Freebasing Cocaine

Estimated reading time: 32 minute(s)

Cocaine is a well-known powerful stimulant often available in a powdered form that users snort through the nose. The drug’s high potency can lead to instant euphoria, excess energy, and heightened attention. Despite being strong, these effects are very brief, forcing users to re-use the product and ultimately getting pushed into binge use. This repetitive, frequent use of cocaine can also lead to tolerance and total chemical dependence, leading to unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when someone discontinues using it. Regardless of the form of cocaine you use, it can eventually lead to compulsive behaviors that become persistent despite causing visible damage.

Freebase cocaine is a unique form of cocaine that is getting popular among its users for its higher purity and quicker mechanism of action. Smoking this form can hit the central nervous system much faster than snorting, helping users achieve maximal concentration and effects. However, this rapid mechanism of action also makes freebase cocaine more likely to cause dependence and addiction.

What is Freebasing Cocaine?

Freebasing is a common term that people who routinely use and abuse illicit drugs are aware of. This scientific term describes changing a drug into its solid “base” form. Cocaine is generally available in a salt form, and many drug users convert it to the base form using ammonia. During the process, ammonia separates all additives from the drug, including the most important one called hydrochloride. Hence, what they get after the freebasing process is 100% pure cocaine.

Pure freebased cocaine is pure, meaning people using it can get a much stronger high. Additionally, such cocaine types have lower melting points, making the drug easier to smoke. Freebasing cocaine is, unfortunately, nearly impossible to inject, so smoking it remains the primary method of consumption.

While freebasing is generally considered a scientific process, remember that there is nothing too complicated about freebasing cocaine. The process simply includes letting the cocaine stash go through the purification process and smoking its pure-based-reduced form. In the past, many individuals used a small copper piece as a reduction base and used to place a copper on it. They heated this piece of copper to allow the cocaine on top to melt, boil, and turn into a vapor. Following this process, they used a glass pipe or a similar tube-like tool to inhale the steam that formed due to heating.

As purifying cocaine and inhaling it is termed freebasing, this term’s definition and meaning often remain unclear. Some people call inhaling the freebased cocaine “freebasing,” while others believe it refers to turning regular cocaine into its additive-free, pure form. It is also interesting to know that making freebase cocaine is similar to the one people use to smoke crack cocaine. Hence, many experts use the terms interchangeably.

Possible Symptoms and Effects of Freebasing Cocaine

Smoking freebase cocaine produces a much stronger and faster effect on the central nervous system than snorting its powdered form. The drug quickly absorbs through the lung membranes and reaches the heart. The heart pumps it straight to the brain, leading to the desired effects in 15 seconds or so. On the contrary, when people snort the freebased cocaine, the drug takes an alternative path to reach the brain, which is slower and less direct.

Regardless of how much or how frequently a person smokes freebase cocaine, its euphoric rush is brief and may dissipate as quickly as it shows, i.e., within five minutes. On the other hand, snorting this form of cocaine has a relatively slower onset, but its effects are generally steady, lasting up to half an hour. Following are some adverse side effects that appear shortly as you use freebase cocaine:

  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Profuse sweating
  • Pinpoint pupils
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Increased body temperature
  • Burn injuries to fingers or face
  • Insomnia

Consuming large amounts of freebase cocaine has also been associated with violent and erratic behaviors. Some users also report experiencing vertigo, muscle cramps, and tremors.

If someone does not continue ingesting freebase cocaine, the euphoric effects dissipate within 30 minutes, followed by a crash or withdrawal. The symptoms of this withdrawal may include depressive thoughts, anxiety, paranoia, irritability, and fatigue. On the other hand, someone who continues to use the drug day after day may put themselves at risk of acquiring long-term side effects, which may include the following:

  • Mood instability
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Heart palpitations and heart attacks
  • Increasing damage to mouth and lungs
  • Chronic anxiety and depression
  • Persistent hallucinations and paranoia
  • Ongoing irritability and restlessness
  • Respiratory issues, such as asthma

The Possible Dangers of Freebasing Cocaine

All types of cocaine are harmful to health, regardless it contains hydrochloride (HCl) additives or is freebase. However, the latter comes with certain unique dangers, such as lung damage and a much-elevated risk of addiction and overdose. Let’s briefly evaluate these risks one by one.

Cocaine Addiction

Everyone knows the risk of addiction when abusing illicit substances, such as cocaine. However, this risk becomes notably higher in people who smoke freebase cocaine instead of its traditional HCl-containing forms. Similarly, the method of consumption also plays a significant role in determining freebase cocaine’s addiction potential. Those who smoke it are likelier to experience a faster but short-lived euphoria than those snorting it. Hence, this short-lived euphoria forces them to keep using the drug repeatedly until their bodies become physically dependent on the drug.

For some people, freebase cocaine becomes such an essential part of life that they neglect their work, school, and other personal responsibilities. Their finances take a dip, and their interpersonal relationships start acquiring damage. Even when such people attempt to quit freebasing cocaine, their bodies refuse by developing uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that ultimately force them to relapse.

