Cocaine is a stimulant drug, and it’s typically sold as a white powder. While cocaine can be injected into the veins, ingested as a powder, or rubbed directly onto the nose and tongue, the Center for Substance Abuse Research reports that snorting is the most common method of abuse.
People who snort cocaine may expect to feel a rush of power and energy. They may also expect that sensation to fade away in a minute or two. But cocaine can produce some sensations that are a little unexpected, and long-term abuse can lead to some nasty side effects that users just never saw coming.
Snorting Cocaine Side Effects in the Short-Term
Whether you use the drug regularly, have experimented, or simply have watched people use the drug in movies or television shows, you know the side effects of sniffing cocaine can be severe. Prolonged usage of cocaine can cause a whole host of side effects, including something known as cocaine mouth, cocaine mouth hole, cocaine palate damage, and a dent in the nose from coke, but you might wonder what some of the side effects are in the short-term. These include the following:
- Dilated pupils
- Constricted blood vessels
- Increased body temperature
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
When the constricted blood vessels disrupt the flow of blood in your body, it can lead to a reduction in appetite, stomach pain, constipation, nausea, and vomiting. The increase in your blood pressure and heart rate, as well as restricted blood flow through the arteries, can increase the risk of a heart attack.
Cocaine use in the short term can also cause behavioral changes because it increases the levels of dopamine in your brain’s reward center. Cocaine use can cause someone to become erratic and violent, leading to them feeling confident and invincible. This is a bad combination because it can increase the chances of becoming entangled in a bad situation caused by reckless behavior. For example, if someone is at a bar drinking alcohol and sniffing cocaine, their inhibitions are lowered, and they feel invincible. It could give them a false sense of confidence and get into a fight, leading to an arrest or a hospital visit if they’re injured.
These are just four of those unexpected consequences.
1. Holes in the Hard Palate
The tissue that separates the mouth from the sinuses is the hard palate, and it’s designed to be tough and impermeable. A hard palate allows us to eat and drink without flooding our sinuses with fluids. The hard palate also works as a tapping point for the tongue, so we can communicate freely.
In a study published in the journal Clinical Oral Investigations, researchers report that cocaine can cause large holes to form in the hard palate. Cocaine can restrict the amount of blood that moves through blood vessels in the roof of the mouth, and that can lead to tissue death. The holes can be quite large when they are discovered. In this study, the holes were around 19.32 mm in diameter.
A hole like this will not heal. There are no tissue fragments left to knit together, and the tissue around the hole can be dead or dying. The best way to correct a hole like this, according to research published in the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Dentistry, is through surgery. Dentists take a flap of tissue from nearby structures, and they sew that tissue over the hole and monitor healing. In time, the tissue can take hold and grow to cover up the hole.
Surgeries like this can be expensive, researchers say, and people with an addiction may not be able to pay for surgery or handle the demands of surgical recovery. People like this can get a prosthesis that covers up the hole, and sometimes that prosthesis can impact the person’s ability to talk clearly.
2. Holes Between the Nostrils
Cocaine molecules restrict the size of blood vessels on contact. People who snort cocaine put a very dangerous substance in close proximity to the plethora of blood vessels in the nose. That can lead to tissue death, and it typically manifests as a hole between nostrils.
In a report published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, researchers said that septal perforation, or holes between the nostrils, is one of the most common complications caused by snorting cocaine. Some people have to pinpoint holes, researchers said, while others have complete destruction of all the tissues that hold the nose up.
Someone with a septal perforation may be able to breathe with ease, but that person may have a nose that looks collapsed or dented. They may even have a nose that is dented on just one side.
Surgery is, again, the only way to fix this issue. Dead tissues simply will not grow back. Dentists take tissues from other parts of the nose or mouth, and they implant them in place of the tissues that have died away. They monitor healing very carefully, to ensure that the new tissues take hold and grow.
3. Increased Body Heat
People who take in cocaine feel energized, and that means they can:
- Clench their muscles
All of these movements can raise body heat, and for many years, the movements were blamed on a body temperature increase that can come with cocaine abuse. In 2002, researchers writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine discovered something interesting.
In this study, researchers found that cocaine increases body temperature, even if the people using cocaine didn’t move more. Researchers also found that people taking cocaine couldn’t tell that their body temperature had risen, so they didn’t try to keep themselves cool. Their bodies also didn’t compensate by sweating more.
This means people who snort cocaine may have dangerously high body temperatures that can lead to seizures and/or organ failure. Meanwhile, they may not feel hot at all.
4. Damage to the Eyes
People who snort cocaine aren’t putting the drug anywhere near their eyes, and yet, researchers have discovered that snorting cocaine can do a great deal of damage to the delicate tissues within the eye.
In a study in the journal European Journal of Ophthalmology, researchers found that people who snort cocaine can experience changes in color perception. In this case study, a man complained that he could no longer see colors in the blue/yellow spectrum. This kind of disturbance is common in people going through cocaine withdrawal, researchers said, but it’s also possible in current drug users. This type of condition can be treated by laser surgery, but it can also be chronic and impossible to treat.
In a secondary study published in the journal Neuro-Ophthalmology, researchers found that people who snort cocaine can also take in contaminants, including bacteria. Small cells of bacteria thrive in environments that are warm, moist, and dark, so they can proliferate within the sinus. If the bacterial infection spreads, it can cause swelling that presses on optic vessels. That can lead to eye inflammation and a permanent loss of vision.
5. The Heart
Prolonged cocaine consumption can increase the chances of developing blood clots, in turn leading to pulmonary embolisms, heart attacks, strokes, and deep vein thrombosis. In addition to these potentially fatal conditions, cocaine can cause inflammation and death of the heart muscle, as well as deterioration of the heart’s ability to contract. It can also cause aortic ruptures or angina and lead to permanent high blood pressure.
6. Breathing and Respiration
Those who smoke cocaine also will experience severe long-term effects, including respiratory issues, because cocaine stops oxygen from entering the bloodstream since it destroys capillaries that carry oxygen throughout the body. Smoking cocaine can also cause a higher risk of potentially fatal issues like pneumonia or permanent conditions like asthma.
7. The Brain
Since cocaine causes the blood vessels to constrict, prolonged use of the drug will lead to a reduction in the amount of oxygen the brain receives. Unfortunately, this can lead to permanent brain damage and increase the likelihood someone has an aneurysm. Other risks include seizures, strokes, cerebral atrophy, and cerebral vasculitis, which is inflammation of blood vessels in the brain and spinal column.
Long-term cocaine consumption can also lead to impairment of your cognitive functions, including areas that affect attention span, decision making, impulse inhibition, and motor skills. Cocaine will also age your brain and lead to long-term memory issues, as well as impact your mental health.
Cocaine consumption will also reduce the flow of blood to your intestines and stomach, which can lead to tears and ulcers. It may also lead to ischemic colitis, where your large intestine becomes inflamed and injured.
9. Liver and Kidneys
Chronic cocaine consumption can lead to the death of muscle fibers and cause contents to enter the bloodstream. It can lead to muscle damage and have severe complications for the kidneys. Cocaine is extremely toxic, and as it’s metabolized, it can lead to significant injury.
Known Side Effects of Cocaine
“People who abuse cocaine may be at risk for serious and unusual health complications. They may also be at risk for addiction. Each hit of cocaine changes brain chemistry, and those changes can lead to compulsive drug use. ”
People who have these extensive changes may not be able to stop drug use even if they want to. But drug treatment programs can help people build the skills they need to stay sober for life.