Freebase Cocaine: What are the Dangers and Long Term Side Effects?

As America’s drug problem continues to worsen, recovering addicts, struggling addicts, vulnerable sectors, and rehabilitation centers continue to face all sorts of different threats.

From widespread heroin crises to opioid epidemics, substance abuse bears many complications that one must be prepared to deal with head-on. If you or a loved one has been struggling with dependency issues, it’s only right that you take the time to brush up on the various problems that you may be at risk of experiencing.

In recent years, certain drugs have come to the forefront as more cases of dependency and abuse are reported. Among these numerous threats, one particular substance is especially detrimental to those that abuse it: freebase cocaine. 

What Is Freebasing?

Freebase cocaine is the “base” form of the addictive substance, which comes in a pure solid state. Freebasing consists of chemical processes in which the base substance is freed from the salt form in which cocaine is naturally found. The result of this process is the natural, concentrated form of cocaine that is especially addictive and deadly.

Compared to crack cocaine which is produced by mixing cocaine with water and baking soda, freebase cocaine is formulated by using ammonia to extract the base substance. The difference that this particular process achieves is cocaine without hydrochloride, an additive product produced by converting powder cocaine to cocaine sulfate. 

When cocaine is made using freebasing, it results in a derivative of the substance that is nearly 100% pure. This pure form possesses unique characteristics unseen in other forms of the powdery white substance. In any freebase example, the main characteristic to watch out for is its much lower melting point. This means that it is far easier to smoke. It also becomes insoluble in water, so it becomes difficult to melt and inject the drug.

How Is Freebase Cocaine Consumed?

Generally speaking, the process of freebasing cocaine is relatively straightforward in terms of the tools or materials used.

For most users, freebasing is done by using a small glass pipe to achieve the final form of the drug. During the consumption process, a small piece of clean, heavy copper is used as a reduction base wherein the powder is melted. After melting, the substance is boiled to a vapor, which is then smoked.

Dangers Compared to Other Ways of Consuming Cocaine

Although regular or crack cocaine is already dangerous and will cause severe damage to a person’s health, freebasing poses an even greater set of risks that should be avoided. 

You see, smoking freebase cocaine—or coke, as it’s often called—allows the substance to reach the brain much more quickly than powder cocaine that is snorted or injected. The result of smoking is a near-instantaneous high, which exposes the body’s systems to a much more potent (and oftentimes severe) amount of the substance’s comprising compounds. This nearly instantaneous and powerful high poses a much greater risk of overdose.

In terms of side effects, matters are far more adverse because of the nature of freebase cocaine and the kind of impact it leverages on the body. Let’s look at the most common symptoms and resulting effects associated with this manner of consumption.

freebase cocaine

Common Side Effects

Upon consumption, those who consume or smoke freebase cocaine experience an immediate reaction of confusion, slurred speech, anxiety, and other psychological issues. Unfortunately, these common initial effects can worsen over time. Cocaine in this form is exponentially more addictive than others, and repeated exposure results in a substantial impact that can alter one’s mental state.

Life-Threatening Side-Effects

Beyond carrying a range of immediate psychological, behavioral and physiological side effects, freebasing cocaine also causes a wide range of physiological effects which may be severe enough to threaten your life:

  • Heart problems: Palpitations, cardiac arterial vasospasm, heart attack, and heart failure.
  • Neurological issues: Strokes, bleeding in the brain, and seizures.
  • Respiratory problems: Asthma and fluid in the lungs.

Injury-Related Side-Effects

As opposed to other ways of consuming cocaine, freebasing poses a range of potential injuries that users may experience because of the tools and methods used. Addicts often experience burns to the face, fingers, and other body parts because of the scorching hot glass pipes used to consume the substance.

Behavioral Side-Effects

As previously mentioned, consuming freebase cocaine often leads to dependence and addiction. However, the manner in which it takes effect is much more severe because of the purity of the substance. When exposure is prolonged, and usage is continuous, substance abusers may end up exhibiting erratic behaviors and adopting behaviors that ruin relationships. A few examples include:

  • Stealing to support their cocaine and other drug or alcohol habits
  • Dropping out of school or losing one’s job due to performance problems and excessive absences
  • Severing ties with family members and friends


Although cocaine itself already poses a much higher risk of overdose compared to other addictive substances, freebasing itself has a significantly larger propensity for such an effect. Because of the purity of the substance, the addictive tendencies that come with freebasing can prove to be especially detrimental to one’s health. 

What Makes Smoking A Stimulant so Dangerous?

Understanding the higher degree of danger of freebasing cocaine compared to snorting or injecting the drug all boils down to concepts of biology and bodily reactions.

Based on this study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, researchers discovered that smoking the stimulant sends it to the lungs, through the heart, and into the brain. The drug reaches the vital systems of the body very quickly. Contrarily, snorted cocaine takes a longer path before reaching the brain. It travels from blood vessels in the nose to the heart before moving to the lungs and back to the heart before it reaches the brain and other organs.

Does It Provide A Different “High”?

Yes. Due to the way freebase cocaine is formulated, it produces intense euphoric effects that generally last between two to three minutes. The intensity of these effects can cause an overdose less than a minute after it is inhaled, which is why many users either end up in critical condition or death. 

Although freebase cocaine and crack are the same chemical form of cocaine and both are smoked to get high, the difference between them lies in the manners of production and consumption and the effects. 

Since freebase cocaine is consumed by smoking, the effects of the drug are felt almost immediately as the substance is absorbed through the membranes of the lungs and enters the bloodstream and the brain within 10 to 15 seconds. Once it reaches the brain, there is an intense feeling of euphoria followed by an extreme high lasting about 30 minutes. What comes out of this much faster process with higher bioavailability is a powerful rush and a longer-lasting high. 


The dangers of freebasing cocaine are far more severe, and it causes a tremendous amount of damage to the body’s systems both mentally and physically. By arming yourself with important information, you’ll be able to protect yourself or a loved one with the necessary awareness that saves lives.