What is “Freebasing” Cocaine? What are the Dangers Associated?

Last Updated: Sep 23rd 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

What is “Freebasing” Cocaine? What are the Dangers Associated?

Freebase cocaine is a dangerous and much more potent version of cocaine. Freebasing is the act of smoking this substance, highly increasing the user’s risk for a fatal overdose. It is really important to understand the dangers of freebasing so you or a loved one can make informed, smart decisions. We are here to guide you through what freebasing is and how we can help.

What Is “Freebasing” Cocaine?

Freebase cocaine isolates the substance from additives. This then results in an almost entirely pure form of cocaine. Cocaine in its purest form is potent and highly addictive. There are detrimental health effects regarding freebase cocaine, as well as an even higher risk for a drug overdose. 

It is important for us to walk you through the dangers and harsh reality of freebasing cocaine. Drug abuse and addiction are no easy obstacles to overcome, but they are most certainly overcomeable. The more informed you are on the problem, the more measures you can take to make sure you’re making smart decisions. 

Freebase cocaine is also a solid form of the drug. In other words – it’s base form. In these cases, cocaine is smoked as a solid which is labeled as crack cocaine. “Freebasing,” allows users to experience the drug in its purest form, resulting in life-threatening effects.

It’s a dangerous drug and that’s why we want to make sure you’re informed.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a cocaine addiction, please know that you can seek help. Begin your road to recovery by contacting us here today. 

Our staff is here to help.

Why “Freebase” Cocaine?

After the base of cocaine has been freed, taking away the additive, what’s left is a pure form of the drug. The low melting point is what makes it smokeable. 

When a substance is smoked, the effects tend to be felt more immediately regarding any type of drug. This also applies when it comes to smoking freebase cocaine. For a drug user that’s looking to feel the effects as quickly as possible, freebasing may be something they choose to do without realizing how dangerous it really is. 

What are the Effects of Freebase Cocaine? 

This results in a feeling that can be described as a euphoric rush. The effects of smoking this type of cocaine are felt seconds after. It is very short-lived, usually lasting less than 30 minutes. The intensity of this rush is what gets people hooked. 

The high can be described by having an immense amount of energy, clear focus, as well as hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch. The feeling after the high is classified as the come-down. Not only does it last longer, but it is just as intense and far less pleasant. Although the high entices people to try this, the low is far worse and completely reverses any positive feelings felt during the high. 

These are the extreme feelings that can be felt during a cocaine comedown: 

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Depression

These feelings are severe enough to keep people from every freebasing again. This intense switch in emotions is dangerous and can lead to serious issues in the abuse and addiction to cocaine. Chasing the high that freebasing gives creates a toxic cycle. 

Long-Term Effects of Cocaine Freebasing

Malnourishment and lack of appetite are common effects. During a binge, a person abusing cocaine may take dose after dose to continue feeling the high that it creates. Since effects are short-lived, users end up binging the drug not realizing how much they’re actually taking. The long-term effects of freebasing cocaine are unavoidable.

Binges can be dangerous due to the risk of overdose from a large amount of cocaine in the body all within a small time frame. Also, cocaine abuse can cause someone to be irritable and restless, as well as extremely paranoid.

Paranoia may be one of the more detrimental effects of cocaine abuse. It happens especially after binges, and can even result in delusions and hallucinations. Abusing cocaine for an extended amount of time can also damage nerves, affecting movement, and may even lead to Parkinson’s disease.

Consequences of Extended Cocaine Freebasing

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) explains, “repeated use of cocaine can cause long-term changes in the brain’s reward circuit and other brain systems, which may lead to addiction.” Developing an addiction occurs when somebody uses a substance for an extended amount of time, thus developing a dependency on it. Freebase cocaine is severely addictive with serious consequences.

