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Signs of Nose Damage From Drugs

By Neha Kashyap
Learn more about the signs of nose damage from drugs and what to do about it.

About 57.2 million Americans aged 12 or older could be living with a substance abuse disorder, or drug addiction, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

If you’re concerned about a loved one’s drug use, there are physical symptoms that can indicate a problem. One of the physical symptoms of drug abuse is nose damage. Here’s more about drug abuse and nose damage, and how to get help.

Which Drugs Cause Nose Damage?

According to a 2018 research report published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drugs that cause nose damage are those that can be snorted, including cocaine, methamphetamines, and heroin. There are also some legal drugs that could also damage the nose.

“Afrin, [or] oxymetazoline, and other over-the-counter topical decongestant medications, if abused, can lead to similar damage,” Patrick Angelos, MD, a facial plastic surgeon in Charleston, South Carolina tells WebMD Connect to Care. 

Pseudoephedrine, commonly known as Sudafed, is another example of an over-the-counter decongestant that can be snorted by those abusing the drug, according to Drug Free Virginia. 

Snorted drugs narrow blood vessels, which then limits blood flow to the nose, according to Angelos. This in turn damages nose tissues, including the septum, which is the tissue that separates nostrils, and the nasal bridge, which is the top of the nose.

“This process over time, especially combined with local infection, can lead to [a] deformity of the external nose,” Angelos says.

This external damage could include distorted nostrils andsaddle-nose, a term used to describe a collapsed nasal bridge, according to a 2020 article published by American Addiction Centers. Snorting drugs could also lead to a perforated septum, as in a septum that has holes in it that could require surgical repair.

Symptoms of Nose Damage From Drugs

According to a 2020 article published by Phoenix House on the effects of cocaine use, the symptoms of nose damage from drugs include:

  • Nose bleeds
  • Nasal pain
  • Recurring sinus infections
  • Whistling noises when breathing
  • Loss of smell

Nose damage from drugs can be repaired, but depending on the severity, this could require surgery. Surgeries to repair nose damage include rhinoplasty and other procedures that require using body tissues to reconstruct the nose, says Angelos.

These long term complications can be severe and disfiguring,” Angelos says. “The first line of treatment is controlling the addiction and getting the patient off of the offending agent.”

Don’t Wait. Get Help Now.

It’s never too late to begin healing from a substance use disorder. Treatment resources are available, regardless of whether or not you have insurance. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, WebMD Connect to Care Advisors are standing by to help. 

Treatment & Resources: General Information