The 7 Stages of Crack Cocaine Use

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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”

986 thoughts on “The 7 Stages of Crack Cocaine Use

  1. It’s the strangest thing, last night out of the blue I suddenly had the taste of crack cocaine in my mouth that lasted for only a split second. Haven’t had that happen in well over 2 years. Don’t know what triggered it, but I guess it’s that cue-conditioning they talk about. I figured it was time to come back and visit.
    Greetings, all! I haven’t posted in a long time and I apologize for my absence because I’m sure I said I’d come back more often. Things are much the same as before–I’m working 40 hours a week on night shift and keeping pretty much to myself on weekends. Still seeing my therapist every two weeks and it looks like I may be finally emerging from my annual winter slump. The bad weather and general boredom invariably cause me to fall into bad habits and dissipation every year, and this year has been particularly bad. At least it hasn’t involved crack this time, only suboxone, caffeine, nicotine, junk food, and lots lying on the couch watching TV. I’ll never forget the winter of 2011-12 when I had the gas cut off at my house and no money for groceries. I had to fill a cooking pot with water and warm it on a space heater so I could wash my face and hair to keep from looking like a hobo at work. Ah, the memories.
    It’s good to see you Al, Sharon, and the rest of you folks. I’m glad that you’re still coming back around to share your thoughts every now and then. I wish I had a better message to convey, but the truth is my life is not so great even though I’ve been crack free now for 2 years and 7 months (wow, can that be right?). Sure, all my basic physical needs are being met, but it’s clear that the essential thing that has caused me to do drugs in the past, isolate from others, and shy away from living life to the fullest has not been fully identified and dealt with.
    I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately and have realized that instead of forging ahead with life and making dreams come true, I’ve mostly just accepted whatever has been thrown at me. I didn’t really choose the career path I wanted, it was just a temporary job that became a permanent one because I was too lazy and afraid to do what was necessary to become what I wanted to be. I didn’t exactly choose the house I live in either–I just moved in temporarily to help my sister. Then she moved out and I now I’ve been living here alone for 3 and a half years because I haven’t had the initiative to work toward finding and procuring a home of my own. The same goes for the car I drive. This is the third vehicle I’ve ever had and each one has been given (more like loaned) to me by my dad (which is really nice of him), but I’ve never felt like I had my own car and my confidence has really suffered for it. It’s no wonder I can’t seem to feel comfortable in my own skin–in a way, it’s not even really my skin.
    And it’s all due to the fact that I’ve accepted the hand-me-downs and never had the experience of making my own way in life. There is some underlying fear that has always kept me from being my own person and I believe the drugs are a symptom of this fear. Doing crack, drinking alcohol, etc. have suppressed and perpetuated it over the years. I only hope that sooner or later I can eliminate all these bad habits and let the fear come out in the open so that I can face it and overcome it. And I’m sure it will take years.
    The bad thing is that what I’ve said in this post is basically the same thing I’ve said in many of my other posts from the past couple years and I’ve still got the same problem after all this time. Well, I don’t know what it is, but something feels different now. I think all this wasted time is starting to get to me and I’m ready to begin a major reformation.
    I’ll try to remember to come back and post an update in a month or two to let you know if anything has gotten better.

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    • Well friends, this site has been so quiet. I hope all are doing well. I have had a bit of upheaval in my life. A couple of weeks ago, my hub accused me of cheating. That’s like the biggest joke in the world. I have enough on my hands without even thinking of something like that! He went on a number of new pain meds in Dec. so my initial thought was they are messing with his mind. We talked, I felt I had assured him that that was the furthest from the truth and I thought we had put it to bed. The next morning we got up early because I had to bring him in for cataract surgery. It had snowed the night before and I wanted to get an early start to make sure we got there in time. Lord, he brought it up again and was irrationally angry with me. I got scared. I got dressed, left the house and called his sponsor . No answer. Turns out he was on the phone with his sponsor asking him to come take him to surgery. I waited around the corner for an hour and then saw his sponsor pull up to our house and take him. While my hub was in surgery, his sponsor called me and I told him not to bring him back to this house. He has not been right n his head since Dec. Around dinner time, hub walked in! I told him to leave. What a mess. I am not sure what I am going to do. His sponsor actually lives in our rental, so hub is there. Sponsors wife passed away last summer, so I think he is glad to have hub there ,not only to help him, but to have the company. So we begin counseling later this month, not sure what that will do for us but hopefully help make clearer what needs to be done. I miss each and every one of you. Hoping life is better for all, especially Paul E who has been struggling.

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  2. Hi every 1,had anoth now lost 2 jobs,got batterd Friday
    Nice blk eye just walkin again,I hate my life so much but will cum throu this,ova on England there’s tong called domestic violence,in that as well,but feel so lonely over the hill,but o know it’s note only feel at peace wen I’m asleep I not feelin gd really luv u all xxx

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    • hay there shaz and sharon b i just wanted to say thanks for being here when i needed it the most to jog your memory i was the one that was talking to both you and al for quite some time last year and wanted to pop in and say i have finely quit this drug i know that al is not on this blog much or anymore but she is doing fine and i email her from time to time i have been clean since feb 12 of this year and every month that i am clean i feel more and more proud of myself i have taken god into my heart as well as been off the weed all drugs . Not saying that i dont get the cravings nor the withdraw syptoms but my journey with accepting god into my heart has helped alot as well as this blog has too for it got me prepared for the stages i needed to go forwazrd … so thank you shaz god bless you and everyone on this blog as well as thows that are searching for help
      THIIS PART IS FOR THOSE THAT ARE AFFLICTED WITH THIS DRUG
      READ BELOW

