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Freebasing, Effects, Withdrawal, Overdose & Treatment

What Is Freebasing?

Freebase cocaine is essentially the “base” form of the drug – the drug in its solid form. Freebasing cocaine is the process of freeing the cocaine base from the salt form in which cocaine is naturally found. While crack cocaine is produced by mixing the original cocaine with a combination of water and baking soda, freebase cocaine comes from using ammonia to extract the base.

Freebase cocaine has virtually none of the drug’s additive, hydrochloride. It is essentially the product of converting powder cocaine to cocaine sulfate. A result is a form of cocaine that is almost 100 percent pure. In this form, it has a low melting point, which makes it easier to smoke. Freebase cocaine is not soluble in water, so it is difficult to melt and inject the drug. There are various methods for freebasing cocaine. Typically, it involves using a small glass pipe. A small piece of clean, heavy copper is used as a reduction base in which the cocaine can be melted and boiled to a vapor. The freebase cocaine is then smoked.

Effects of Freebasing Cocaine

Since it is consumed by smoking, the effects of freebasing cocaine are felt almost immediately. Since freebase cocaine is absorbed through the membranes of the lungs, it enters the bloodstream and the brain within 10-15 seconds. Once it reaches the brain, there is an intense feeling of euphoria followed by an extreme high lasting about 30 minutes.

The high is intense and comes on fast, but it is generally short-lived and followed by a crash. Once the euphoric effects begin to dissipate, the user typically feels extreme fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, and paranoia. Short-term physical effects include excessive sweating, nausea, pinpoint pupils, insomnia, headaches, and a decline in sexual function. Long-term effects of freebase cocaine use include mood changes, irritability, restlessness, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations.

In addition, smoking the substance brings various negative health effects, such as respiration issues, damage to the lungs and mouth, and a higher likelihood of developing various cancers. With chronic use, damage to all body systems can occur, including:

Risks of freebasing include burn to the face or fingers from glass pipes or matches and lighters during use.
  • Heart palpitations
  • Heart failure 
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Seizures
  • Asthma and other respiratory issues

Other risks of freebasing include burn to the face or fingers from glass pipes or matches and lighters during use. Additionally, users are prone to injuries from accidents or violence while under the influence.

Over time, the effects of freebasing cocaine or ingesting cocaine in any way can become more severe. Some long-term cocaine smokers may experience cardiovascular problems, psychosis, lung damage, respiratory issues, gastrointestinal problems, malnourishment, bleeding in the brain, movement disorders, and stroke.

Because freebase cocaine is so pure, it is also highly addictive. Its use can quickly lead to dependence. Those who find themselves unable to quit should get cocaine addiction treatment. Its high potency also means it has a high risk of overdose. 

Regardless of the route of administration, regular cocaine use is not only dangerous but also often accompanied by uncomfortable and sometimes even serious withdrawal symptoms. In order to avoid these symptoms, many users will go on cocaine binges. Because withdrawal is both physical and psychological, it is best that people trying to quit enter a comprehensive treatment program like our partial hospitalization program at We Level Up California.

Freebasing: Some long-term cocaine smokers may experience cardiovascular problems, psychosis, lung damage, and respiratory issues.

Freebasing Withdrawal and Overdose

It is easy to develop a freebase cocaine abuse problem because the drug is so highly addictive, particularly when taken in this form. As such, issues with withdrawal often arise. While cocaine tends to produce more psychological withdrawal symptoms than physical, the effects of these psychological symptoms can be intense. Withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Nervousness
  • Depression
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Suicidal or self-harming thoughts
  • Strong cravings for the drug

Those who smoke freebase cocaine, as well as crack, are at higher risk for overdose because it is pure cocaine, which makes it extremely potent. If users are accustomed to smoking crack or using powdered cocaine, they may have no idea how much freebase cocaine to smoke, easily taking in high doses that result in overdose. Overdose is also likely because of the intensity and sudden onset of freebase cocaine’s effects. The risk of overdose is compounded if the use of freebase cocaine is combined with the use of any other substances, such as alcohol.

The Difference Between Smoking Crack & Freebasing 

Freebasing cocaine and smoking crack are similar. In its normal form, powder cocaine cannot be heated and smoked, so people will need to get the freebase form of cocaine using ammonia. This process can be dangerous. Because manufacturers are dealing with flammable ingredients and chemicals, several explosions from trying to make freebase cocaine have occurred. After the freebase cocaine is created, many users will use a small glass pipe and a heat source to inhale the vapors that are released when the powder is heated. 

Crack cocaine is a “safer” alternative to freebase crack in terms of production only. Crack is the crystalline solid form of cocaine that has grown in popularity in the last few decades. It is manufactured using water and baking soda instead of ammonia. Like the freebase cocaine, it is then heated and smoked.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction 

The treatment for Cocaine Addiction must address the context of polydrug users in order to be effective. As stated by The National Institute on Drug Abuse in the piece ‘Cocaine Research Report. How is cocaine addiction treated?’, “In 2013, cocaine accounted for almost 6 percent of all admissions to drug abuse treatment programs. The majority of individuals (68 percent in 2013) who seek treatment for cocaine use smoke crack and are likely to be polydrug users, meaning they use more than one substance. 

Those who provide treatment for cocaine use should recognize that drug addiction is a complex disease involving changes in the brain as well as a wide range of social, familial, and other environmental factors; therefore, treatment of cocaine addiction must address this broad context as well as any other co-occurring mental disorders that require additional behavioral or pharmacological interventions”. 

The treatment for Cocaine Addiction must address the context of polydrug users in order to be effective.

Treatment for Cocaine Addiction is focused on behavioral interventions that can be used in order to manage this substance dependence in an effective way. There are no medicines that work as substitutes for powder cocaine, crack cocaine and other stimulants of this kind. However, currently, there are some pharmacological advances.

Pharmacological Approaches

Currently, there is no US. Approved medications, drug administration, or a specific diet to treat Cocaine Addiction. However, researchers are exploring a variety of neurobiological targets. 

According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse,  several medications marketed for other diseases show promise in reducing cocaine use within controlled clinical trials. Among these, disulfiram, which is used to treat alcoholism, has shown the most promise. Scientists do not yet know exactly how disulfiram reduces cocaine use, though its effects may be related to its ability to inhibit an enzyme that converts dopamine to norepinephrine. 

However, disulfiram does not work for everyone. Pharmacogenetic studies are revealing variants in the gene that encodes the DBH enzyme and seems to influence disulfiram’s effectiveness in reducing cocaine use. Knowing a patient’s DBH genotype could help predict whether disulfiram would be an effective pharmacotherapy for cocaine dependence in that person. 

Reclaim Your Life From Freebasing 

Freebasing cocaine is a dangerous practice that can lead to addiction and severe health conditions that should not be taken lightly. We Level Up Treatment Center can provide you, or someone you love, the tools to recover from this with professional and safe treatment. Feel free to call us to speak with one of our counselors. We can inform you about this condition by giving you relevant information. Our specialists know what you are going through. Please know that each call is private and confidential.