Cocaine is an addictive, illegal stimulant drug. When used recreationally, it 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 has gained a reputation over the past few decades as a party drug, and that comes the misconception it’s not as dangerous or that “everyone is doing it.” Both of these ideas are untrue. 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, which can last long after a person stops using cocaine.

Cocaine is usually snorted, but that isn’t the only way this drug is used. There is a water-soluble hydrochloride version of the drug, which can be injected and snorted, and a water-insoluble cocaine base called freebase.

Freebasing Cocaine

Freebasing cocaine, also referred to as just “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. This means it can be heated using a glass pipe to inhale the vapors 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 from freebase cocaine is more intense.

The process by which freebase cocaine is created includes extracting certain alkaloids from it. This creates one of the purest forms of cocaine available. It is not only powerful but incredibly addictive.

The Risks of Freebase Cocaine

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.

Additional symptoms and side effects of cocaine use 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. There is also a higher risk of overdosing when someone uses freebase cocaine since it is so pure and potent.

Long-term health effects that often accompany cocaine use can include:

  • Headaches
  • Nosebleeds
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Vascular disease
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Cardiac complications
  • Seizures
  • Stroke

Freebasing cocaine carries all these general cocaine risks and adds others related to inhaling the substance, including:

  • Burns to the face and fingers
  • Damage to the mouth and lungs
  • Asthma
  • Respiration problems

Freebase Cocaine vs. Hydrochloride & Crack Cocaine

The primary difference between a cocaine freebase and hydrochloride cocaine is how it’s used. Cocaine hydrochloride is water-soluble and is either injected or snorted. Freebase cocaine is heated and inhaled through a pipe.

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 would 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, so it isn’t as pure. As a result of how it’s formed, crack cocaine is a waxy substance that seems almost crystallized, which is why it’s called a crack rock.

Any cocaine use is abuse, but freebasing cocaine for a more potent high is often a clear indication of cocaine addiction. If you or a loved one are abusing cocaine, help is available. Addiction specialists at The Recovery Village can help you start a cocaine-free life with treatment options tailored to meet your needs. Contact us today to get started.

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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