      This site can help you see what to expect as well as know what happens when you body has been removed from crack cocaine But you have to make it work because everyone is afflited by this drug differently it is not fully known of how many times you may relapse before you actualy stop but if you belive in yourself have thoes around you that love you (hope you did not burn all your brigdes ) and try one day at a time you will be succseful in quiting this evil drug but you have to be ready you have to ask yourself when is it i am going to stop this is it when i lose myself (been there ) lose everyone that is around me ( alsmost did ) or had a near death experince with this drug (had 3 before i quit ) this is just part of what you have to do to stop smoking this drug ,, i must commend you for you already have taken the first step to recovery and that is accepting what it is that your addicted to crack now the second step is to make a day that your gonna stop maybe the day is before you get paid ,, another one is to not have money get rid of those around you that smoke this for they will only bring you down further and trick you into smoking it with them weather it be with guilt by saying i thought you were my friend or even lacing your weed that you smoke with it or even bring you over to there house with falsified truths that they too want to quit and are looking to you for help but you have to be vigilint and fight tooth and nail of why you want to quit ,,,, i must say this is what i had to do as a ex addict to this drug and still fighting it to not relapse it takes alot out of a person but the good side of this is you can quit i know you can quit for i did to just so you know that i was vewry far into it by the end of the time of me smoking it i was smoking everyday i would have black outs i even spent over 70 grand that i made by being self employed all on that drug so if i can quit it with that amount of crack around 5800 a month alone on the drug then i know you can too

      trust in yourself this battle you can win for i belive in you may god be there in this new life that you are choosing to pick for it is worth it you are worth it you just have to belive in you

      THIS PART IS FOR THE ONES THAT ARE BEING AFFECTED BY THE USERS WEATHER BEING MENTAL PHYSICAL FINANCIAL OR SPIRITUAL

      I know that this is a very hard time for all of you seeing a loved one hurting themselfs so much that they dont even no or care what is being done it is a very hard experience for someone that cares so much and has never been involved with this form of addiction but there is hope and i know very much so of how painful you feel for i know a person that was on this site and how much abuse she took from this user and how much she tried to stop him from using it ,,,,,

      one of the things that one being abused by this user must do is realize it is not there fault that the user is unaware of the pain there afliciting onto you and thus being from either the withdraws from it or the anger at themselfs for it but either way you as the victim have to understand that the addict is also a victim weather from abuse when they were young or self hate there has to be something that has started this addiction to surfice i know myself it was due to the sexual abuse i suffered in my adoptive family the feeling of unworthyness do to this pain i suffered from and i felt so free from my thoughts when i was on crack but realy all i was doing was just throwing the pain under the rug so to speak but all that did was make a big lump under the rug for inless the user comes to the fact of what is causing this under linging issue and accept that they need help nothing can stop this pattern at all

      but there is always hope and that is the help others get by not agreeng with the users actions by trying to talk with them about this (i know that is a hard one for ) alot of lies come out of a users mouth self expleinations exucess and reasons but it is al lies in order for the user to justifiey the action of being addicted to it

      another way is to do what your doing right now and that is becoming self aware of this problem that has affected so many familys
      find a support group of familys affected with crack there should be many online blogs or even chat sites that can have loved ones like yourselfs to relate with .

      but of course it all lies on the user he/she must choose to change there pattern no one else can do this for them

      but you can help them see the faults in there ways by seeing the signs

      1 IRREGULAR SPENDING HABITS

      2 IREGULAR TIME EG LATE COMING HOME
      DISAPEARING UNEXPECTEDLY
      HIDING
      GUILTY CONSCIENCE
      ANGER
      CONFUSION
      MOOD SWINGS
      LOST TIME
      WEIRD PHONE CALLS/ HANG UPS THESE ARE DEALERS TRYING TO GET AHOLD OF THE ADDICT

      NO EXPLEAINATIONS WERE THE MONEY WENT

      but even with all the help sometimes the addict chooses not to change and this however sad this might be you might have to remove them from being around you intill they realixze what they will lose

      all and all it is not a happy time when you experice this and even tears come from the loved ones because they feel lost confused or bewildered from the addict

      MOST OF ALL REMEMBER YOU ARE NOT ALONE

      if you need to talk about this or have questions about this

      you can email me at mcurtis54bizz@gmail.com

      if you are effected by this additction you to can email me i will try to help you on ways you can quit or even be there as a person to talk to and that alone is a start for you not alone there a lots of people that have become addicted to this drug and realy that to is not your fault for it could happen to anyone at anytime or anyplace in there life but stoping this is what has to be done next

      my email is mcurtis54bizz@gmail.com

      sincerly michael
      the surviver and clean from this drug and all drugs

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  3. I’ve been with my boy friend almost 14 years and it just gets worse and worse he even spent time in prison and I stayed. He is now still smoking crack and making up l ies to cover the money being gone but I know already because I’ve told him all I have to do is look at him and I know he’s high!!! I love him with all my heart but I can’t take it anymore but because I’ve putt up with it I have no money and no where to go but if I don’t get strong enough to walk away it’s gonna kill me, he says he wants to stop and have done so but it’s all more lies because I know the truth and I know about all the money gone and when he stays out all night after he gets his pay check I know for sure, feeling so lost what do o do ;(

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