Melting Down

For cocaine extremists seeking peak pleasure at any cost, "free-basing" is the ultimate high. The smoking technique was rare until 1979, when head shops began mass-marketing $15 free-base extraction kits. Although not practiced by most cocaine users, free-basing is disturbingly popular, especially in California. Its toll is high: the risk of drug dependence is vastly greater than with snorting, and no less than with injecting. As cocaine is just one distilled component of the coca leaf, cocaine free-base comes from carrying the refining process one ill-advised step further: the active drug is...

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