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What is Freebasing?

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Cocaine is a recreational drug that is usually snorted or injected. Many people believe that cocaine is safer to use than other drugs because it is common, but this is far from the truth. Cocaine is a highly addictive drug that can have devastating short and long-term consequences to people’s physical, mental, and social wellbeing.

The effects of cocaine include euphoria and increased energy. These positive effects don’t tend to last very long, so people take it frequently to maintain their high. This can lead to addiction.

Another method of ingesting cocaine, called freebasing, provides users with an even quicker and more intense rush of euphoria and energy. People who freebase cocaine may be even more susceptible to addiction because, while the effects are stronger than other methods, they are shorter in duration. People who freebase are also susceptible to overdose because of this.

If you or someone you love are struggling with cocaine addiction or are freebasing cocaine, please seek out the treatment you need. You are not alone. Addiction treatment can help you find the path to lifelong recovery from addiction. Cocaine addiction is a serious condition, but with high-quality treatment, you can have the fulfilling, healthy life you deserve.


What is Freebasing?

Many people who use cocaine snort or inject it. Another form of ingesting cocaine, called freebasing, involves heating a pure form of cocaine and inhaling the vapors. Smoking this pure form of cocaine can provide users with a quicker, more intense high than snorting or injecting it.[1]

Freebase cocaine is made by adding chemicals–including ammonia–to cocaine. These chemicals are added to extract a purer form of cocaine from its sodium base. When the cocaine is free of its base, it is processed with ether. This final step is very dangerous, and many people who make freebase cocaine cause dangerous explosions or fires.

Freebase cocaine is solid and does not dissolve easily in water, which means it can not be snorted or injected in this form. People use it by adding a small amount of copper and heating it in a glass pipe. When inhaled, freebase cocaine vapors are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream and provide a quick, intense high. The risk of addiction is high because of how quickly this form of cocaine is absorbed and how short the desirable effects last.

Effects of Freebasing Cocaine

There are both short and long-term effects of freebasing cocaine. Almost immediately, users have a rush of energy and a feeling of euphoria. Short term effects can also include:[2]

Short Term Effects of Freebasing Cocaine

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Headache
  • Constricted (small) pupils
  • Sexual dysfunction

The desired euphoric feeling does not last long, and as it wears off, users often experience a “crash” that involves anxiety, depression, paranoia, or fatigue. This often prompts people to use it frequently to avoid coming down from their high. This can quickly lead to addiction. Long-term freebasing can result in mood changes, irritability, hallucinations, and anxiety.

Over time, freebasing cocaine can cause significant damage to all the body’s systems, including the heart, lungs, and brain. People who freebase are more likely to develop certain cancers and can sustain permanent damage to their respiratory system. Long-term effects also include:

Long Term effects of Freebasing Cocaine

  • Heart attack
  • Heart palpitations
  • Stroke
  • Asthma or other serious breathing problems
  • Seizures

Many people injure themselves while freebasing, including burns to the hands and face from heating the glass pipe. Violent behavior and accidents can also occur when people are under the influence of cocaine.

Is Freebasing Cocaine Dangerous?

Freebasing cocaine can be extremely dangerous. It is dangerous to make freebase cocaine, dangerous to use, and can cause long-lasting, sometimes irreparable, damage to users’ health. People who freebase cocaine are more likely to become addicted to it because the effects are so short-lived. Withdrawal from cocaine can be very uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous. It is important to have medical support and supervision during detox from cocaine so you can be as comfortable and safe as possible during the process.

The dangerous effects of freebasing cocaine are intensified by mixing it with alcohol or other drugs. People who freebase cocaine are at risk of overdose, which can be fatal. Symptoms of a cocaine overdose include:[3]

Cocaine overdose symptoms

  • Hyperventilation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Coma

A cocaine overdose is a serious medical situation that requires immediate medical intervention. If you or someone you are with shows any of these symptoms, you must get medical help immediately.

Find Help for Cocaine Addiction in North Carolina Today

If you or someone you love require substance abuse treatment, please reach out to the staff at the Carolina Center for Recovery. We offer a range of programs designed to help people overcome addiction, learn the skills they need to live life without drugs and alcohol, and support people on their lifelong recovery journey.

If you are ready for life-changing care, please do not wait another day. Call today to speak with one of our admissions counselors.