Cocaine Overdose

Because freebase cocaine is a much purer version of the drug with no extra additives, using it can put a person at a much higher risk of an overdose. Hence, if you or someone you know who routinely uses this drug starts developing the following symptoms, get help from emergency medical personnel at once:

  • Fast heart rate
  • Symptoms of stroke, i.e., slurry speech, limb weakening, etc.
  • Hyperventilation or labored breathing
  • Coma
  • Convulsions

A person exhibiting the signs mentioned above can be at a higher risk of acquiring a stroke, seizure, and even death. These risks become more imminent in people who use alcohol alongside smoking freebase cocaine. Remember that an overdose is treatable, provided a person seeks help within a specific time frame.

Respiratory and Lung Conditions

As per the latest research, cocaine use can lead to various short-term respiratory issues, such as chest pain, black sputum, and cough. Its long-term use, on the other hand, can also induce a variety of pulmonary conditions, such as the following:

  • Empyema, a condition where pus accumulates in the lungs due to an infection
  • Infections such as tuberculosis
  • Septic embolism
  • Aspiration or organizing pneumonia
  • Pulmonary edema, hypertension, or infarction
  • Lung abscess
  • Vasculitis and diffuse alveolar hemorrhage

Increased Risk of HIV/Hepatitis

Alcohol and drug use can easily compromise decision-making and judgment, forcing individuals to pursue risky sexual encounters without considering it. One of these encounters includes trading sex for drugs. Such behavior can increase the risk of acquiring certain diseases, such as hepatitis C and HIV. Although experts have a much improved and intricate plan for fighting these infections, it can still severely impact the overall life. The persistent unavailability of vaccines to protect people from contracting these illnesses makes the entire situation riskier. Cocaine can also lead to the development of NeuroAIDS, a terminology that refers to all neurological conditions related to HIV infection.

Heart Problems

Because cocaine acts as a stimulant, it can negatively affect the body. It can also be hazardous for people with pre-existing heart issues or hypertension as it can worsen them.

Seeking Help for Freebase Cocaine Addiction

Currently, no specific medications are available to treat cocaine addiction and abuse. However, experts offer various therapies to combat the psychological effects and keep them under control. One of the best and most effective therapies is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, which identifies negative behaviors and helps people replace them with positive ones. As a result, addicted individuals can free themselves from the stagnant routine of addiction and break out of the cycle to pursue a clean and healthy life.

Other treatment approaches to combat cocaine abuse may include the following:

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy
  • Dual diagnosis program
  • Wilderness therapy
  • Gender-based treatment
  • Adventure therapy

Many rehabs also offer aftercare services to people who frequently freebase cocaine to ensure they maintain a sober life. These aftercare services run per the 12-step programs and include various options, such as support groups, transitional living, sober arrangements, and more.


What’s the difference between freebased vs crack cocaine?

During the 1970s, cocaine users devised a way to free cocaine from other impurities and additives by using ether. This step aimed to obtain the purest forms of cocaine so that they could experience more intense highs. For this purpose, users would place cocaine on a freebase and heat it with a torch or lighters until it vaporized. They would inhale these vapors to achieve euphoria and other effects related to cocaine quickly. However, this method was not feasible as ether was highly flammable, and there was always a lingering risk of an explosive disaster. After experiencing many freebasing accidents, the cocaine community came up with crack cocaine, an equally strong substance with a lot safer method of consumption. The use of crack cocaine involves sodium bicarbonate or baking soda to remove the hydrochloride additive. The end product is a crystal rock that users can smoke through a pipe. Crack cocaine is similar to freebase cocaine, with only differences in the manufacturing process.

Is freebasing more addictive than other types of cocaine?

Cocaine in any form can be addictive as its regular use or misuse can interfere with the way the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of overall well-being and reward. Due to these direct effects on dopamine, cocaine stands out among all other drugs for having the highest potential for psychological dependence. When it comes to different varieties of cocaine, the freebase variant leads to more cases of addiction because of its more intense but short-lived mechanism of action and effects. This means users will get instant gratification and euphoria after using the freebase version. Still, because these effects wear off rather quickly, they must keep using them to maintain the high. Because of this repetitive indulgence, freebase cocaine is likely to be more addictive.

Why do people like to freebase cocaine?

Per various reports and statistics, freebase cocaine is becoming much more popular in the target populations than the standard cocaine varieties. The biggest reason for this rising popularity is that freebase cocaine is more readily available. Its price has also decreased since 2007, making it a more affordable option, especially in the long run. This variety is also much easier to find, and people do not usually struggle as much as they have to acquire other forms of cocaine.

Can freebase cocaine cause withdrawals?

Just like the traditional forms of cocaine, abusing freebase cocaine can also put a person at risk of experiencing withdrawal when they stop using it. Some experts believe the withdrawal symptoms secondary to freebase cocaine addiction are likely much more intense than a regular variant. These withdrawal symptoms may include heightened fatigue, anxiety, intense drug cravings, muscle pain, nervousness, and consistent thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

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