The 7 Stages of Crack Cocaine Use

0 to 7 Stages of Crack Cocaine Use and Withdrawal Pattern

0) Currently using: Auditory hallucinations, hypertensive, hyper vigilant. During usage a person may think they hear sirens, cars pulling up outside, music, people talking, etc. Some people will experience tactile hallucinations such as skin crawling or seeing bugs on their skin. They will be extremely alert to the point of paranoia — perhaps suspicious of any movement around the area where they are using. It is common to hide out in the area where use is occurring and refuse to answer the door.

1) Panic stage: 1-3 hours after last use. During this phase money for more is the prime concern. In this phase a person may look for something around their house to sell or pawn or may consider where they may beg, borrow or steal something to sell for cocaine. Looking for lint on the rug hoping something has fallen is common at this point. In this acute withdrawal period, people have been known to try to rob crowded public places (mall stores, convenience stores, fast food restaurants) to obtain goods to sell or money for more crack. The withdrawal is so intense and craving so high that the person has little ability to think or reason logically.

2) Crash Stage: 3-24 hours after last use. Depression; remorse (suicidal); brain is in desperate need of rest but the chemicals (serotonin) necessary for sleep have been depleted and it is difficult, at first, to sleep. In this phase one wonders why they spent all their paycheck, used funds that did not belong to them, pawned valuable household items for less than actual value, stole from persons they truly care about, etc. Often, under the influence of cocaine-induced depression, one makes promises to never do it again in this phase and believes it. Highest risk for suicide is during this period.

3) Honeymoon Stage: 1-5 days after last use. Characterized by feeling very good. The craving is not noticeable or is easily manageable during this phase. The drug effects seem to be wearing off and one is starting to regain confidence in their ability to handle the addiction. During this phase it is common to hear a person say, “I don’t even think about it, I’m not going to have any problem with it. I do not even want it anymore.” A delusive way of thinking that ignores their past cycles and paves the way for the next binge. The chemical messengers of the brain (serotonin/dopamine) necessary to enjoy crack are still depleted and behind this lack of interest in crack. This is a dangerous stage as it is easy to think there is not a problem and therefore, why worry about it? People let down their guard during this phase and commonly use defense mechanisms, e.g., rationalizing and minimizing, to convince themselves this time they are cured and so have no need of further support or treatment. There is a high risk for people in treatment to leave during this phase as they no longer feel, or are aware of, the physical and emotional affects of the original crisis.

4) Return of Craving: 5-14 days after last use. Tremendous upsurge of acute drug hunger, depression, anger. The body has produced enough serotonin/dopamine for the person to want to use more cocaine but not enough to affect stability of mood and emotions. During this phase one may experience vivid dreams, fantasies, and acute drug hunger. Thoughts may cycle around using until a person feels like giving in to the obsession to use. Defense mechanisms (rationalization, intellectualization, denial, minimizing) begin to make a strong comeback after being knocked down by the original crisis.

5) Emotional Augmentation: 14-28 days start – up to 1-2 years. Over-response to the normal stress and events of everyday life. At the top of the mood swing one is unusually happy and at the bottom one is unusually sad. The state of making mountains out of molehills. This is related to biochemical responses induced by strong emotions that stimulate areas where mood and mind altering drugs act on the brain. The body is now seriously undertaking the repairs of areas damaged by drug use and is replacing important chemicals needed to regulate mood and emotions. As a result, one is slightly off balance chemically without being consciously aware of it. There there is a strong need for accurate feedback on one’s behavior from an objective support group. (Recommend AA or NA or another type recovery support group.) This cannot be stressed too highly for long term success in recovery. Also, low impact exercise – walking, jogging, bicycling, low impact aerobics – and a well-balanced diet will shorten this phase and reduce the severity of the symptoms. Irritability, depression, anxiety, mood swings, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, short attention span, nightmares, insomnia, fatigue, and headaches are some of the normal recovery symptoms of the emotional augmentation stage.

6) Covert Cravings: 28-35 days. Secrets and bad judgments characterize this phase. Craving is not as strong on a regular basis but one may have periodic strong cravings and not want to admit it for various reasons. Thinking it is a sign of weakness, poor moral character, that they are not working a good program, that they simply should not be having cravings. Generally, the cravings are of a low level, e.g. euphoric recall (glorifying war stories), vivid dreams that trigger cravings upon awakening, or just general mild drug hunger. Without someone to talk with concerning these normal protracted withdrawal symptoms, they can evolve into high level cravings, e.g. acute drug hunger, drug seeking behavior, obsession and on to compulsion. Again the need for a support system is strongly recommended.

