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”

952 comments on “The 7 Stages of Crack Cocaine Use

  1. Sharon October 7, 2014 9:08 am

    OMG>>>>JACKIE!!!!!!!! Well, my girl, what a wonderful surprise to see you back here. I am crying to know that you were able to let go of the hate and so very very proud of you. I am not sure I could have done that. We miss you a lot and I think of you often hoping life is turing out the way you want it. I know you will be a big success and when you are please remember us little folks back here who truly cared and embraced you even tho you were a bit of a sh**head. Pop in from time to time to give us updates and so very very proud to call you my friend! Love

  2. al October 7, 2014 2:37 pm

    Jacqueline,

    Wow, wow, and wow! What you wrote was so moving it brought me to tears. And I also got goosebumps! I can´t even begin to imagine the pain you have been suffering for all these years (as mine has been a different kind of pain)….at 14 taking your innocence away and having to see that person all the time(I remember you mentioning that in a previous email and that really stuck in my head and hurt me as I thought how horrible that would be)….holding hate in your heart for everyone and even yourself as you presented yourself in ….forgive me an ugly hateful manner…like Sharon B. said a bit of a sh_t head to say the least. But yes, I can see why…you hated the world for what it dealt you. You hated that there was no one to protect you, you hated yourself for what had been done to you, and that hate like you said brought more hate. It presented you as a hateful person, and probably brought you more hateful people to accompany you that would have done you no good at all.

    The way you expressed yourself on here about this man who had done this to you, and to another 14 yr old girl, most likely may have been done to him (and maybe by a woman…you never know-have you thought about that? Guess it really doesn´t matter now as you have come to peace with it all now)….But he STILL chose to continue to harm others and I so believe in Karma and I don´t know how you could find forgiveness as I am glad they beat the crap out of that guy with baseball bats and maybe remaining in a coma or as a vegetable he will never hurt another little girl again! I was so happy to hear this like you were initially. REALLY HAPPY actually.

    Although you may think I have had a cushy life, or the rest of us you thought have had (that is how you expressed yourself at first anyway)…which now that you have read about us probably know we have all suffered and I have been date raped which I don´t discuss and had the same person have a huge knife across my throat. A husband that beat me up and kicked me while pregnant in the stomach delivering 2 1/2 wks early…but I still felt your pain even if it is different then mine.

    I have written on here a quote my mother told me a long time ago…It doesn´t matter where you come from, but what you do with your life that matters.

    You are now doing so much with your life and fast. Take your time so you get it all down correctly….but from reading what you wrote…it sounds as though you are doing just that. I am amazed as to you being able to forgive yourself ….with what you whispered to him…and if he did hear it…let him rip as this is the bigger person that you are now becoming. And I am sure others on here that read your post and may not comment may come to learn to forgive and move forward like you are doing. Are you going to school now? No more drugs and alcohol?

    You sound so clear headed and not holding that anger and hate anymore in. Please remain positive and keep good positive people along side of you. Weed the nastys out as you have become a new (phew) lovely person that was always inside just waiting to come out…and you did need that anger to come out to be able to find the real you once again.

    Personally, I never wanted to address you again before….the others on here are more clued up than I, I think. But now….I am honored that you have shared so much with us and have had the joy to hear how you have moved forward. Please stay in touch and congrats for gaining a real life, and the one you deserve with no more hate to eat away at you from the inside out. That was before….I really, really, really like the YOU now! :-)

    What a pleasure to hear from you and please stay in touch!!! CONGRATULATIONS HOORAY, YOU DESERVE IT Jacqueline!

    Al

  3. al October 7, 2014 3:04 pm

    Funkie and Sharon B.

    Funkie, good to hear you are getting strong and now realizing things that were withheld from you and that is no way to start a marriage or a life together and any addict thinking to do the same reading this is a FALSE person, and not representing himself or herself correctly. You want a real life, BE REAL! Face the truth and then maybe you can do something to make your lives better and without lies. As this has been a lie both Funkie and Sharon B. who both deserve better. I am glad Sharon B. that you are no longer babysitting…for a few months. How is that working out for you? Although I am no longer living with my ex….he still believes we are a couple and still draws me into babysitting him on the phone and has a really nice, caring, correct man who has given him employment now that he is not using but still uses this man to help him babysit. I reprimanded him for this and told him not to put that on the man…but as my ex said…it is all a process and he has been this way for such a long time that he is slowly trying to change. And yes, it takes time. Time to stop lying and such…but the only thing lying, cheating, and stealing from others is doing is hurting yourself, the addict and continues to have you on a path of downfall…instead of lifting yourselves up.

