words Alexa Wang
Cocaine is among those drugs you always seem to hear everywhere. Having an infamous reputation of being one of the most addictive drugs, its use has led to many deaths and addictions in its wake.
That said, its popularity is not about to end, and it continues to lure in many people who seek an escape into the world of drugs.
Cocaine happens to be a stimulant drug that has high addiction rates, as it creates a euphoric feeling as well as enhancing the energy of its users. The problem with cocaine itself is the length of time its highs last – this is only a few minutes, and forces the user to use it again to experience a greater high. Since the user consumes it in binges, the risks of overdoses and the chance they might suffer from cocaine withdrawal are very high, even within a short period.
How do people consume cocaine?
The consumption methods of cocaine vary among individuals, but a popular method that does not seem to end is snorting. Each method you use carries various risks with it, and other methods include injections (shooting) which directs it to the bloodstream directly, as well as smoking it (this form is known as crack cocaine).
Snorting is among the most popular method, and it involves inhaling the drug through the nose. Many users prefer it because the high tends to last longer compared to other consumption methods, with effects lasting for close to thirty minutes after the first inhaling, compared to ten minutes from shooting the drug.
However, snorting is very dangerous in the long-term, as the consequences include loss of sense of smell, occasional nosebleeds, and difficulties in swallowing.
Structure of the nose
The nasal septum is a wall that divides your nasal cavity into two halves. The cartilage forms the front part of the wall, while the back is made up of the septum, a bone that connects to the bones in the roof of the mouth, the sinuses and your face.
Mucous membranes protect the whole surface of the cavity, and they contain cells that produce mucus, as well as ciliated epithelial cells that trap dust and foreign particles.
Why is snorting cocaine dangerous to the nose?
Long-term cocaine users tend to suffer significant damages to their noses. One of these effects is a phenomenon called ‘septal perforation’, which is typically a hole within the septum. This condition is due to constant sniffing of cocaine.
You may not know it, but your nose is more delicate than you think. Its blood supply is very fragile, and cocaine use cuts this off very easily, through a process called vasoconstriction, or closing up of blood vessels.
Cocaine crystals irritate and destroy the mucous lining in your nose, as well as the cartilage wall. When you introduce the drug into your body through snorting, the crystals will enter your bloodstream through mucous membranes (linings within the interior of the nasal cavity). Prolonged snorting leads to blockage of the membranes.
When these blood vessels close, the nose receives very little blood supply, and that means one thing – less amounts of oxygen to the septum tissues. Due to low oxygen levels, the cells of the septum start to die, and this continues until the whole septum lining dies. Once this occurs, the septum lining cannot support the cartilage that is below it, and this cartilage also dies, leading to a hole in the septum (septal perforation). This process is septal chrondritis.
Another unwanted effect is inflammation if the bone marrow and the bones of the nose, which doctors call nasal bone osteomyelitis.
This hole is capable of causing the collapse of the nose, because the septum is the part responsible for supporting the shape and structure of your nose. Note that once this occurs, it cannot heal on its own and you will require treatment.
Signs of septal perforation
Did you know that snorting cocaine damages your nasal tissues permanently? Rhinoplasty (nose reshape surgery) may not be an option for many people due to the cost, but the truth is many cocaine users need it after snorting cocaine.
The usual occurrence is cocaine users will notice the signs early enough that there are issues with their nose. Unfortunately, they are unaware that these are danger signs, since the symptoms are very similar to other harmless conditions such as common colds or sinus infections. This leads to the problem of not seeking treatment early enough, and they suffer from septal perforation.
This damage occurs very slowly, and the signs might depend on the severity of your usage. Chronic levels of use, which include daily or weekly use, lead to bleeding of the nose membranes, sinusitis, and irritation of the nasal cavity. However, the volume and frequency of use also determines the rate of damage to your nose.
Other damages include loss of smell (anosmia), foul smells, deforming of the nose itself due to collapse, obstruction of the nasal cavity, increase of allergic reactions, snoring and anxiety attacks.
What to do in the event of nasal damage?
The most vital thing you need to do is stop your use of cocaine completely. This is the only way the treatment of nasal injuries will last, and will allow you blood vessels to recover, which lets the nose lining recover as well.
The only difference is when nasal perforation occurs. In this case, stopping cocaine use will not lead to healing. This damage is permanent, so the only option is to correct in through surgery. Once the septum gets a hole, it is unprotected from infections by bacteria, and it begins to increase in size over time. This ends up changing the appearance of the nose itself, producing a ‘saddle nose’. Since the nose is also connected to the throat and larynx, your voice may also change – you may start to speak in a changed nasal resonance, and audible whistling sounds within your nose can occur.
Snorting cocaine is highly popular due to the prolonged period of ‘high’ it gives, but it causes irreparable damage to your nose, which you may not suspect until it is too late when you already suffer from cocaine withdrawal. Not only dies it affect the nose, but also the vocal cords – all these risks make it a highly dangerous method of consuming the drug. Studies have shown that exercise can help people recover from cocaine abuse. This can be helped by using supplements to help your body gain the most as you get into shape.