7) Cue Conditioning: 35 days upward. Cue conditioning – referred to as triggers – could be money, anger, disappointment, music, a film, or extreme joy. Anything strongly associated with using could cue/trigger a craving. The strength of these cue cravings will diminish in time but continue on for years although becoming few and far between. They can catch a person off guard and evolve into higher level cravings. Again, a long term support plan for sobriety AA/NA or recovery support group is recommended to alleviate these natural manifestations.

It is a normal part of recovery to have strong cravings due to acute withdrawal 3-7 days and then continued cravings at a lower level well into protracted withdrawal 6 months-2 years. Time and severity of protracted withdrawal depend upon type, amount, and frequency of drug used. Again, a program of good nutrition and low impact exercise can alleviate these normal recovery symptoms.

Please note that behavioral symptoms: compulsion, obsession, loss of control over time, place, amount used and continued use despite adverse consequences are secondary symptoms of the disease process. With continued treatment of the disease with abstinence and a good support system, these behavioral symptoms will diminish to normal discussions over time.


The above information was provided to a friend of a friend of mine in 2000 while he was in detox for crack cocaine addiction, and she recently emailed me a copy when she learned I was going to write about crack and homelessness. Thanks, friend. :)

>> See also, “What You Need To Hear About Crack Cocaine”

980 comments on “The 7 Stages of Crack Cocaine Use

  1. Shaz November 4, 2014 9:16 pm

    Rech u need out gal big time girl, Sharon said it rite, but fuck doin that to his dad! Ur man is proper on self destruct don’t u c that, do u wanna b next ask urself that?wot happens if u got pregnant?b ok for a bit then u wud put urself in danger & baby?think ur man is in two deep gAl,time to get out truth! Wots hap to al&ap?sharon we will hold fort till they come bk lol xxlove&peace to all xxx

  2. REC November 5, 2014 2:20 pm

    Thank you Shaz and Sharon. I know. It’s scary. Well, he’s in the hospital now and I’m hearing that “I’ll never do it again, I don’t even want it. It stopped being fun a long time ago.”

    It’s weird. After being so in love with him, I’m not sure what I’m feeling now. Disconnected, I suppose..

  3. Shaz November 6, 2014 1:49 am

    Rech we have all been there,I’m married to my addict wen he 1st done it I woz naive didn’t know wot it woz all fun which they make us believe wen found out went mental,think he had stop using now! But feel had the life suck outa me! If I can help sum1 have stop goin throu the pain&hurt I’ll try,so chin up gal xxx

  4. condanita November 24, 2014 8:21 pm

    IM WATCHING MY HUSBAND DIE EVERYDAY, IT IS SO SAD, I FEEL SO HELPLESS, HES BEEN IN TREATMENT SEVERAL TIME JUST TO COME OUT AND RELASP, EVEN HAVING AN ANUISUM WANT STOP HIM, I AM AFRAID THAT I WILL FIND HIM DEAD ONE DAY, THIS DRUG IS SO EVIL, I PLAN TO LEAVE HIM I CANT TAKE IT ANYMORE, HE LOOKS LIKE A TOOTH PICK, THIS IS MADDING, BUT I KNOW IVE DONE MY BEST FOR HIM TO NO AVAIL, NOW I MUST TAKE CARE OF ME.

  5. Sharon B November 24, 2014 9:00 pm

    Hi Condanita….you are right sweetheart and you must take care of yourself. If you read through any of the posts, you know that some many of us have been there. So many have lost everything they have, money, health, home, dignity by trying to love them out of their addiction. It does not work. The only one that can save them is themselves. If you have reached the end of your rope, the you just either get him out or you get out. Protect yourself.

