More than 1.5 million Americans have used crack or crack cocaine in the past month alone.

This highly addictive, dangerous drug contributes to thousands of deaths every year. It can lead to HPV, violent outbursts, lung problems, and a number of other health issues.


And like many hard drugs, breaking a crack cocaine addiction is incredibly tough.

If you have a loved one or friend who may be suffering from an addiction, keep reading. We’re breaking down what you need to know about the stages of abuse, how they are treated, and the symptoms they may cause.

The 7 Stages of Abuse When Dealing with Crack Cocaine

While different individuals have different levels of tolerance, it’s generally accepted that a person can’t smoke crack cocaine once and then never do so again.

Crack cocaine is extremely addictive. A single fix can lead to a lasting addiction that is incredibly difficult to break.

Whether that first fix is smoked, snorted, or ingested otherwise, the individual immediately enters the seven stages of abuse and recovery.

If they choose to try to break their addiction, they’ll begin working their way through the other stages. If they continue to get one fix after the next, they’ll never move past the first stage.

Understanding the following stages is important if you’re looking to help someone beat their addiction.

They’ll help you know what to look for when moving from one stage to the next. They’ll also give you a better understanding of the symptoms that a person might experience while going through any given stage of abuse.

1. Anxiety and Panic

The very first stage of crack cocaine withdrawal begins immediately after an addict’s last fix.

The high they experience following that fix may stave off the initial crack cocaine withdrawal symptoms for a few hours. But depending on how they get their fix, the high may last much less time. Smoking crack often only leads to a high of five to 10 minutes.

The moment that high begins to ebb, the addict will begin to have severe feelings of anxiety and panic.

They’ll obsess about finding their next fix. If they don’t have the money to pay for more of their chosen drug, they may resort to taking extreme measures to get the drugs, or money for the drugs.

An addict may try to pawn valuables like jewelry or tools. If they don’t have their own items to pawn, they may steal them from others. Or they may try to steal cash from those around them.

If they become desperate, addicts may even try to trade sexual favors for drugs.

This stage of withdrawal will likely continue until the person scores another fix, thus restarting the cycle of abuse again.

If the person isn’t able to score another fix within 24 hours, or if they choose not to because they are attempting to break their addiction, they’ll move on to the second stage of crack cocaine withdrawal.

2. The Crash

The next stage of withdrawal from crack cocaine is a crash.

This crash usually occurs around 24 hours after an addict’s last fix. This time period may be longer or shorter depending on the individual’s length of addiction, tolerance levels, and other factors.

When the crash starts, an addict will begin to experience feelings of deep depression and despair. They may even begin to have thoughts of suicide. Left unchecked, an addict may even attempt suicide at this stage.

While the individual may feel as though their body is shutting down, these symptoms are actually emotional.

Crack cocaine is water soluble. Unlike other forms of drug addiction, those going through withdrawal from crack cocaine don’t go through detox as the drugs leave their system.

This means that their symptoms are not physical, but entirely emotional. But don’t mistake this distinction as meaning that an addict isn’t experiencing any pain. They will feel as though their symptoms are physical.

These extreme, painful feelings often make this the toughest stage to beat. Left on their own, if an addict is able, they’re likely to do anything they can to get another fix and stop these symptoms.

Trying to get through this stage on their own can be incredibly difficult. If a person is trying to break their addiction, it’s best to weather this stage in a treatment facility.

This crash can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days after an addict gets their last fix. When it subsides, the individual will then enter the third stage of abuse.

3. False Hope

Within a few days of their last dose of crack cocaine, individuals may lapse into the most dangerous stage. During this time, they may feel as though they are free of their addiction.

Their self-confidence will increase. They’ll begin to feel emotionally and physically recovered from their crash. They’ll feel healthy, happy, and close to feeling like they did before their drug addiction started.

These feelings are often referred to as a “honeymoon period.” They give individuals a false sense of hope as they think that they have already beaten their addiction.

If they were involved in a drug treatment program, they may check themselves out, thinking that they are fine to go back to their own lives. Staying in an inpatient treatment facility is important throughout this stage and into the next.

4. The Craving Returns

Unfortunately, these feelings of happiness and freedom won’t last.

Within just a few days, they’ll subside, and the feelings of withdrawal will return.

As dopamine and serotonin levels in the body rise, cravings will return. Depending on the individual, they may be more or less severe, but they’ll return nonetheless.

If an individual has left a treatment program thinking they had beat their addiction, they may now be at risk of a relapse.

5. Emotional Turmoil

Within 14 days of their last fix, addicts will enter the stage of abuse that can last as long as two years.

Not only have the cravings returned, but they will also begin to experience strong, irrational emotions.