    Funkie, your story and strength amaze me. I need to get my feet on the ground and say NO MORE too! I have recently reached out to meet someone new because I have really not seen a change like you say…in actions other than his being in rehab. But the things he says he is going to do…he has not done. I ask if he has gone to therapy which is offered every day and he has not. But at least he is not lying to me in this instant. But I don´t know if he is lying in ALL the other things. I found out he was smoking which is a no no there because he needed 45 days clear of ANYTHING and was starting to act up again in his old ways and going toward relapse. I called him on it and luckily he listened after pointing out various things he was doing and others too called him out on…which made him realize it …and saved himself from using crack again but he was getting close, really close to using again. Phew I am glad he didn´t.

    Like both of you, I love him and still have this dream that he will be a normal person where I won´t have to babysit him but I think now that, that is only a dream because of the changes he says, by action that have not occurred. And thus the reason I have chosen to meet someone else. I have put almost 4 yrs of my life into him and recently my hair was falling out in gobs….every second another strand was on my arm…I couldn´t even cook..because they kept falling everywhere. I took a break this weekend, and decided to meet other people and now my hair is not falling out anymore.

    Weird…but guess I need to listen to my body…as my blood pressure was going up again too. I miss him, and still hang in there to help with his progress but don´t want him to have any false hopes that we will be back together. He needs to do this for himself.

    And we need to do what we need for ourselves.

    Shaz, you too girlfriend needs to look after yourself and glad you are putting weight back on. As for coming for a visit…I no longer live in the states…I live in Central America. Life is laid back here or I wouldn’t have even been able to get this far with this situation and crack is everywhere people. So so sad! Just stay away from it!

    As for those that read this for the first time and can see some of us are very tight with one another….I want you to know that we have never met, don´t know what any of us look like and don´t need to. We have grown close by sharing our stories, our concerns …for one another and for each and every one of you that has had their lives affected by this disease of addiction. If we don´t use or if we do…we are addicts to this disease and GOD help us all…but we are here for one another and you can tell your story or ask us for advice if you wish. It is totally anonymous I guess is what I have been trying to say and it has helped me immensely, and others too that wish to open up. All the best to all,
    Al

  4. Sharon B October 7, 2014 3:26 pm

    Hey Al, this not babysitting thing is working great for me..lol..I just reached a point where quite literally I took it out of my hands, handed it back to him and said que sera sera It is such a relief to be responsible for myself and myself only. Funny thing when I look back, he has had a babysitter since he first got clean in 2012. He lived with another addict and they both stayed clean, so they both babysat. It was when we got married and then he had access to my bank account that he went stupid. Fortunately I caught him right away and was only out a couple thousand, but it still is not chump change and made me quite angry. At the time, his unemployment was being deposited in my bank account (ironically it was almost the same amount monthly that he stole from me, so I immediately took ALL the money out of that account, shut it down and opened another in my name only. Part of the money I took was the unemployment and he did not dare to ask for it . I am sure some reading here will think I am a hard a**, but I do not condone bad behaviour, especially when it is harmful to me and to them. Seems to be working. 28 months since he used, a couple of months since I stopped babysitting and all is good.

    Last week we went on vacation (holiday to you Shaz) and went back to my home town for a high school reunion. Was fantastic! And even though he could not always run around and be part of the group due to his bad health, I left him in hotel and went and did everything. Was so good to see all my friends. I was very social in High School and very active in many activities, so was just like old times for me. Funkie, I do not remember if I mentioned it but my husband and I are in our early 60’s, so this crap knows no age. A few months ago, we heard of an acquintance that is in his 70’s and after 20 years clean, decided to use crack again and was spending almost his entire retirement to the tune of $4000.00 A MONTH to use. So, my point is, think long and hard about your future. I think part of the reason I can actually let go and stop babysitting is I am firm in the knowledge that if he uses again, he is gone. I will not go through again what I went through. Exit plan would be a good name..I have an exit plan. Love to all of you and Shaz, pop in and say hi! AP, where are you my man?