    Shaz, Ap, Al and all others, please let us know how you are and give us a wellness check. Love and peace to all

  6. Cj November 25, 2014 9:18 am

    Paul, I’ve been keeping up too! It’s unbelievable how similar your story is to my boyfriends, I almost think he is writing it! He binges every 2 weeks and this last one was a good $1200 binge. I Know you have said it, but are you still available for email contact. He won’t speak openly with anyone close to him.. Hoping to get someone who has been were he is to give him something I can’t seem to give to him. Keep up the good work and keep posting how you’re doing! “encouragement in the brokenness”

  7. Shaz November 27, 2014 1:16 am

    Conanita, his to much on it gal!ur rite u got to think ov urself, cuz e don’t, I’m bout 5yrs down the line &still don’t feel right,feel had shit kick outa me, my man been clean 4 time.,but u know wot feel crack as already made its mark,Sharon gal still ere, come on this site most days check in,but seems really quiet ope that’s a good thing! Thoughts wid everyone xxxc

  8. Sharon B December 19, 2014 2:57 pm

    I hope all is good with everyone…Shaz, Al, Ap and all. Been very quiet here. Wishing all a very Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and lots of love and peace!

  9. Shaz January 16, 2015 1:19 am

    Don’t know wots happened to this site,where’s everyone gone?love to say everyone fine no crack,but find that hard 2 believe,we’ll since nov lost my job lost my grandson,my son wants me to b happy&keep giving my husband 1 more chance,will my heart,soul giv up 1 day&say had anoth?time to bail out I think so love to u all,Sharon how’s life?ope u had good xmas&new yr Bbz xxxx

  10. Sharon B January 16, 2015 7:42 pm

    Hey Shaz sweetheart! I am doing just fine. I am not sure what’s going on either. It is either than everyone’s life is really really good or really really not so good. I am praying it is really good. I am so sorry about your grandson. It sounds like the last few months have been tough for you. Breaks my heart. Everything is good here for me. Had a wonderful time for the holidays so do not worry about me. You take care of yourself. Loves of hugs and love for you and to everyone that I have met here! Peace

  11. al January 17, 2015 1:43 am

    Hi Sharon B and all!

    Hope you had nice holidays everyone. Sounds like you did Sharon B. that is so GREAT! You well deserve it. I think I dropped off the map after you went for your first outting with a friend from your home in years.

    I apologize everybody but my electronics died and living in a foreign country …too expensive and had to wait for a friend to bring them over here. Also live in the boonies with no internet cafes or anything really. Then my friend was due to come when my Appendix ruptured. I guess I am lucky to be here according to the surgeon who said it was really grave. Then complications afterward for several months and now on my feet again so don’t worry. Have some other stuff coming up to take care of too that they found on the ultrasound testing but they should be easier to deal with I think….and if it hadn’t ruptured ….would probably never have known about the other stuff I will need to take care of. Preventative medicine…gotta love it.

    Wish it were so easy with the crack…prevent yourself or loved ones from being around it. But as I have read…the high blood pressure seems to be a common thing from watching our mates destroy their lives with this ugly demon. My man as you know has been an addict of crack and weed for many yrs. I have struggled so much and he was just in rehab for 5 months when this appendix thing hit me (he called daily even though I said I was no longer his girlfriend and yes I did, and still do love him and we will see once you get out if you stand on your own two feet whether we can get back together or not). WELL…I had promised him I would let him know if anything else severe ever happened as he was beside himself and almost left rehab when he couldn’t get in touch with me for 5 days that I was in the hospital. I didn’t want to tell him either because I knew he would just leave to take care of me. I managed fine for awhile and he had made me promise I would tell him in the future if ever in the hospital again…well you all know me…I am so honest I couldn’t even white lie when I had to go back in and needed real help….as I had some very bad complications afterward and he left rehab. He did great taking care of me and even climbed a huge mountain 3 hrs in the jungle at night with snakes and stuff with no water or lighting to get to me! I know he loves me and I love him equally.

    He also knows that if I ever had to deal with this crack stuff again he would be gone! Well…you all know the story…he seems to be back on it again and I think since the 1st of the year (new yrs night to be exact)…any reason for that that you can think of people? He had been writing faithfully in a journal about how he would not let this addiction get the better of him…and since the 1st he hasn’t written in it again. Last sunday I found a little piece of aluminium in his things and opened it and not knowing what crack looks like, a white rock is what I found so I am now sure he is back on this evil demon again! I have to boot him out and he just signed the motorcycle back over to me( that my friend helped pay for it to get it back as he will use it like renting it) but the paperwork won’t be filed for a week or so. So I have to play along which I hate to do as I am not a phoney. But this is what crack boyfriends do to you as Shaz says…you begin to become like one…hiding keys as he keeps hiding them from me! My ipod is now missing AGAIN, and I can’t understand why he hasn’t taken my money yet as he has always done in the past. I just can no longer do this again though! I FEEL so guilty too as one gf said recently on here of her boyfriend and when you love them as much as we do and he just got done helping me so much, really he did…but he also knows I refused to have crack around me and now I find it in my home!? Any advice how to break it gently to him that he has to leave? I need to never see him or call me again ever, or I will find myself going right back to him. He knows he has cost me a fortune because I have fed him for years and although his ribs are showing he can eat like 4 people in one sitting and I don’t have the means to support that. He is working but I have never seen the money and the boss says he hasn’t paid him yet and I told him he can’t if he is really a friend of mine or it will just go to drugs and not his meals! He will also blame my friend saying I have something going on with him which I don’t! He arrived on Tues and I had already found the crack on Sunday….but we had not fixed the situation with the motorcycle yet that he sold to buy crack with which was my investment and he had never paid a thing for it. But I may have to get a restraining order on him but the police may not do so because of the last time I did and I let him back in my life since he convinced me he wasn’t using when he always was as he admitted this to me recently.

