Snorting cocaine can cause nasal problems like permanent physical damage or nose bleeds. Learn more about why cocaine causes nose bleeds and what to do about them.

Nose bleeds are inconvenient, messy and sometimes painful. Most people will get at least one nose bleed during their life. However, some people get frequent nose bleeds. One risk factor for nose bleeds is cocaine use. If you or someone you know uses cocaine, you may be at increased risk for nose bleeds, especially if you snort the drug. Therefore, it is important to understand how cocaine causes nose bleeds, how to manage them, and what complications can arise.

Article at a Glance:

Important points to remember about cocaine and nose bleeds include:

  • Snorting cocaine can lead to nosebleeds because of damage to the skin and blood vessels in the nose
  • Most nose bleeds can be managed at home
  • Nose bleeds that last for longer than 20 minutes need medical attention
  • Other nasal symptoms like sniffing and runny nose can also result from snorting cocaine
  • Over time, cocaine use can damage the bone structure inside the nose

Snorting Cocaine and Nose Bleeds

Snorting cocaine can cause a few different nasal symptoms like:

  • Nose bleeds
  • Frequent sniffing and runny nose
  • Sinus problems
  • Problems with your sense of smell
  • Scabs inside the nose

Nose bleeds are a common side effect of snorting cocaine. Doctors think that nose bleeds from cocaine are due to a couple of different factors. Snorting cocaine can both irritate the skin and harm the blood vessels in the nose. Ironically, because cocaine makes blood vessels constrict, in some cases doctors use it to help nose bleeds. For this reason, in a hospital setting, topical cocaine is sometimes used to treat or prevent severe nosebleeds. However, it is important to remember that this type of cocaine is topical — not snorted. Additionally, doctors use medical-grade cocaine and not the kind bought on the street.

Why Does Cocaine Make Your Nose Bleed?

Snorting cocaine can cause problems to the skin and tissues in the nasal septum, the wall in the nose between the nostrils. Over time, snorting cocaine can cause wounds in the nasal septum. Symptoms of these wounds include:

  • Nose bleeds
  • Facial pain
  • Destruction of the skin, tissues and bones in the nose

Snorting cocaine causes the nasal blood vessels to constrict, meaning that they carry less blood. However, the tissues in the nose rely on this blood flow to stay healthy. Without enough blood, the tissue may become unhealthy or die. Therefore, snorting cocaine can damage the skin, bones and tissues in the nose. In severe cases, the entire nose can collapse.

Injecting Cocaine and Nose Bleeds

When a person injects cocaine into their veins, the drug does not come into contact with the nose. So, injecting cocaine does not cause nose bleeds. However, injecting cocaine has been linked to other kinds of bleeding, including brain bleeds.

Smoking Cocaine and Nose Bleeds

Cocaine does not come into direct contact with your nose when you smoke it. Therefore, smoking cocaine is not likely to cause nosebleeds. Snorting cocaine is more commonly associated with nose bleeds.

How to Treat a Nose Bleed from Cocaine Use

About 90% of nose bleeds are minor and can be treated at home. Nose bleeds from cocaine use are similar to nose bleeds caused by other factors and can often be treated the same way. Steps to treat a nosebleed at home include:

  • Sit down to avoid falling
  • Lean forward to avoid swallowing blood
  • Breathe through your mouth
  • Gently squeeze your nostrils closed with your thumb and index finger for 10 minutes
  • Do not put anything (like gauze or tissue) inside your nose

If your nose does not stop bleeding after 20 minutes, you should seek medical attention. Most nose bleeds happen in just one nostril. Nose bleeds that happen in both nostrils at the same time can be serious indicators of a health issue and harder to control. In very rare cases, nose bleeds can be serious enough to be life-threatening.

Risk Factors of Severe Nosebleeds from Cocaine

Risk factors for severe nose bleeds include:

  • Having just had surgery on your nose
  • Being on blood thinners
  • Having a problem with your natural blood clotting factors
  • Having an aneurysm in the blood vessels in your nose

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more

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U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Nosebleed.” August 25, 2017. Accessed June 12, 2019.

Tabassom, Ayesha; Cho, Julia. “Epistaxis (Nose Bleed).” StatPearls, January 30, 2019. Accessed June 12, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.