THESE graphic photos of eroded noses and blistering sores might seem like the stuff of nightmares – but for some cocaine users they’re an everyday reality.
Known as “coke nose”, it’s the result of extreme cocaine abuse and surgeons warn it’s reaching worryingly high levels in the UK.
Cocaine use has doubled in the UK over the last five years, with close to a million Brits taking the drug last year.
The numbers are particularly high among young people, with 20 per cent of 16-24-year-olds admitting using over the last 12 months.
The Sun is highlighting this worrying trend in our End Of The Line campaign, which highlights the devastating effect even casual use can have.
Here the physical effects are laid bare, as users are left with rotten skin, flattened and collapsed noses and needing lengthy, and painful, reconstructive rhinoplasty surgery.
These delicate operations involve taking bone and forehead or cheek skin and rebuilding the nose.
It’s not just the extensive emotional and physical toll users are hit with either as a complex full reconstruction op costs up to £30,000 and can stretch over years as it can’t be done in one sitting.
Just one day’s excessive use can cause a problem, especially as coke nose deterioration happens quickly and isn’t the gradual process many users presume.
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Coke nose cases soar in five years
Danniella Westbrook infamously destroyed her septum with years of severe cocaine abuse.
Her plight has been used as a cautionary tale but despite this and other repeated warnings, surgeons have seen a surge in patients with coke nose over the last few years.
Speaking exclusively to The Sun, surgeon Mr Taimur Shoaib, from Harley Health Village, says: “In my opinion cocaine use is on the rise, and I am seeing more patients coming in for rhinoplasties who have used cocaine. Five years ago this wasn’t the case.
“The average age is someone in their mid-thirties and the biggest demographic rise that I see is males in the restaurant and financial professions.
“For people with extreme cocaine abuse issues, their nose may collapse and it is a complex problem with regards to reconstruction, often with multiple plastic surgery procedures.
There’s no denying the effects can be devastating. Former user Ian Higginson’s 25-year habit left him with painful sores, and ‘lumps of flesh’ falling out of his nose.
But it doesn’t always take this long for damage to occur, with medics warning problems can quickly escalate.
“Just one day’s excess use could cut off the blood supply for hours and cause permanent damage to the nose,” Mr Shoaib says.
“When the nose collapses it is usually not a gradual development – before you know it the nose has collapsed.”
In extreme cases, the nose can disappear inside the face entirely.
End Of The Line
Cocaine use is reaching epidemic levels in Britain, with the UK branded the ‘Coke capital’ of Europe.
Use has doubled in the last five years, and with young people the numbers are even worse.
A staggering one in five 16-to-24-year-olds have taken cocaine in the last year.
That’s why The Sun has launched its End Of The Line campaign, calling for more awareness around the drug.
Cocaine use can cause mental health problems such as anxiety and paranoia, while doctors have linked the rise in cheap, potent coke to an increase in suicide rates.
People from all walks of life, from builders and labourers to celebrities like Jeremy McConnell – who is backing our campaign – have fallen foul of its lure.
It’s an issue that is sweeping the UK and, unless its tackled now, means a mental health crisis is imminent.
“Cocaine cuts off the blood supply to the nose and regular use of large volumes of cocaine will repeatedly cut off the supply of blood and increases the chances of the nose collapsing,” Mr Shoaib says.
The nose flattens because of lack of support, meaning the tip pushes towards the face.
In extreme cases, like Danniella’s, the septum can disintegrate.
In 2000 shocking images emerged of the actress’ rotten septum as she left at a British Soap Awards afterparty. Her horrendous disfigurement was a result of snorting up to 11 bags of cocaine a day.
‘I see noses like deflated bouncy castles’
Mr Callum Faris, a surgeon at the Nose Reconstruction Clinic explains: “Collapsing, scarring and shrinking of the nose happens because the inner lining just pulls the entire nose inwards – like when you deflate a bouncy castle and it folds in on itself.
“The skin lining is sucking the nose inwards because of the inflammation and infection from the cocaine use.
“In some patients the entire nose goes inside and just disappears.”
This is obviously in extreme cases, but even casual use can cause other nasal problems.
“People will almost always develop a septal perforation – a hole in the septum – first before developing other signs with the nose,” Mr Faris, who insists patients are clean for nine to 12 months before he will operate on them, explains.
“As they enlarge there are other symptoms such as blockage, crusting due to the nose drying out, congestion and some bleeding from the nose.”
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‘Injuries can quickly become devastating’
We previously revealed around two thirds of the UK’s supply is cut with an animal dewormer known as Levamisole, which can cause body parts to rot, and also speed up damage to the nose.
It’s something Mr Faris has first-hand experience of.
“It’s rare, but for certain individuals who we believe are genetically susceptible, it [Levamisole-cut cocaine] can cause drug-induced vasculitis – an inflammation of the blood vessels,” he says.
“For these people, they don’t have to have huge amounts of usage of cocaine cut with Levamisole before they can have quite a devastating injury.”
While there is surgery available to help those suffering from coke nose, it’s by no means a simple procedure.
In many cases a septoplasty and reconstruction of the columella (the bar of skin between the nostrils) are both required.
The first involves delicate cutting inside the nostril as bone and/or cartilage is trimmed and repositioned.
“In the case of reconstructing the columella, skin from the patient’s cheek or forehead may be used to reconstruct a replacement,” consultant surgeon Dr Gerard Lambe says.
“Incisions are made above the lip line and nose tip, to provide a proportioned connector space and the new columella skin is secured in place.”
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Am I addicted to cocaine? The signs and symptoms of addiction
Cocaine is highly addictive and what can start out as a one-off can quickly turn into a habit.
Regular use of the drug changes the way the brain releases dopamine – a chemical in the brain that makes you feel happy.
But the high is short-lived so often users will take more to feel the desired effects again.
Over time, the body and brain can become too used to cocaine that it builds up a tolerance, which means you have to take more to feel the same high.
If you recognise any of the following behaviours in yourself, it might mean you’ve developed an addiction to cocaine:
- You’re taking more of the drug to feel the effects
- When you stop or reduce your dosage, you feel agitated, restless and depressed
- You’re struggling to cut down or control how much you take, even if you try to
- You spend a lot of time thinking about and trying to get cocaine
- You’re disregarding family, friends and work in favour of taking cocaine
- You know the damage it’s doing to you, but you can’t stop taking it
Despite being experts in the field and well-equipped to deal with most reconstructions, even the surgeons admit trying to repair the damage caused by cocaine isn’t straight forward – and can take years.
“To rebuild a collapsed nose is a complex case of multiple plastic surgery procedures,” Mr Shoaib warns. “There is also a failure rate associated with these procedures too.
“After the operation it takes up to three months to see if it has been a success and then another nine to ten months to wait before you can do the next procedure.
“With every operation there is scarring and the surgeon will have to wait a year for the scarring to settle down before they can perform the next stage.”
As part of our campaign, Jeremy McConnell has revealed his struggles while gripped by cocaine addiction.
We also spoke to Sarah – one of the many women snorting coke in a desperate bid to stay skinny.