    Just sick of having to kick him out as he has no where to go and he will start stealing and then off to jail if caught but he is so sneaky that no one ever catches him. I know he is really bad for me when he has decided to continue the use of crack. His anxiety streak is showing and it is horrible to live with. He is bugging my friend to drive him on the motorcycle to the next town and hr round trip to score, telling him it is only weed and not to tell me, but my friend has been here before and said it was a crack house.

    Any ideas: Especially would like to hear from addicts as to how to go about doing this from your mindset because I do not want to hurt him, I love him so much but the love and all I tried to do to help him is turning out to not be enough. Ideas please??? You who know me well, would love to hear from any one really as to do this the best way I can without hurting his pride, his ego, or have him get mean with me as some know he has taken a big knife to me before in one of his LOST STATE OF MINDSET, and also punched me in the right side of my jaw once too. He has not been aggressive at all this time other than grabbing my hands which I raised to defend myself from him getting in my face.

    Thank you all so much and for your concern…guess GOD said it wasn’t my time to go as we have a lot of people to help just here on this site. Wish I could have helped my boyfriend as you regulars on here know how much, how many times I have tried, and what I have put up with. I want peace in my life, and no babysitting or having to be a secret agent either in hiding of finding things and where he has or hasn’t been. This life sucks for him I know, but he has chosen it again. I did not and I do not want it in my life at all any longer. HELP please. Thanks so much.
    Al (my psuedo name, I am a woman)

  12. al January 17, 2015 2:07 am

    HI Sharon B and all,

    I so apologize for not getting back to all of you. First my cell phone died, then my computer. As I am in a foreign country and those things are very expensive here, I had to wait til someone came with the things I needed and they did, thank GOD and I am so grateful!

    The other reason you hadn’t heard from me is that I had a ruptured appendix and not able to get to any internet place cause I live in the boonies and was dealing with recuperation which was difficult cause they opened me up 4 times and wanted to open me up a fifth time. There were complications afterward…but I am good now, and on the mend.

    Sharon you are getting very good at concisely letting people know how it is in your last post. I have the boyfriend here again who bailed out on rehab after he heard I had complications as I never told him I had a ruptured appendix as I did not want him to leave rehab.

    He is now getting back on the drugs again…weed and crack. I have spent 4 yrs of my life helping him to get off this seemingly non ending cycle of consuming crack…the lying, manipulations, things missing just starting all over again. I did get the motorcycle back he said he hocked, and didn’t sell….but I saw a signed paper that he signed as sold for $400 which he told me he used to buy crack.

    LOST this and just found it again….this computer has a mind of it’s own, just like my soon to be ex boyfriend. Will send this anyway.

    Hugs and kisses to Shaz my mirrored image, to AP, Michael, Paul E. Jacqueline, Michelle and all hoping you had nice holidays. And having a great start to the New yr!
    Al

  13. CONDANITA January 17, 2015 10:45 am

    FINALLY MOVED OUT OF THE HOUSE FROM MY CRACK ADDICTED HUSBAND, IT WAS A VERY HARD THING FOR ME TO DO, I FEEL MUCH BETTER, HE IS STILL BINGING, BAD, I AFRAID THAT I WILL ONE DAY FIND HIM DEAD, HE SAIDS HE WAS GOING BACK IN TREATMENT FOR THE UMPTENTH TIME, HE WIEGHS 90 LBS, I FEEL SO SAD FOR HIM BUT I KNOW THAT I MUST SAVE MYSELF, I PRAY FOR HIS DELIVERANCE

  14. al January 18, 2015 2:15 pm

    Condita, Hi. I am right there with you almost. I need to move my man out as he is also losing weight, has been in treatment for half a dozen times and I am not well because of it and neither is anything or anyone I have around me. He puts all of us on edge and has no concern for anything or anyone. It has been so hard and I do love him but I too know I will feel better in most ways, but sad to have to let him go for good. All the best to you and stay strong as Sharon B. always says and it is not your fault or anything with regards to what happens with him next. 90 lbs? REALLY? I am amazed he is still alive at that weight.

