Drug addiction can come in many forms. If you are not part of the world, there are many terms and actions you might not be familiar with. To an addict, these are part of everyday life.

Freebasing is a term you might have heard but are unsure what it means. It’s an aspect of substance abuse that has existed for decades and comes with a lot of danger. Freebasing a substance can quickly take over your life and destroy every aspect of how you and others are living.

If you are worried about someone you know, knowing the answer to the question, “What is freebasing?” and the risks and what treatment is available can go a long way toward helping that person.


What is Freebasing?

Freebasing is breaking down a drug to its purer form to increase its potency. This process involves turning a drug from its salt form into the base form – hence the name “freebasing”.

The drug-related most to freebasing is cocaine. Someone deep into a serious cocaine addiction may freebase the drug where it is nearly 100% pure.

Nicotine is also associated with freebasing and is the most common form of the substance in e-liquids that are found in vapes.

People especially decide to freebase cocaine as it enters the bloodstream and brain faster than snorting it, doesn’t rely on injecting and comes with a more intense high.


The History of Freebasing

Freebasing was introduced to the US in the mid-70s. Cocaine had become a more popular drug of choice at this time, and by the 1980s, demand had increased massively.

In the early 1980s, crack cocaine was created – a form of freebasing that involved using baking soda to remove hydrochloride from cocaine. This turn it into crystal rocks that could then be smoked. It was cheap to make, highly addictive and cheaper than the white powder favoured by celebrities.

During the 80s and 90s, crack cocaine use exploded, creating an epidemic that centred around poor working-class neighbourhoods of large cities such as LA.

Freebasing had a wide-ranging cultural and societal impact. Its rise in prominence began the War on Drugs that still rages, a rise in crime and incarceration and widened class differences.


How Freebasing Works

As stated, freebasing is a chemical process. The point of freebasing is to alter a drug’s composition so that it can be vaporised at a lower temperature. In its powder form, cocaine cannot be smoked.

Freebasing involves using an alkaline solution, such as ammonia and adding a solvent like ether to extract the cocaine base. This gives it a lower melting point so that the vapour, when heated, can be inhaled. You do this with a glass pipe, and copper can be put in there to help with the boiling process.

Crack is made by the same process but uses baking soda and water. Both methods make the drug more potent when inhaled.


The Risks of Freebasing

There are many risks of freebasing that you need to be aware of, and they can have long-lasting consequences.

Overdose Potential

Freebase cocaine hits quickly, and it hits hard. Its potency is its selling point, but it also means that it can be easy to misjudge. More can easily be used than intended, bringing about an overdose. It also wears off quickly, so you may use it more and more, not feeling the effects.

A cocaine overdose can be fatal or lead you to have heart and breathing issues.


The intense and short-lived nature of freebase cocaine makes it highly addictive. People want to chase that euphoric feeling and quickly become hooked. Crack became an epidemic because it was so easy to get addicted to compared to powder cocaine.

Processing Dangers

Crack became more popular because freebasing cocaine is dangerous. You are dealing with flammable chemicals. People using freebase cocaine can severely burn themselves when attempting to light up. The famous comedian Richard Pryor set himself on fire in 1980 by freebasing cocaine – which led him to seek treatment for his addiction.


Common Health Consequences of Freebasing

There are both short and long-term consequences of freebasing.

In the short-term, freebasing cocaine can increase your heart rate (increasing the risk of longer-term heart problems), insomnia, headaches, and burns when making freebase cocaine and cause you to hurt yourself whilst under the influence.

In the long-term, freebase cocaine can impact your mental health, smoking will lead to respiratory issues, and you will experience severe dental problems.


Treatment and Recovery from Addiction

If you are freebasing cocaine or another drug and are suffering from addiction, help is out there. Rehab centres such as Ocean Recovery offer intensive, comprehensive treatment programmes that are effective against addiction.

When you are suffering from a severe addiction, it’s important to deal with it under some form of medical supervision. Coming off of freebase drugs can be dangerous and doing it in a safe and professional environment is not only the best thing to do but also the most effective.


The first part of addiction treatment revolves around dealing with the physical aspect of it. This means stopping your use of freebase drugs. Undergoing a cocaine detox or any other substance detox will bring on withdrawal symptoms that are hard to predict. Going through withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, and at Ocean Recovery, you may be administered medication to help ease your symptoms.


The bulk of the work at rehab involves therapy. To entirely rid yourself of addiction, you need to understand it and yourself better. Our therapies offer you the chance to work on your coping techniques, connect with other people in your position and get a better grasp on your triggers.


What you do after you leave rehab is more important than getting clean in a treatment centre. Relapse is a very big risk in those initial months after rehab. To combat this, Ocean Recovery offers 12 months of free aftercare to help with the transition. You’ll have a personal aftercare plan, be able to contact our aftercare team for support and have access to group meetings.


Get Help Today

Freebasing is most commonly associated with cocaine. The term has become interchangeable with crack cocaine, which is still very popular and a very dangerous drug. The good news is that help is available for those struggling with cocaine and other freebase addictions.

Ocean Recovery is a private drug and alcohol rehab that can provide the help you need. For more information, call us at 0800 880 7596.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: April 26, 2024

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.