  5. al October 7, 2014 3:46 pm

    Thank you for your response Sharon B. I am so GLAD and RELIEVED that you are now getting a LIFE! I am so, so HAPPY for you! Glad you two could take a vacation! Glad you got to hang out with friends like old times! Glad you are not having to babysit anymore! I am so happy for you! Truly I am. If I could ever see that with my ex, I would hang in there. I just have my doubts like Funkie. So sad about the man you told us about…clean for so many years and then spending all is money at the end of his life! This scares me to DEATH! I don´t know if I want to get in any deeper. I feel like it may be over my head…all of this. Am afraid to take any further chances. You know I risked my life to save this man I love. If he were ever to get into it again, and then have to risk my life again…he may KILL me, if he can´t have me. I am actually scared of all of this.
    Al

  6. A.P. October 7, 2014 11:06 pm

    Here I AM DOLL!
    And I am just sitting here eating all this up!! You, Al and Lady J all brought your A game today!! My heart is so full to have you all in my life. Damn this is a good, good day. I thought it might be a good idea for me to take a back seat for a minute while you ladies discussed
    “lady bits” and “rusty plumbing” etc…….. LMAO.!! just kidding.

    But seriously though
    Al, regarding the last sentence of your above post. I am very relieved to hear you say what you said. As I had always uttered a silent prayer on that very matter. But I didn’t want to spook you because I don’t know the man personally. I just can’t help but feel if a person refuses to face the reality that you are no longer a couple. After repeatedly being told otherwise. Well, that concerns me as well.

    Sharon, doll it is indeed unfortunate to hear about your acquaintance. This is the very reason that I tell people that knew me back when. That the 3 years I have is both monumental and at the same time its nothing. Because we never “arrive”. I have to walk out my door every single day suited and booted. Because traps and triggers are everywhere. And this disease never sleeps.

    Funkie, I don’t feel it appropriate for me to try to speak to your situation. So I will leave you in the very capable hands of Sharon, Al and Shaz. They have your situation dialed in.

    And now, my crown jewel, Lady J.
    You remind me of my very first drink of straight hard whisky. You were harsh, nasty, burned me inside and hit my stomach like a ton of bricks. And made me make all sorts of ugly faces. But slowly you started to mellow bit by bit as I acquired a taste for you. Now you got me hooked. In a good way.
    Good job kiddo. Good job indeed………..

  7. al October 8, 2014 12:17 am

    Great to hear from you A.P. Clean out our rusty plumbing and other girly tidbits..ha, ha. Thank you for your concern, however please express anything you want. Am open to all suggestions. Sounds like you are doing well and I agree it is a good day, a very good day. :-)

  8. Michele (ChosenFast.com) October 8, 2014 12:42 am

    IMPORTANT: Because of the trusting nature of the supportive relationships that have been built here, I am respectfully requesting that each commenter choose *one* identity only from which to post comments and respond to others’ comments. Please refrain from using multiple email accounts to create multiple identities for yourself on this web site. This should be a safe space for all those who read or comment here. Thank you. God bless you all. :)

  9. Shaz October 9, 2014 11:38 pm

    Hey everyone just readin bk on post Bbz Ap America bit far 4 me to holiday lol egypt 4a winter sun,need bit ov topless sunbathing omg women talk lol,funkie gal I got married in 2010 omg I wish my hubby got sent down wud ov been stronger into my self gal can’t u c the pattern? Good chance 4. U 2 get out,I’m stuborn not gona let man win but then again his not usin but damage been done only now I’m climbing up frm my well bein !jackie my Bbz u r a wonderful person so brave gal, ur a proper fighter!like al said wen u first came on ere u woz a biatch lol bit highly strung,mad with ur life,look ow far u av cum?u av more guts than me cuz I wud’nt b able to not turned the knobs machine ov the one that helps him to breath but u didn’t ur on the up gal &wid ur expirence in life will make u wanna ov the best so keep it up x Sharon Ali I’m still ere life ok but still I’m Neva happy,the hurt cut to deep but still can’t b wid out him love&hate him take 1 day at a time,sold my ova Ouse got money in seperate ac,just incase cuz can’t&I won’t go down again xxxxxlove u all