They may swing between happiness and anger, fear and sadness, and deep depression. Even small, normal emotional situations can spur an extreme response. Something that a non-addicted person would deal with quickly and move on from, an addict may obsess over.

Left untreated, this stage of abuse can have devastating consequences.

The individual may lose all self-confidence. They’ll struggle to form relationships or hold employment. They may lapse into depression and suicidal thoughts.

Nightmares and issues with anxiety are also very common too.

During this stage, it’s important that a recovering addict fill their life with the right influences.

Group recovery programs can give them emotional support. Professional treatment can help them learn how to replace negative feelings with positive ones.

Physical activity can also help to manage symptoms. A healthy diet can help as well.

6. Lingering Cravings

Even after the extreme feelings of the fourth stage have begun to subside, an individual may still experience cravings.

Because they have begun to recover, these cravings may be less likely to lead to relapse and more likely to cause emotional turmoil. A person may feel guilty for craving drugs and will try to mask those feelings.

During this stage, it’s also common to lapse back into old, unhealthy habits. This can increase feelings of guilt.

Individuals may withdraw from friends and family, or start keeping secrets in an attempt to keep others from finding out that the cravings are still present.

7. Honing Behavior to Avoid Further Symptoms

The lingering cravings and emotional symptoms may linger for weeks, months, or even years after an addiction ends.

A big part of managing and treating these symptoms is learning how to hone behaviors and avoid situations that may cause cravings to return or to increase.

Just as a recovering alcoholic should avoid bars or social situations where drinking is expected, recovering crack cocaine addicts need to stay away from areas and situations that remind them of their former addiction.

Because cocaine abuse is often associated with early childhood trauma, emotional distress and violent relationships can spur an increase in cravings.

It’s also important to avoid any other addicts that aren’t recovering or who recently quit who might cause an individual to relapse.

During this final stage of crack cocaine abuse, an outpatient treatment program will help the individual learn healthy habits and practices that can help them stay drug-free. Health professionals may recommend physical activities, diet changes, and other treatments that will help the recovering addict live a happy, healthy life.

Symptoms of Crack Cocaine Withdrawal

When a person is addicted to crack cocaine or is going through abuse recovery, they may experience a wide range of symptoms. These can vary depending on how old the person is, their health, how long they were addicted, and a number of other factors.

As mentioned above, emotional symptoms like anxiety, depression, and anger are all common. This is true both while a person is still abusing the drug and while going through recovery.

While they are high, the person may feel alive and energized. As the high fades and the cravings start to set in, they may become anxious, panicked, and angry.

They may feel as though everyone is out to get them, and see their loved ones and friends as obstacles between them and the thing they want the most: their next fix.

While high, hallucinations are also common.

When battling addiction, a person may lose their appetite. In an effort to spend every moment seeking their next fix, they may stop eating entirely, which can lead to malnourishment.

Deaths associated with crack cocaine addiction are often caused by a rise in body temperature, blood pressure, and heart rate. An addict may also develop other diseases and infections caused by sharing needles or by the damage done to their nasal passages, throat, and lungs.

Treating Crack Cocaine Addiction

Treatment for crack cocaine addiction requires professional help.

Addicted individuals may need medical help to tackle symptoms, emotional support from counselors who understand what they are feeling, and the support of staff who knows what to expect while tackling the stages of abuse.

Treatment for addiction starts with an intervention. The intervention is key to convincing the addict that they need to make a change or risk losing their lives.

There are a number of strategies involved in staging an intervention to increase the chances of convincing an addict to seek help.

Once an individual is admitted to a treatment facility, they may be guided through detox with the help of medications. Once they have detoxed from the drug, the facility will then start other treatments, including both emotional and physical treatment for the symptoms of withdrawal.

Seeking Help for Your Friend or Loved One

Helping someone fight their crack cocaine addiction can be difficult.

To start, convincing them to seek treatment can feel impossible. The individual is likely to defend their addiction and offer excuses for why they can’t quit. If pressed, they may become angry or even violent.

Their feelings of paranoia and anxiety might cause them to distrust even those who are closest to them.

If you’re able to convince your friend or loved one to seek treatment, they’ll still be facing the seven stages of abuse. At any point in the process, they may relapse or experience other symptoms that can lead to a health crisis.

Being there for them during these stages can be both physically and emotionally difficult, especially if the cravings and symptoms linger for months or years.

But regardless of the obstacles you’re likely to face, doing everything you can to help a person break their addiction can be the difference between saving their lives or letting them go.

If you have a loved one who is battling addiction, it’s time for an intervention. Click here to learn more about how to stage one and the steps you need to take to be successful.