Definition of the Slang Term Basehead

Crack Cocaine
DEA

"Basehead" is street slang for a person who smokes freebase crack cocaine. "Freebase" refers to the smokable form of cocaine, which comes in the form of crack cocaine, a hard, rock-like substance. These words are some of nearly 2,000 street terms that refer to specific drug types compiled by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Powder cocaine is actually cocaine hydrochloride, which is a water-soluble salt form of the drug. Because it's a salt, powder cocaine can be absorbed into the body, therefore it can be snorted or injected. Powder cocaine can be smoked, but smoking is not an effective method of using the drug.

Due to the fear of using infected needles, cocaine users began treating powder cocaine with chemicals to free the cocaine base from the hydrochloride. The result was a hard rock or lump of crack cocaine that was more easily smoked. When a person snorts or injects cocaine, the effects can take a few minutes to kick in, but smoking crack cocaine produces an immediate feeling of getting high. The trade-off is that while the high from powder cocaine lasts 15 to 30 minutes, smoking crack cocaine will typically create a shorter, 5- to 10-minute high.

Intense High, Intense Low

The pleasurable effects of crack cocaine wear off quickly, more quickly than when powder cocaine is snorted or injected. As it high wears off, the user begins to experience some very unpleasant after-effects, including feeling:

  • Tired, depressed, or anxious
  • Head and body aches
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Irritability
  • Hunger
  • Panic or paranoia

Repeated, Compulsive Use

The after-effects of smoking crack are so unpleasant, users often immediately smoke more of the drug to keep from coming down. This repeated, compulsive use can easily lead to chemical dependency upon the drug. Smoking the freebase form of cocaine is called "freebasing", and those who quickly become addicted to smoking crack are called "crackheads" or "baseheads".

Develop Problems Quickly

Although the idea of becoming addicted after one session is mostly a myth, people who smoke crack cocaine can develop problematic use fairly quickly. Experimenting with crack cocaine often leads to addiction and related problems. Roughly one third of people who try crack develop a physical dependence on cocaine within two years.

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5 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Slang Terms and Code Words: A Reference for Law Enforcement Personnel. Updated July 2018.

  2. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Cocaine research report: What is cocaine?. Updated May 2016

  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Cocaine research report: What are the short-term effects of cocaine use?. Updated May 2016.

  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Cocaine withdrawal. Updated January 12, 2019.

  5. Falck RS, Wang J, Carlson RG. Among long-term crack smokers, who avoids and who succumbs to cocaine addiction?. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;98(1-2):24-29. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2008.04.004

Additional Reading
  • University College London. "Addiction – Crack, Freebase Cocaine." EAP - Addictions 2005