Drug and Alcohol

Freebasing Cocaine: What Does it Mean to Freebase Cocaine?

What is freebasing cocaine? It's a highly dangerous way of taking cocaine. Learn more about this method of cocaine use in our blog.

What is Freebasing Cocaine?

Table of contents

Written by

Brian MooreBrian Moore

Content Writer

Reviewed by

Jeremy ArztJeremy Arzt

Chief Clinical Officer

July 7, 2023

The Forge Recovery Center

Freebasing cocaine carries significant risks.

Aside from being incredibly addictive, freebasing cocaine can be dangerous. Richard Pryor, one of the most talented comedians ever, suffered terrible injuries from freebasing cocaine.

The traditional method of freebasing cocaine has largely been supplanted by crack cocaine, which is sort of a ready-made form of smokable cocaine. Smoking crack cocaine exposes the respiratory system to harmful chemicals, leading to severe lung damage, respiratory problems, and other complications.

Also, crack cocaine is highly addictive, and its use can lead to various physical and mental health issues, including cardiovascular problems, paranoia, anxiety, and psychosis.

Due to the dangers associated with freebasing cocaine, it is crucial to prioritize prevention, education, and accessible treatment options to address substance abuse and addiction.

Stats About Freebasing Cocaine:

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 968,000 people in the 12 years and above age group, or 0.4% of the population, first used Cocaine in 2015. Between 2009 and 2013, the rate of drug overdose deaths involving Cocaine was stable, according to statistics from the National Vital Statistics System, Mortality. Still, from 2013 to 2018, it quadrupled from 1.6 per 100,000 to 4.5.

What Does Freebasing Cocaine Mean?

Freebasing cocaine is a method of preparing and consuming the drug in a form that is more easily vaporized and inhaled. The process involves chemically modifying cocaine hydrochloride, the powdered form of cocaine commonly used for snorting or injecting, to create a more potent form known as freebase.

Cocaine hydrochloride is water-soluble, meaning it dissolves in water. This form of cocaine cannot be easily vaporized and inhaled because it breaks down at high temperatures and does not produce the desired effects. Freebase cocaine, on the other hand, is a more stable and volatile form that can be heated and vaporized, allowing for rapid absorption and intense effects.

The process of freebasing typically involves the following steps:

Freebase Cocaine: Preparation

Cocaine hydrochloride is mixed with an alkaline substance, most commonly baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or ammonia. The alkaline substance raises the pH level of cocaine, making it less soluble in water and converting it into a base.

Freebase Cocaine: Extraction

The mixture is then dissolved in a flammable solvent, often ether, gasoline or acetone. The solvent is added to extract the base cocaine from the mixture.

Freebase Cocaine: Separation

The solution is agitated or stirred to allow the base cocaine to separate from the water-soluble impurities, such as leftover baking soda or ammonia. This results in forming a separate organic layer containing the freebase cocaine.

Freebase Cocaine: Purification

The organic layer containing the freebase cocaine is carefully separated and dried. The resulting material is typically a solid or semi-solid substance rich in cocaine alkaloids and highly potent.

Freebase Cocaine: Smoking

Crack cocaine is typically formed into small rocks or crystals. These rocks are heated and vaporized by applying direct flame or heat using a specialized pipe or improvised smoking apparatus. The vapors produced are then inhaled, rapidly delivering the drug to the lungs and causing immediate effects.

Freebase Cocaine: Why is it Called Freebase Cocaine?

The term "freebase" refers to the fact that the cocaine alkaloids are in their freebase form, allowing vaporization and inhalation. Crack cocaine, on the other hand, is named for the distinct cracking noise it makes when being cooked.

Why Do People Freebase Cocaine?

Freebasing cocaine is associated with a more rapid onset of effects compared to other methods of ingestion. The vaporized cocaine is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream through the lungs and reaches the brain quickly, producing an intense and immediate high that’s often far more intense than other forms of cocaine abuse.

However, the effects of freebase cocaine are relatively short-lived, usually lasting only around a half hour, often leading to repeated and compulsive use. Also, freebasing cocaine is typically more potent and produces a quicker and more intense high compared to other forms of cocaine, such as powder or crack cocaine.

