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Smoking Freebase Cocaine – Side Effects and Dangers

Many individuals abuse cocaine using a variety of routes of administration.

Smoking the freebase form of cocaine is an extremely harmful and addictive method of consuming this oft-abused drug.

Smoking cocaine causes the drug to more rapidly reach the brain compared to some other methods of cocaine use. As a result, smoking cocaine may also lead to faster development of compulsive cocaine use.1

Cocaine, in general, has been shown to be the illicit drug most frequently responsible for putting individuals in emergency rooms in the U.S.In 2014, more than 5,000 individuals died of a cocaine overdose. This figure represents a 42% increase in the total number of cocaine overdose deaths compared with 2001.3

What Is Freebase Cocaine?


The term “freebase cocaine” (also, “crack cocaine”) refers to the base form of the drug, rather than the more commonly used salt form. Freebase cocaine is usually smoked.

Unlike cocaine salt, freebase cocaine has a low melting point, which makes it easier to smoke. It is also relatively insoluble in water – a quality that makes it difficult to dissolve the drug for injection.

What Happens When You Smoke Freebase Cocaine?

No matter how it is used, cocaine is an addictive and dangerous drug. Cocaine is a very potent central nervous system stimulant, and its use brings a powerful high. While cocaine may produce immediate positive effects – such as increased energy, self-confidence and alertness – these effects are only short-lived, lasting an average of 15 minutes. Once this immediate high wears off, cocaine’s negative effects take over and can range from being moderate to intense or even life-threatening.

Immediate Side Effects

When cocaine is smoked, the drug high is achieved more rapidly, and with greater intensity than nasally inhaled cocaine. Therefore, the effects of freebase cocaine may be more profound than those from some other routes of administration.

Cocaine’s immediate and unintended side effects may all set in quickly and include any of the following4-7:

Dangerous Side Effects

Dangerous side effects of cocaine use
While smoking cocaine carries a range of immediate psychological, behavioral and physiological side effects – a few of them may be severe enough to threaten your life.
Some of cocaine’s more serious side effects may include8:

  • Heart problems: palpitations, cardiac arterial vasospasm, heart attack and heart failure.
  • Neurological problems: strokes, bleeding in the brain and seizures.
  • Respiratory problems: asthma and fluid in the lungs.

Other Dangers from Smoking Freebase Cocaine

If you smoke cocaine, you can expect to experience a wide range of other dangers resulting from your drug use.

Increased Risk of Injuries

Some individuals experience burns to the face, fingers and other body parts from the use of glass pipes, matches and lighters during cocaine use. Cocaine use can also increase the risk of injuries caused by:

  • Accidents.
  • Criminal behavior.
  • Violence.

Dependence and Addiction

Smoking cocaine often leads to dependence and addiction – which can ruin relationships and cost a lot of money to support the habit. If you become addicted to cocaine, you may not be able to focus on anything else but the drug. Addiction may also result in destroying many other aspects of your life:

  • You may turn to stealing and selling various goods to financially support your habit.
  • You may drop out of school or lose your job due to performance problems and excessive absences.
  • You may break up your family, which can lead to divorce and severed connections with your kids.

Effects of Cocaine During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, cocaine use will affect not only your own body, but also the body of your unborn baby as well. Cocaine’s effects during pregnancy can include9,10:

  • Spontaneous abortion.
  • Placental abruption, or the separation of the placenta from the uterine wall.
  • Premature labor.
  • Problems affecting the newborn: low birth weight, vision problems, mental retardation, growth and developmental delays as well as the risk of cocaine dependency in the child.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction

The many negative effects and dangers of smoking freebase cocaine definitely add up, however it’s never too late to seek out help to treat your addiction and begin to return to a state of health and wellbeing.

Treatment Facility Types

Luxury rehab pool
As you search for a treatment option that is right for you, you will discover that there are a few different types of treatment facilities you can choose from.

All treatment types will typically involve a period of detox, followed by a combination of group and individual counseling.

  1. Luxury rehab facilities treat addiction by offering 24/7 residential care alongside a range of high-end, resort-like amenities that can help make your recovery process more comfortable.
  2. Executive rehab facilities offer residential addiction treatment with many of the same luxurious amenities that luxury programs offer – only with special resources and program structures to accommodate busy professionals who need to maintain an active involvement in their place of work during recovery.
  3. Standard rehab facilities offer the same high-quality addiction treatment in either an inpatient (residential) or outpatient (non-residential) environment. These programs do not provide the special amenities offered by luxury or executive programs, but their costs also reflect this difference and present a more affordable option for addiction treatment.

Get the Help You Need

Do you still have questions or need help sorting through your cocaine addiction treatment options? We would love to help walk you through this process and provide the answers you need to move forward with your recovery. Call 1-888-744-0789 Who Answers? to learn more or to find help connecting with a treatment program tailored to your unique needs and circumstances.


  1. Crack cocaine. Center for Substance Abuse Research, University of Maryland.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Drug Abuse Warning Network, 2011. (2013). National estimates of drug-related emergency department visits. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 13-14760 DAWN Series D-39. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  3. Overdose death rates. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
  4. Williamson, S., Gossop, M., Powis, B., Griffiths, P., Fountain, J., Strang, J. (1997). Adverse effects of stimulant drugs in a community sample of drug users. Drug Alcohol Depend., 44(2-3), 87.
  5. Ersche, K. D., Stochl, J., Woodward, J. M., Fletcher, P. C. (2013). The skinny on cocaine: insights into eating behavior and body weight in cocaine-dependent men. Appetite, 71: 75-80.
  6. Smith, M. J., Thirthalli, J., Abdallah, A. B., Murray, R. M., Cottler, L. B. (2009). Prevalence of psychotic symptoms in substance users: a comparison across substances. Compr Psychiatry, 50(3), 245-50.
  7. Roncero, C., Ros-Cucurull, E., Daigre, C., Casas, M. (2012). Prevalence and risk factors of psychotic symptoms in cocaine-dependent patients. Actas Esp Psiquiatr., 40(4), 187-97.
  8. Agarwal, P. (2015). Neurologic Effects of Cocaine Follow-up. Medscape.
  9. Chiriboga, C. A. (2003). Fetal alcohol and drug effects. Neurologist, 9(6), 267.
  10. Kuczkowski, K. M. (2007). The effects of drug abuse on pregnancy. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol., 19(6), 578.