Freebase Cocaine Side Effects and Dangers
What Is Freebase Cocaine?
Freebasing cocaine is when cocaine powder has been converted into a product that’s stable when exposed to heat. This allows it to be heated inside a pipe, and the vapors are inhaled.
Freebase has a high level of lipid solubility. That means that it enters the brain much more quickly than other forms of cocaine. The “high” sensation is achieved faster than when a person snorts cocaine. It’s similar or sometimes faster than injecting. Many people feel that the high they achieve with freebasing not only has a faster onset but also is much more intense.
People choose to freebase because the drug enters their system more quickly, and the resulting high is intensified. Smoking cocaine is one of the most harmful forms of using this drug and is incredibly addictive.
Smoking cocaine leads to faster addiction rates.1
In the United States, cocaine is responsible for the majority of emergency room visits.2
In 2014 more than 5,000 people died from cocaine overdose. Alarmingly, that figure represents a 42% increase in the total number of cocaine overdose deaths compared with 2001.3
When smoked, freebase cocaine produces intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria that last anywhere from 2-3 minutes. Because these effects are so intense, it causes many addicts to use more of the drug, which can lead to overdose.
Freebase vs. Crack
Many people wrongly believe that freebase cocaine is identical to crack cocaine. Both have the same chemical formula of cocaine, and both can be smoked to get high. But the drugs aren’t the same because they’re produced differently.
Dealers create freebase coke by dissolving powdered cocaine in water and then adding a base product and a solvent. The solvent dissolves the base, and the cocaine is extracted.
Most often, ether is used to make freebase coke. The ingredient is incredibly flammable and unstable. It’s not unusual for coke kitchens to explode while the drug is being made.
Crack is less risky to produce and is generally less expensive than freebase cocaine, since freebase is almost pure.
What Happens When You Smoke Freebase Cocaine?
The short high experienced by users leaves lasting effects. Long-term health conditions combined with instantaneous side effects all make freebase a very dangerous drug. After smoking freebase, a person will immediately feel a euphoric rush as the drug moves through the lungs to the blood and reaches the brain. The short-lived high is at once replaced with crash symptoms.4,7
Symptoms of crashing include the following:
Long-term effects of using freebase cocaine include both physical and psychological side effects.
Physical Side Effects11
- Increased heart rate.
- Dilated pupils.
- Weight loss.
- Sleep problems.
- Sexual dysfunction.
Psychological Side Effects
- Anxiety, panic attacks.
- Impaired judgment.
- Delusions, hallucinations.
- Agitation, restlessness.
- Involuntary movements, tremors.
- Repetitive behaviors, such as picking the skin.
Dangerous Side Effects
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 include the following:8,11
- 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.
Increased Risk of Injuries
Because of the nature of the drug, most users elect to abuse freebase cocaine using a glass pipe. As a result, addicts often experience burns to the face, fingers, and other parts of the body. Freebasing can also increase the risk of other accidents, violence, or criminal behavior.
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 to 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.
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 may include the following:9,10
- Spontaneous abortion.
- Placental abruption, or the separation of the placenta from the uterine wall.
- Premature labor.
- Problems affecting the newborn which might include low birth weight, vision problems, mental retardation, growth and developmental delays, as well as the risk of cocaine dependency.
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 help for your addiction and return to health and wellbeing.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Center for Substance Abuse Research. (2013). Crack Cocaine.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). National Estimates of Drug-Related Emergency Department Visits, 2004-2011- All Visits.
- National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019). Overdose Death Rates.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Agarwal, P. (2019). Neurologic Effects of Cocaine Treatment & Management.
- Chiriboga, C.A. (2003). Fetal Alcohol and Drug Effects. Neurologist, 9(6), 267-279.
- Kuczkowski, K.M. (2007). The Effects of Drug Abuse on Pregnancy. Curr Opin Obstet Gynecol, 19(6), 578-585.
- Cregler, L.L. (1989). Adverse Health Consequences of Cocaine Abuse. J Natl Med Assoc, 81(1), 27–38.