Addiction changes the way a person’s brain responds to feelings of pleasure (reward). Abusing freebase cocaine leads to an excess buildup in the brain of the chemical dopamine. The brain eventually adapts to this change, no longer responding to the drug’s effects. In other words, one may adopt a tolerance to the drug thus needing much more to get the same effect. It is a dangerous rabbit hole to go down that leads to nowhere good. 

Because the brain so enjoyed the first and any subsequent rush feelings associated with abuse, it craves that feeling. Cravings can become so intense that they disrupt your daily functioning. Life with addiction becomes all about seeking a way to fulfill and ease the cravings. The dependency takes over your emotional and mental state, clouding your thoughts and judgment.

When people try to ignore these cravings or have no access to cocaine, withdrawal occurs. This process can be physically challenging, as the body responds to the brain’s urges. 

Cocaine withdrawal may be characterized by:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pain
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Unpleasant dreams
  • Slowed thought process
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression
  • Fatigue

To alleviate the troubling process of withdrawal, those who are addicted may begin taking more frequent and/or higher doses. This can lead to overdose, which can end up being fatal.

Risks Of Cocaine Overdose

When somebody overdoses, the outcome is often fatal. A nearly pure form of cocaine can be significantly more dangerous. Many types of the drug are mixed with something which then makes the substance less potent. Freebase cocaine is both pure and smoked which enables people to feel the effects quicker. Feeling the effects quicker with such an intense onset increases the user’s risk of overdosing.

In cases when a person is addicted and starts increasing doses or dosage frequency, this is especially true. It could be easy to accidentally take too much of the drug. Also, people who typically take crack cocaine or the powdered form may not understand how strong freebase cocaine is. When switching to smoking freebase, the user may take way too much the first time because they’re not aware of how significant the effects are. 

Overdose is a medical emergency which means it must be treated that way. Symptoms of cocaine overdose consist of convulsions, increased heart rate, hyperventilation, and coma.

The health consequences of cocaine abuse and overdose include irregular heart rhythm, heart attacks, seizures, and strokes, according to the NIDA.

Treatment For Cocaine Abuse

There are currently no specific medications available for the treatment of cocaine abuse. However, multiple kinds of therapy have proven effective. According to NIDA, one of the best forms of treatment available is cognitive-behavioral therapy.

This evidence-based method helps addicted individuals free themselves from the stagnancy and routine of addiction. Once a person’s life adapts around their drug abuse routine, it is often hard to break that cycle. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps people build clean, healthy lifestyle habits.

Other treatment approaches for cocaine abuse may include:

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

Aftercare is also important in treating cocaine abuse and addiction. Seeking out support groups, taking part in 12-Step programs, and living in drug-free, residential communities are all viable aftercare options for those recovering.

Cocaine Abuse And Addiction Statistics 

The United States has been experiencing an opioid crisis for decades now. Although most of us may know this; the nation is dealing with another, lesser-known rise in substance use. In recent years, national rates of cocaine use have increased. There are serious consequences in cocaine use that we must become aware of. 

Cocaine-related overdose deaths are on the rise, too, and opioids are largely at fault. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics states that the number of overdose deaths involving cocaine almost doubled in two years — jumping from 5,892 in 2014 to 11,316 in 2016.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2018 National Drug Threat Assessment, the rise in cocaine use is partly due to its rise in accessibility. The assessment further focuses on the increase in the supply and production of Colombian coca and the production of cocaine.

“Record levels of coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia, the primary source for cocaine seized and tested in the United States, has widened the cocaine market, leading to increased domestic abuse,” the report explains. 

“Increased availability levels and concurrent lowered domestic prices will likely propel this trend through the near-term.”

Although these statistics may seem a little overwhelming, they are here to show you how serious of a problem freebasing is. Nonetheless, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. 

We’re Here to Help You

If you have watched someone you love and care for fall deeper into the cycle of addiction, you understand the struggle of breaking free. Treatment can help pull you or your loved one out of the habit of abuse and into a new, much healthier lifestyle. 

Contact us today and let us help you or a loved one begin the road to recovery. You can also call us at (855) 425-4846.





Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.