Here are some factors that drive addiction to freebasing cocaine:

Increased Potency

Freebasing cocaine allows for producing a more potent form of the drug. By converting cocaine hydrochloride (the powdered form) into a base form, such as cocaine alkaloid or "freebase," the resulting substance can have higher purity levels and provide a more intense high.

Rapid Onset of Effects

Smoking freebase cocaine results in an almost instantaneous onset of effects. When inhaled, the drug reaches the brain quickly through the lungs, producing an immediate and intense euphoria. This rapid onset can appeal to individuals seeking a more immediate and intense high compared to other routes of administration.

An Increased Amount of Cocaine in the System

Freebasing increases the amount of cocaine in a person’s system. The process of converting cocaine hydrochloride into a base form removes the hydrochloride salt, which makes the drug more easily absorbed into the bloodstream. This increased bioavailability means more of the drug reaches the brain, leading to a more powerful effect.

Preference for Smoking

Smoking cocaine, including freebase cocaine, can be highly addictive due to the rapid delivery of the drug to the brain. Smoking itself can also contribute to the addictive nature of freebasing. In addition, some individuals find the ceremonial aspects of smoking, such as preparing the drug and inhaling the smoke, pleasurable and reinforcing.

Trapped in Addictive Behaviors

Freebase cocaine has a high addiction potential. The intense and immediate euphoria produced by smoking freebase cocaine can lead to the rapid development of addiction. In addition, the reinforcing effects of the drug, combined with its potent nature, can make it difficult for individuals to resist the urge to continue freebasing cocaine.

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What are the Symptoms of Addiction to Freebasing Cocaine?

Addiction to freebasing cocaine, like addiction to any form of cocaine, can have severe physical, psychological, and social consequences.

Here are some of the symptoms associated with addiction to freebasing cocaine:

Intense Cravings

One of the primary symptoms of cocaine addiction is a strong and uncontrollable desire to use the drug. These cravings can become overwhelming and can dominate a person's thoughts and actions.

Increased Tolerance

With continued use of freebase Cocaine, individuals may develop a tolerance, meaning they need larger drug doses to achieve the desired effects. This can lead to a cycle of escalating drug use and increased risk of overdose.

Withdrawal Symptoms

When individuals addicted to freebased cocaine attempt to quit or reduce their use, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms can include intense cravings, depression, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, disturbed sleep, increased appetite, and in some cases, paranoia and hallucinations.

Loss of Control

Addiction to freebase cocaine often involves a loss of control over drug use. Individuals may find themselves unable to stop or reduce their consumption despite negative consequences in their personal life, such as relationship problems, loss of employment, or legal issues.

Neglecting Responsibilities

People addicted to freebasing cocaine may prioritize drug use over their obligations and responsibilities. They may neglect work, school, family, or social activities, and their performance in these areas may suffer.

Financial Problems

Cocaine addiction can be expensive, and individuals may spend excessive money to support their habit. This can lead to financial instability, borrowing money, or engaging in illegal activities to obtain funds for drug purchases.

Mood & Behavior Changes

Freebasing cocaine can lead to noticeable changes in a person's behavior and mood. They may become increasingly secretive, defensive, or deceptive about their drug use. They may also experience mood swings, ranging from euphoria and increased energy during drug use to irritability, anxiety, and depression during withdrawal periods.

Physical and Psychological Health Problems

Addiction to freebasing cocaine can lead to a range of physical and mental health problems. Physically, individuals may experience cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

Psychologically, they may develop anxiety disorders, depression, psychosis, or cognitive impairments.

Social Isolation

As addiction takes hold, individuals may withdraw from social activities, hobbies, and relationships that do not revolve around drug use. They may spend more time with other substance users or in environments where freebasing Cocaine is prevalent, further isolating themselves from non-drug-using networks.

Can You Overdose From Freebasing Cocaine?

Yes, very easily. Freebasing cocaine involves taking large amounts of very pure cocaine, which creates a higher risk of overdose. Cocaine overdose can cause stroke, seizures, and death.

Here are some symptoms of a freebase cocaine overdose:

  • Fast heart rate

  • Seizures

  • Hyperventilation

  • Coma

Minutes matter in a drug overdose. Contact emergency services immediately if someone you know displays these overdose symptoms.

