Cocaine is an addictive, illegal stimulant drug that when used recreationally gives people a sense of euphoria and a rush of energy. The effects of cocaine are relatively short-lived, which means it lends itself to cycles of binging to maintain the high.

Cocaine is frequently snorted, and it’s gained a reputation over the past few decades as a party drug, and unfortunately, with that comes the misconception it’s not that dangerous or that “everyone is doing it.” Both of these ideas are untrue, and along with being extremely addictive, cocaine has many other health risks, including the potential to lead to sudden cardiac arrest or dangerous behaviors.

When someone uses cocaine in any form, it changes their decision-making abilities and how their brain functions. It also alters certain levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, and that can last even when a person is no longer using cocaine.

Snorting cocaine isn’t the only way this drug is used. There is a water-soluble hydrochloride version of the drug, which can be injected as well as snorted, but there’s also a water-insoluble cocaine base, which is called freebase.

The following provides an overview of what freebase cocaine is, and what the term freebasing cocaine means.

Freebasing Cocaine

Freebasing cocaine, also frequently referred to as freebasing, is one way to use cocaine. When someone is freebasing cocaine, the powder has been converted into something that’s stable when exposed to heat, allowing for it to be heated using something like a glass pipe, and then the vapors can be inhaled into the lungs.

Freebase cocaine has a higher level of lipid solubility, and because of this, it enters the brain much more quickly than other forms of the drug. The high is faster than snorting cocaine, and it’s similar or sometimes faster than injecting it. Most people also feel that the high they get from freebase cocaine is not just faster-acting, but more intense.

The process by which freebase cocaine is created includes extracting certain alkaloids from it, and then from there, it creates one of the purest forms of cocaine available. This makes it not just powerful, but also incredibly addictive.

The Risks of Freebase Cocaine

First and foremost, there are many risks of using cocaine, no matter how it’s administered. Along with being addictive, some of the risks and side effects of cocaine in general include:

  • Additional symptoms and side effects can include:

    • Paranoia
    • Anxiety, panic, and irritability
    • Heart attack
    • Erratic or violent behavior
    • Constricted blood vessels
    • Decreased sexual function
    • Increased body temperature and blood pressure
    • Tremors

Thousands of people also die from cocaine overdoses each year. A cocaine overdose can include complications such as cardiac arrest, stroke, respiratory arrest or sudden death. The risk of overdose is even higher when people combine cocaine with other drugs.

Long-term health effects are possible with any use of cocaine as well. Long-term health effects that often accompany the use of cocaine can include headaches, nosebleeds, weight loss, and chronic fatigue. Long-term health effects of cocaine can also include vascular disease, heart arrhythmias and cardiac complications, seizures, and stroke.

With freebasing cocaine, the risks include all of the ones named above, but there are others possible as well, including respiration problems, damage to the mouth and lungs, and also a higher risk of developing certain kinds of cancer. With freebasing cocaine, it’s also likely that people will experience asthma and burns to the face and fingers.

Freebase Cocaine vs. Hydrochloride & Crack Cocaine

The primary difference between a cocaine freebase and hydrochloride cocaine is in the administration by which it’s used recreationally.

Many people wonder if there is a difference between freebase cocaine and crack cocaine. Both freebase cocaine and crack cocaine include the process of heating the drug, but with freebase cocaine it’s the vapors you’re inhaling, rather than directly smoking it as you do with crack cocaine.

Freebase cocaine is almost entirely pure because of the process used to create it. It reaches the brain quickly, and it is stronger against the heat it’s introduced to when it’s being smoked. Crack cocaine, on the other hand, is treated with baking soda and it as a result of how it’s formed, it leads to a waxy substance that seems almost crystallized, which is why it’s called a crack rock.

Summing Up—What is Freebasing Cocaine?

Freebase cocaine refers to a scenario where a dealer makes cocaine as pure as is possible, and it holds up well to heat, so it can be heated and essentially vaporized, and then the fumes can be inhaled. Freebase cocaine isn’t water soluble, so it would be difficult to inject it. Freebasing cocaine leads to a rapid, intense high, but it’s very short-lived.

Following a high from freebasing cocaine, a person will likely experience a crash that can be even more severe than what people who use cocaine in other ways might go through. A crash from freebasing cocaine can include intense anxiety, fatigue, irritability, depression, and paranoia.

Along with the risks that come with the use of cocaine in general, freebasing cocaine can also raise the risks of respiratory complications, the development of asthma, and the risks of eventually getting certain kinds of cancers. There is also a higher risk of overdosing when someone uses freebase cocaine since it is so pure and potent.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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