What is Freebasing

What is Freebasing?

Cocaine is an addictive stimulant drug that is derived from coca leaves, a plant found in South America. While cocaine is approved for medical use in the United States, it is only intended to be used as an anesthetic. People who abuse cocaine either snort, inject, or smoke it. 

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), 27,788,000 people have abused cocaine at some point in their lives.[1]

While snorting cocaine is the most common method of administration, some people might smoke it. Smoking cocaine is known as “freebasing” and involves changing cocaine from powder to a vapor that can be inhaled. While it sounds similar to crack cocaine, there are differences between crack and freebase. 

Knowing what freebasing is and the risks of using cocaine in this manner can prevent you from experiencing significant health risks and severe addiction. 

In this article, you will learn:

  • What freebase cocaine is
  • The effects of freebasing cocaine 
  • The physical and mental health risks of freebasing 
  • How to tell if you are struggling with addiction 

What is Freebase Cocaine?

Freebase is a form of cocaine that is altered from its typical powder state. Most people who create freebase are doing so to increase the potency of cocaine. 

Because of cocaine’s chemical structure, heating and smoking it will not lead to intoxicating effects. It will melt the drug before it can turn into vapor. Freebase is a way of making cocaine smokable and increasing the potency of the substance. 

Freebase became popular in the 1970s.[2] People used ether to “free” the base of cocaine from additives and impurities that are found in powdered cocaine. This is where the name comes from. 

To create a freebase, a lighter or a torch is used to heat powdered cocaine, allowing people to inhale the vapors. Unfortunately, when someone takes a lighter to the ether found in cocaine, explosions can occur because of how flammable the substance is. Due to these risks, crack cocaine was created by drug users and criminal manufacturers to replace freebasing altogether. 

Crack cocaine is a rock-like substance that is smoked in a glass pipe. These days, freebasing might be used interchangeably with smoking crack – depending on who you are talking to. That said, some people might still abuse the traditional method of smoking cocaine vapors. 

What are the Effects of Freebasing?

In its original form, cocaine is already a powerful stimulant drug. When freebased, the substance becomes even more potent. If you smoke cocaine vapors, you will experience a rush of energy and euphoric effects that are incredibly addictive. 

The short-term effects of freebasing might include:

  • Euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Hypersensitivity to sight, sound, and touch
  • Alertness
  • Irritability and paranoia 
  • Enlarged or dilated pupils
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased or irregular heartbeat
  • Restlessness
  • Shaking or tremors 
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Heightened body temperature
  • Excessive sweating

Typically, the effects of smoking cocaine will begin within 10 to 15 seconds. That said, most of the effects will subside after about 30 minutes. Because of this, it is common for cocaine users to binge on the drug. 

Is Smoking Cocaine Dangerous?

While any type of cocaine abuse is dangerous, smoking its vapors opens you up to additional risks and concerns. First, the ether found in cocaine is highly flammable. Heating it to create vapor can put you at a significant risk of being burned. 

Additionally, heating cocaine and smoking it increases the potency as well as the risks involved.

The long-term risks of smoking cocaine might include:

  • Insomnia 
  • Aggressive behavior and violence
  • Excessive sweating and dehydration 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Mood swings  
  • Restlessness 
  • Anxiety and paranoia
  • Depression 
  • Respiratory issues 
  • Cocaine-induced psychosis 

Smoking cocaine puts you at an increased risk of experiencing psychosis, hallucinations, delusions, and a detachment from reality. 

Additionally, inhaling cocaine vapor increases the risk of hospitalization. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 98% of people admitted to the hospital for cocaine were freebasing it.[2]

Another risk to consider is respiratory issues. Since you are inhaling a chemical, you could experience injury to the respiratory tract, infections, and even airflow obstruction.[3]

How to Tell if You Are Addicted to Freebasing Cocaine 

If you are abusing cocaine in powder or vapor form, it’s important to be aware of the signs of addiction. Being unable to control how much or how often you abuse cocaine is the main symptom of a substance use disorder. Additionally, if you are addicted, you might experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop freebasing. 

Other signs that indicate a cocaine addiction include:

  • Being unable to control how much cocaine you use
  • Failing to meet responsibilities at home, school, or work because of cocaine misuse 
  • Losing interest in activities you used to enjoy to have more time to abuse cocaine 
  • Getting into risky situations while freebasing cocaine, such as driving under the influence 
  • Needing to increase the dose of cocaine you use to experience the desired effect
  • Experiencing strong urges or cravings to abuse cocaine 
  • Dealing with withdrawal symptoms when you stop using cocaine 

If you experience these symptoms, it’s time to seek help for cocaine addiction. At The Living Room we can help you overcome cocaine addiction and regain control over your life.

Find Help for Cocaine Abuse and Addiction 

Drug addiction can be incredibly difficult to overcome. If you or a loved one smoke freebase cocaine, it’s time to seek professional help. At The Living Room, we use evidence-based treatments to help clients overcome cocaine withdrawal and addiction. 

By addressing both the physical and psychological aspects of addiction, our treatment programs promote overall well-being. Through therapy and support, individuals can rebuild relationships damaged by cocaine addiction, fostering healthier connections. Clients acquire essential life skills, including stress management and effective communication, preparing them for a fulfilling, drug-free life.

Contact us today for more information on cocaine addiction treatment.


  1. The Department of Justice (DOJ): Powdered Cocaine Fast Facts 
  2. The National Institutes of Health (NIH): Characteristics of freebase cocaine psychosis
  3. The National Library of Medicine (NLM): Respiratory effects of cocaine freebasing among habitual cocaine users

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