood supply, the septal lining and underlying cartilage deteriorates and eventually dies. At this point, a hole may develop in the nasal septum, or the entire nose may collapse. Chronic coke users may exhibit “saddle nose,” a deformity in which the bridge of the nose collapses and the tip becomes broader and upturned. The person’s profile reveals that a nose that has taken on the shape of a saddle.
Cocaine users can also develop large holes in the roof of their mouth. When this occurs, a person will experience nasal regurgitation, in which food being consumed comes back out of their nose. These holes can be corrected by placing prosthetics at the site of the damaged bone and tissue.
Other symptoms of nasal injury from snorting cocaine include nose whistling, snoring, hoarseness and difficulty swallowing.
Treatment for Cocaine Addiction
Although there are no medications currently indicated for cocaine addiction or withdrawal symptoms, it is still a very treatable condition that often begins with a medical detox and is closely followed by a transition to an inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment program.
Our center offers comprehensive, evidence-based approaches such as behavioral therapy and counseling that are delivered by compassionate medical professionals and certified clinicians who specialize in addiction.
Please call us as soon as possible – we can help you reclaim your life and experience the happiness, wellness, and harmony you deserve!