Updated on April 3, 2024
4 min read

What is Freebasing?

Key Takeaways

What is Freebasing?

Freebasing is a method of using a drug, usually cocaine, to increase its potency. It involves boiling the base form of the drug so that people can inhale the vapors.

People with a cocaine addiction need to take higher doses over time to feel the drug’s effects. So, freebasing may become their choice method as their addiction worsens. However, this method of cocaine abuse can lead to a deadly overdose.

Is Freebasing The Same As Smoking Crack Cocaine?

Today, “freebasing” and “smoking crack” are used interchangeably. The main difference is that smoking crack is safer and less explosive than freebasing.

When it started, freebasing meant using ether and a heat source to free cocaine from its base form. This process removed additives and impurities from cocaine, allowing people to inhale the vapors.1

However, many don’t use this process anymore. Ether is highly flammable, and heating it often leads to disastrous results.


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Freebasing Cocaine

Freebasing cocaine today involves using sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to remove hydrochloride from cocaine. The process creates a cracking sound, hence the name crack. 

The result of this process is crystal rocks that people can smoke. Using crack can cause various side effects that can negatively affect your health.

Health Risks of Freebasing Cocaine

Because of how strong the effects of freebasing cocaine are, there is a high potential for abuse and overdose. People who frequently freebase cocaine can quickly become addicted or dependent.

Frequently using cocaine can cause long-term physical and mental health problems, such as:5,8,9

  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Hemorrhagic stroke
  • Aortic aneurysm rupture
  • Endocarditis
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Myocarditis
  • HIV/Hepatitis 
  • Increased tolerance
  • Extreme cravings
  • Panic attacks
  • Psychosis
  • Withdrawals

Side Effects of Freebasing Cocaine

The effects of traditional powder cocaine peak within an hour, but freebasing can peak within seconds.7 The longer-lasting high that follows is similar to the high caused by traditional cocaine use. 

These are the side effects of freebasing cocaine:

  • Heightened sensitivity
  • Irritability
  • Paranoia
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Dilated pupils
  • Shaking
  • Restlessness
  • Constricted blood vessels
  • Muscle twitching
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Sweating
  • Fleeting euphoria
  • Increased energy
  • Hyper-alertness

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Freebasing Meth

Methamphetamine is already smokable, and the crystallized version is purer and easier to smoke. By adding water to meth, it can be injectable.

Injecting or “shooting” produces a faster and more intense high, similar to freebasing cocaine. On average, the effects of injecting meth can occur within 30 seconds.4

Health Risks of Freebasing Meth

Freebasing meth comes with physical and mental health risks. It can cause erratic, risk-taking behavior, which increases the potential for accidental injuries.6

It increases dopamine and serotonin levels, affecting your brain's reward system. This effect enhances your desire to take more of the drug, which can lead to addiction and dependence.

Freebasing meth can also increase the risk of an overdose. Overdosing on meth can lead to the following: 

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke 
  • Organ failure
  • Death

Symptoms of a meth overdose include:

  • Chest pain
  • Extreme agitation
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hallucinating
  • Seizure
  • Dilated pupils

Side Effects of Freebasing Meth

The effects of crystal meth are felt quickly and can last several hours after use. The drug affects the central nervous system, and as a stimulant, it can “speed up” various body functions.

Meth can have dangerous side effects including:6

  • Increased or irregular heart rate
  • Increased alertness and energy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Raised body temperature, causing overheating or dehydration
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Memory loss
  • Violent or aggressive behavior
  • Paranoia or hallucinations
  • Teeth problems or “meth mouth”
  • Weight loss
  • Anxiety

How to Recognize an Emergency

Freebasing a drug is a sign of severe drug abuse. Rehabilitation may be necessary if you or someone you know has become addicted to meth or cocaine. 

If you notice any of the adverse side effects of freebasing, seek medical attention immediately. Without proper treatment, the side effects can cause long-term health problems.

You should also call for immediate medical help if you spot any signs of an overdose. If untreated, an overdose can be life-threatening.

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Treatment For Cocaine And Meth Abuse

If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, consider reaching out to a professional for medical advice. Available treatment options for cocaine and meth abuse include:


Freebasing is a form of drug use. It involves removing additives and impurities from the drug, causing it to return to its base form. It results in a higher potency than the original product.

Freebasing meth or cocaine produces a faster and more intense high. However, it comes with various mental and physical health risks.

When you freebase meth or cocaine, you increase the potential for addiction and overdose. An overdose on either substance can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention.

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Updated on April 3, 2024
9 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024
  1. “Freebasing: The Same As Smoking Crack? And Other FAQs.” Healthline, 2020
  2. “Freebase Nicotine”  SourceWatch, 2019
  3. Palamar et al. “Powder Cocaine and Crack Use in the United States: An Examination of Risk for Arrest and Socioeconomic Disparities in Use.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Elsevier, 2015
  4. Al-Tayyib et al. “Heroin and Methamphetamine Injection: An Emerging Drug Use Pattern.” Substance use & Misuse, 2017.
  5. Sanvisens et al. “Long-Term Outcomes of Patients With Cocaine Use Disorder: A 18-years Addiction Cohort Study.” Front. Pharmacol, 2021.
  6. Methamphetamine Research Report.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019.
  7. Manschreck et al. “Freebase cocaine and memory.” Comprehensive Psychiatry, 1990.
  8. Rebhun, J. “Association of asthma and freebase smoking.” Annals of Allergy, 1988.
  9. Tashkin et al. “Respiratory effects of cocaine freebasing among habitual cocaine users.” Journal of Addictive Diseases, 1992.

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