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Can Drugs or Cocaine Cause Deviated Septum?

Chronic nasal inhalation of either cocaine or methamphetamine (meth) can lead to the misalignment of the nasal septum. You may be reading this page because you’ve started experiencing some major signs and symptoms of nasal drug use—including nasal mucosal inflammation, perforated septum, or a deviated septum. Or perhaps you are concerned about a friend or loved one who may be developing a deviated septum and suffering other ills as a result of ongoing drug use.

When considering a deviated septum, the most common symptom people experience is that of a congested nose and the associated breathing problems that come with that. The severity of these breathing problems can range from causing a light annoyance to causing a significant disruption in everyday quality of life. You don’t have to live with these breathing difficulties, however. Read on to learn more about this condition and how you can treat and prevent the development of a deviated nasal septum due to chronic drug use.

What is a Deviated Septum?

A deviated septum refers to a misalignment of the bony or cartilage-containing structures that separate either side of the nasal cavity. Septal deviation can arise in conjunction with a number of pathologies including chronic inflammation and perforation.

The septum is the bridge in the center of the nose that divides the nasal cavity in half to create two nostrils. In those with a deviated septum, one nostril is wider than the other.

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, a deviated septum is more common than one would think. In fact, approximately 80% of people have some sort of alignment problem that affects the positioning of their septum.1 However, most people do not realize they have this misalignment until they begin to experience noticeable breathing problems.

What Causes a Deviated Septum?

There are various causes of a deviated septum. While many individuals are born with one—as the condition is often hereditary—there are a number of other factors that can contribute to the septum becoming misaligned:

  • Injury.
  • Trauma.
  • Nose-picking.
  • Various diseases including cancer, syphilis, tuberculosis.
  • Habitual cocaine or meth use.

How Meth and Cocaine Cause Deviated Septums

Repeated irritation to the cartilage and lining of the nose results in an increased risk of a deviated septum. This is why frequent of certain drugs such as cocaine or meth use through snorting can cause this type of injury.

Sometimes the condition may go away on its own—especially if drug use ceases right away. If not, continued use will just make the situation worse. If you are one of these individuals who continues cocaine or meth use, you may suffer from breathing problems or lose your ability to smell. It may become so severe that surgery is required.

Symptoms of a Deviated Septum

Nasal congestion is the most common symptom of a deviated septum. One nostril is typically more congested than the other. The range of symptoms for a deviated septum includes:8

  • Stuffy nose.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Difficulty breathing through the nose.
  • Recurrent sinus infections.
  • Crusty or dry nasal passages.
  • Nosebleeds.
  • Headaches.
  • Loud snoring.
  • Postnasal drip.
  • Facial pain.

If a perforation (hole) in the septum is present, some people may even hear a whistling sound when air passes through the perforated septum. Since a perforated septum is otherwise uncommon, its presence may strongly indicate inhaled drug use.

Treatment for a Deviated Septum

The standard treatment for a deviated septum is surgical. However, the best preventative and maintenance treatment is eliminating the primary cause of your deviated septum—chronic cocaine or meth use.

Deviated Septum Surgery

Those who are experiencing severe discomfort from a deviated septum can typically fix the problem with surgery. The procedure is called “septoplasty” and involves repositioning, trimming, and substituting nasal bone and cartilage. Septoplasty has been reported as having a success rate of 89%—where patients experienced significantly decreased nasal symptoms as a result of the surgery.2

What You Should Know About Septoplasty

Here are some things you should know if you are considering septoplasty to treat your deviated nasal septum:3,4

  • Some people have septoplasty in combination with rhinoplasty (to fix the nose’s appearance) or with sinus surgery (to repair associated sinus problems).
  • The surgery takes about 60-90 minutes, and you will most likely go home the same day.
  • Errant cartilage or bone blocking the airway is repositioned or removed.
  • Packing material or splints may be used inside the nose to prevent nosebleeds and keep the septum and mucous membrane in place.
  • Packing material is usually taken out 24-36 hours after surgery.
  • You may experience drainage or swelling for several days after the surgery.
  • For best results, septoplasty should be performed after age 15, when the nose has stopped growing. This could be even later in boys.
  • Risks of septoplasty include infection, bleeding, breathing problems, scarring, or recurrent nasal blockage.
  • For minor cases, balloon septoplasty (using an inflatable catheter to open up the collapsed nasal/sinus passage) can be done in an office setting without actually having to perform surgery.

Treating the Underlying Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine and meth use can cause many health problems, and these problems go far beyond those of the nasal septum. A deviated septum can be just one physical sign of a larger issue—that of chronic substance abuse. Furthermore, a deviated or perforated septum is highly likely to return if the drug abuse persists.7 To prevent this inevitability, the underlying cocaine or meth addiction will need to be managed. Otherwise, you could be back in the same situation in the near future.

Check Your Insurance Coverage for Cocaine Addiction Rehab

If you are looking for cocaine addiction treatment, it can feel overwhelming. As you consider your options, knowing exactly what your insurance plan covers can give you peace of mind while you or your loved one is in rehab. You can do the work of getting and staying sober without worrying about unexpected costs or financial struggles. For more information on what your insurance plan covers, call AAC at , or fill out the form below.

Cocaine and Drug Addiction Treatment

A few different types of addiction treatment facilities are available for you to choose from, depending on your unique needs and circumstances.

Each program type will typically involve a phase of detox, followed by some combination of group and individual therapy.

  • Luxury addiction treatment facilities offer 24/7 residential care with the additional benefits of high-end, resort-like amenities.
  • Executive facilities also offer residential addiction treatment with many of the same lavish amenities that luxury programs offer—only they also allow busy working professionals to remain actively involved in their work life throughout their recovery period.
  • Standard addiction treatment facilities provide addiction treatment on either an inpatient (residential) or outpatient (non-residential) basis. While these traditional treatment programs do not offer the same array of amenities that are offered by luxury or executive programs, they do correspondingly come with a lower price tag—making treatment more affordable for some individuals.

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