Freebasing Cocaine: Effects and Risks of Freebasing
What Is Freebasing?
Freebase cocaine is essentially the “base” form of the drug – the drug in its solid form.
Freebasing cocaine is the process of freeing the cocaine base from the salt form in which cocaine is naturally found. While crack cocaine is produced by mixing the original cocaine with a combination of water and baking soda, freebase cocaine comes from using ammonia to extract the base.
Freebase cocaine has virtually none of the drug’s additive, hydrochloride. It is essentially the product of converting powder cocaine to cocaine sulfate. The result is a form of cocaine that is almost 100 percent pure. In this form, it has a low melting point, which makes it easier to smoke. Freebase cocaine is not soluble in water, so it is difficult to melt and inject the drug.
There are various methods for freebasing cocaine. Typically, it involves using a small glass pipe. A small piece of clean, heavy copper is used as a reduction base in which the cocaine can be melted and boiled to a vapor. The freebase cocaine is then smoked.
Effects of Freebasing Cocaine
Since it is consumed by smoking, the effects of freebasing cocaine are felt almost immediately.1 Since freebase cocaine is absorbed through the membranes of the lungs, it enters the bloodstream and the brain within 10-15 seconds. Once it reaches the brain, there is an intense feeling of euphoria followed by an extreme high lasting about 30 minutes.
The high is intense and comes on fast, but it is generally short-lived and followed by a crash. Once the euphoric effects begin to dissipate, the user typically feels extreme fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, and paranoia.
Short-term physical effects include excessive sweating, nausea, pinpoint pupils, insomnia, headaches, and a decline in sexual function. Long-term effects of freebase cocaine use include mood changes, irritability, restlessness, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.
In addition, smoking the substance brings various negative health effects, such as respiration issues, damage to the lungs and mouth, and a higher likelihood of developing various cancers. With chronic use, damage to all body systems can occur, including:
- Heart palpitations, heart failure, and heart attack
- Asthma and other respiratory issues
Other risks of freebasing include burns to the face or fingers from glass pipes or matches and lighters during use. Additionally, users are prone to injuries from accidents or violence while under the influence.
Withdrawal and Overdose
It is easy to develop a freebase cocaine abuse problem because the drug is so highly addictive, particularly when taken in this form. As such, issues with cocaine withdrawal often arise. While cocaine tends produce more psychological withdrawal symptoms than physical, the effects of these psychological symptoms can be intense. Withdrawal symptoms include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Muscle pain
- Suicidal or self-harming thoughts
- Strong cravings for the drug
Those who smoke freebase cocaine, as well as crack, are at higher risk for overdose because it is pure cocaine, which makes it extremely potent. If users are accustomed to smoking crack or using powdered cocaine, they may have no idea how much freebase cocaine to smoke, easily taking in high doses that result in overdose. Overdose is also likely because of the intensity and sudden onset of freebase cocaine’s effects. The risk of overdose is compounded if use of freebase cocaine is combined with use of any other substances, such as alcohol.