Treatment of Addiction to Freebasing Cocaine

The treatment of addiction to freebase Cocaine typically involves a comprehensive approach that addresses the addiction's physical, psychological, and social aspects. Here are some common components of addiction treatment for freebasing Cocaine:

Drug Detox

The first step in treatment is detoxing from cocaine, where the individual stops using Cocaine and allows the drug to leave their system. This process can be challenging due to withdrawal symptoms. 

Inpatient or Outpatient Addiction Treatment

Depending on the severity of the addiction, individuals may enter a residential inpatient treatment program or an outpatient program. Inpatient programs provide 24/7 care and support, while outpatient programs offer structured treatment sessions, allowing individuals to live at home or in a sober living environment. 

Behavioral Therapies

Different forms of therapy can help individuals modify their attitudes and behaviors related to drug use. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is commonly used to identify and change patterns of thinking and behaviors associated with cocaine use.

Contingency management, another effective approach, uses positive reinforcement to encourage drug-free behaviors.

Support Groups

Support groups like Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or Cocaine Anonymous (CA) can be valuable resources for individuals in recovery. These groups provide a supportive environment where people can share their experiences, receive encouragement, and learn from others who have gone through similar challenges.

Relapse Prevention

Learning strategies to prevent relapse is crucial to addiction treatment. Through therapy and support, individuals can identify triggers and develop effective coping mechanisms to manage cravings and avoid situations that may lead to drug use. Building a strong support network and engaging in healthy activities can also aid in maintaining sobriety.

Aftercare Planning

This may involve ongoing therapy, participation in support groups, regular check-ins with a counselor, and other supportive services to help maintain long-term recovery.

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Freebase Cocaine: What are Some of the Forms Cocaine Comes In?

While cocaine itself is a single chemical compound, it can exist in different forms and be combined with other substances to create various variants or preparations. Here are some of the other forms or variants of cocaine:

Cocaine Hydrochloride (Cocaine HCl)

This is the most common and well-known form of cocaine. It is a white, crystalline powder that is typically snorted or dissolved in water and injected

Crack Cocaine

Crack cocaine, commonly called crack, is a form of cocaine that has been processed to form small rocks or crystals. It is usually smoked and produces an intense but short-lived high. 

Coca Paste

Coca paste is a crude extract obtained from coca leaves through a solvent extraction process. It is a brown, sticky substance that contains impurities and is relatively impure compared to cocaine hydrochloride. Coca paste is commonly produced in South America and can be further processed to produce cocaine hydrochloride or converted into crack cocaine.

Coca Leaves

While not a variant of cocaine per se, coca leaves are the natural source of the drug. Indigenous people in South America have traditionally chewed or brewed coca leaves into tea for their stimulant properties. Coca leaves contain various alkaloids, including cocaine, but the concentration of Cocaine is relatively low compared to the purified forms of the drug.

How Long Does Freebase Cocaine Stay in the System?

The duration that cocaine remains detectable in the body depends on several factors, including the individual's metabolism, the dose and frequency of cocaine use, the route of administration, and the type of drug test being used. Here is an overview of the approximate detection times for various drug tests:

Urine Drug Test

Cocaine and its metabolites can typically be detected in urine within 1-4 hours after use and can be detected for up to 2-4 days following a single use. For chronic or heavy cocaine users, the detection window may extend to 10 days or longer.

Blood Drug Test

Cocaine can be detected in the bloodstream within minutes to hours after use. It has a relatively short detection window in blood, usually up to 24 hours. However, in heavy or chronic use cases, cocaine may be detectable for up to 2-3 days.

Saliva Drug Test

Cocaine can be detected in saliva shortly after use and usually remains detectable for 1-2 days. However, it may be detectable for a slightly longer period in heavy or chronic users.

Hair Drug Test

Hair testing can detect the presence of cocaine and its metabolites for an extended period. Cocaine can be detected in the hair within 7-10 days after use and can remain detectable for several months to years, depending on the length of the hair sample collected. 

Freebase Cocaine Can Be Devastating. It’s also Treatable at The Forge Recovery Center

The Forge Recovery Center provides comprehensive treatments that help people overcome an addiction to freebase cocaine. Our highly experienced nurses, therapists, and counselors work together to offer customized treatment for the specific needs of our clients.

In addition, our addiction center helps our clients by providing aftercare and counseling services. A warm, welcoming place, The Forge is an ideal place to build a happy, new life.

If you’d like to learn more about freebase cocaine and how it’s treated, reach out today to The Forge Recovery Center.

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