  15. condanita January 18, 2015 8:46 pm

    90 lbs may be an exaggeration but he is very thin, I too was always sick and in physical pain but the doctors never found anything wrong, since I left ,there has been no more pain and I feel good, I love him too but I had to start loving me or I knew I was dead, he said he want me back but I know it is not for the right reasons, im ok were I am for now, I pray for him and my strength, but deep down, I know I cant go back

  16. al January 19, 2015 3:00 pm

    My advice Condanita is to not go back! Trust me! I have gone back over half a dozen times and each time the flare ups get worse. I want out permanently and am not working on it slowly to do so…to not put my health or life at risk. They tend to focus on something like getting crack and their woman and NOTHING stops them! I pray for you and all the others (men too!) and those with this horrible demon that gives them no peace or strength to fight long term.

  17. REC January 19, 2015 3:41 pm

    I feel for everybody. I relate to those experiences of hiding things from loved ones, watching them turn into a toothpick, and being constantly on edge because of their focus on scoring.

    The worse they get, the harder it is to know what they’re capable of doing. GOOD men all. They must really feel they are going to die without it, there is no other way to explain the heedlessness. A pull so powerful, and even though it’s so omnipresent it causes us to pretend and to engage in subterfuges. I love, adore, my adorable guy. But I also really value my own sanity. I will not be around crack anymore. He might wind up being homeless, but I will not take a chance at having him in my home. People who don’t know anything about crack don’t realize that the addicted are lovable human beings. But it is true that their habit is very dangerous and will take to no end.

  18. CONDANITA January 21, 2015 11:45 am

    I KNOW, AND EACH TIME IT DID GET WORSE AND MORE DANGEROUS, HE SAID HIS MIND TOLD HIM TO STAB ME AND GET HIS MONEY, KNOW ONE WAS ALLOWED TO VISIT ME AT OUR HOME, HE HAS TOTALLY SURRENDERED TO THE DRUG

  19. CONDANITA January 21, 2015 11:56 am

    YOU ARE SO RIGHT ABOUT THE ONES WHO KNOW NOTHING ABOUT CRAC AND TRULLY DANGEROUS THE ADDICT CAN BECOME, IVE HAD THOSE LOOK AT ME AS IF I WAS JUST BEING HARD ON HIM, NO CLUE OF THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DRUG, I KNOW HES CAPABLE OF KILLING ME FOR IT AND THINK NOTHING ABOUT IT, I KNOW I CANT GO BACK, HE HAS STOPPED TRYING TO GET HELP, ALWAYS TRYING TO CON ME FOR MONEY, HE KNOWS THAT I NOW KNOW HIS CON, I FEEL SORRY FOR THE WOMEN HES NOW CONNING AND THINK THEY HAVE FOUND THE IDEAL MAN, HE IS CAPABLE OF ANYTHING UNAMANGINEBLE, I HAVE SEEN IT, BLEW MY MIND, I THANK GOD I NO LONGER LIVE IN THAT HOUSE WITH HIM, I HAD TO FIGHT AND STRUGGLE TO GET OUT OF THERE. CAN NEVER TRUST HIM AGAIN.

  20. al January 21, 2015 3:35 pm

    REC I could not have explained it better than you! You are so correct! They are all good men but the drug when without turns them into demons and I do need to get him out before it gets worse again as I have been afraid for my life and people keep warning me that he may kill me and so it is time to get him out. I am doing it slowly and trying to express to him that our time together is over. I know he will go and od with crack when I do, so I will have to put a restraining order and now stick by it this time even if I don’t want to be with anyone else or can’t even see myself with anyone else I just want out.

    As you say Condadita too…he asks for money, knows how to con, is capable of anything and can never trust him and I don’t want to be in a relationship where I can no longer trust my partner. I treat him well, and as I say to him, you don’t treat me well and I can no longer go on like this.

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