  10. REC October 15, 2014 8:20 pm

    I just wanted to thank everyone who posts here, on behalf of a lot of other lurkers, I’m sure. A bit over a month ago, I broke up with my boyfriend of four months because I finally couldn’t be around the crack anymore. I know I was lucky to get off relatively easy/early, not to have spent too much of my life caught up. Yet I still struggle with the pain and guilt. He had a terrible childhood, awful family situation, and is full of hurt. He’s a sensitive guy and I just adore him, but as things became more chaotic, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I was afraid of what I’d see. He lost a ton of weight, became skin and bones, was losing teeth, and was beginning to be completely obsessed with using. He was always obsessed, but there was less and less room for anything else as time went on. I’d say, “Want to go take a walk?” and he’s say, “I’m not walking anywhere unless it’s to go buy drugs.” The last time I saw him, it was on his birthday, and he was loving and grateful when he read my card, but then me and all of his other friends surrounding him with love that day wasn’t enough for him to last the gathering more than an hour, without leaving to go angle for drugs. I cried all the way home that day and knew I probably was never going back.

    We talked almost every day for weeks and it was so hard for me to find an honest but dignified way to talk to him about why I left. We were finally able to have some truthful–if brief–conversations about it. A recovered addict asked me once, “Have you told him you love him?” Only ten times every single time I talk to him.

    Thank you again for sharing what you all know, because it helps me be a little more realistic about the situation. I don’t feel he hurt me, so much as I hurt myself by longing for what can’t be and for chastising myself with guilt. On a certain level, it seems ridiculous to me, how the SO’s of addicts think, “Why can’t I be as good as a drug? That drug must be great! I must suck.” Of course it’s not so simple. He loves the drug, he does love other people, it’s a hard situation. There is nothing to be gained for me to stay in the situation when I simply can’t handle it.

    Now if I could get over worrying about it and feeling bad for leaving. I just got diagnosed with high blood pressure too.

    I would love to reach a place of hope where I can trust that God will take care of things. I would also love to reach a place of enough confidence and strength to know that I can and should be okay, even should my boyfriend never be okay. I hope I can ultimately learn that true happiness is something you can only give yourself and not get from another. I long for the place of love and peace.

  11. Shaz October 21, 2014 9:45 pm

    Hey plp rec ur so brave lookin bk on my realionship how it all 1st started was naive bout crack &fell so deep for my man I wished like you shud of dump him but like a twat got heavier in2 him, which problay u wud ov 2,gal u had a lucky escape!i will state a lot of crackeads will say how bad there upbringing was or we make excuses for it,it don’t matta my husband had a good upbringing,but still got hooked,I’ve had a shit marriage cuz crack, did I turn to the shit noooo,but it nearly destroyed me will the past destroy me?wot crack has done to us,the evil shit truthful I don’t know I dout myself everyday!i know ma old man ain’t using, know where e is every sec ov the day but don’t know. If that’s anoth 4me anymore!

  12. Sharon B October 21, 2014 10:19 pm

    Hey all. Just doing a check in…REC count your blessings my friend. You have saved yourself a lot of heartache. Give yourself time to heal and stay away from him. We all speak from experience. I know you love him but I have said it a million times…love is not enough. You cannot save him. He has to do it himself. and believe me, your love will eventually turn to resentment….on a daily basis, I cannot stand my husband and then I realize that I played a big part in this by trying to love the addict out of him, so really I am as much to blame as him for my situation. Then I have shining moments of love for him when I see the man I first fell for. One moment deep resentment, the next deep love..a conundrum for sure and not a real good way to have peace in ones life. But I carry on, and hope that my words help others before they find themselve in my position. So I am here to listen to you nd believe me, we lovers of addicts know exactly what you are going through and how you feel. Al, Shaz, AP and all others..wishing you peace and love..check in and let us know how you are doing

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