Respiratory complications of cocaine abuse

Recent Dev Alcohol. 1992;10:363-77. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4899-1648-8_18.


Upper respiratory and pulmonary complications of cocaine addiction have been increasingly reported in recent years, with most of the patients being intravenous addicts, users of freebase, or smokers of "crack." The toxicity of cocaine is complex and is exerted via multiple central and peripheral pathways. Recurrent snorting of cocaine may result in ischemia, necrosis, and infections of the nasal mucosa, sinuses, and adjacent structures. Pulmonary complications of cocaine toxicity include pulmonary edema, pulmonary hemorrhages, pulmonary barotrauma, foreign body granulomas, cocaine related pulmonary infection, obliterative bronchiolitis, asthma, and persistent gas-exchange abnormalities. Respiratory manifestations are nonspecific and include shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, hemoptysis, and chest pains. Severe respiratory difficulties have been reported in neonates of abusing mothers. In the absence of a cocaine-abuse history, it may be difficult to recognize the etiological role of cocaine, especially in the absence of needle tracks pointing to previous intravenous drug abuse and/or negative toxicology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cocaine / adverse effects*
  • Crack Cocaine / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Lung Diseases, Obstructive / chemically induced*
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation


  • Crack Cocaine
  • Cocaine