Alcoholism stages can be categorized into three broad stages of alcoholism. They are the early stages, middle stages and end stage alcoholism or late stage alcoholism.
Alcoholism stages generally take years to develop, often becoming more serious over the years.
Alcoholism can be defined as a disease where alcoholic consumption is at a level that interferes with the person’s physical or mental health and negatively impacts social, family or occupational responsibilities.
Consuming no more than one or two drinks per day for healthy men and a drink a day for healthy non-pregnant women are generally considered acceptable alcohol consumption without health risks.
However, as the amount or frequency of drinking increases, the earliest of the alcoholism stages can develop as a result.
Early Stages of Alcoholism
In the early alcoholism stages, a person begins to depend on alcohol to affect their mood.
They drink for relief from stress and problems, and they begin thinking more and more about alcohol and drinking. The person and others around them may not recognize that the person is in the earliest of the stages of alcoholism.
A gradual increase in tolerance happens, meaning, it takes increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired mood-altering effects. Often, the person can consume large amounts of alcohol without even appearing impaired.
At the early alcoholism stages, the body has adapted to increasing amounts of alcohol. In fact, how a person functions will likely be improved with drinking as blood alcohol levels rise. For example, they can think and talk normally or walk a straight line with no problem.
However, with continued alcohol consumption over time, the body begins to lose its ability to deal with high alcohol levels.
As this occurs, when the alcoholic stops drinking and their blood alcohol level decreases, their thinking, talking or walking functions deteriorate, and they are moving into the next of the stages of alcoholism.
Middle Alcoholism Stages
The need and desire to drink gradually becomes more intense and more important to the alcoholic. Drinking larger amounts and more often happens as well as drinking earlier in the day.
The alcoholic is losing control over drinking, and the body is losing its ability to process alcohol like it did in the early stages of alcoholism.
Their tolerance decreases as they become intoxicated more easily. Withdrawal symptoms begin to become more severe if alcohol is reduced.
The person may now secretly recognize that they have a drinking problem, and others may begin to notice as well. Unfortunately, it becomes more difficult for the alcoholic to judge how much alcohol their body can handle.
Typically, the drinker denies to themselves and others that alcohol is a problem so they won’t have to deal with their inner turmoil. Hangovers, blackouts and stomach problems can now be physical symptoms that occur on a regular basis.
End Stage Alcoholism
As alcoholism progresses, the alcoholic has become obsessed with drinking to the exclusion of nearly everything else. Everyone can tell there’s a major problem. During the late alcoholism stages, the mental and physical health of the alcoholic are seriously deteriorating.
Many of the body’s organs have been damaged which lowers resistance to disease. Relationships at home or socially may have been severely damaged, and there can be mounting financial and legal problems due to the alcoholic’s powerlessness over alcohol.
Every alcoholic will suffer from malnutrition. Alcohol in large amounts interferes with the digestion process and the passage of nutrients from the intestines into the bloodstream.
Liver function has been damaged, further limiting the conversion of nutrients into a usable form that the body can assimilate. The damaged cells are not receiving the needed nutrients, they cannot repair themselves and the damage continues to worsen.
Nutritional deficiencies cause related health problems to become worse. For example, a vitamin B-1 deficiency common in alcoholics can result in loss of mental alertness and appetite, fatigue, confusion, emotional instability and memory loss.
And if the alcoholic continues to drink, alcohol will likely cause the death of the alcoholic in one way or another. From suicide, accidents and related injuries to direct damage to the body’s organs and systems, death will likely be the final outcome of end stage alcoholism.
Important note – if a person is alcohol dependent due to heavy drinking over time, reducing or stopping alcohol must be supervised by a qualified healthcare professional. Alcohol withdrawal can vary from a mild disorder to a serious, life-threatening condition.
Withdrawal symptoms usually appear within 12 hours of the last drink, and the symptoms peak within 48 – 72 hours. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can continue for as long as a week or more.
And some symptoms – sleep changes, rapid mood changes and fatigue may last for months. Alcohol withdrawal should be considered a serious medical condition that can quickly become life-threatening.
Are there signs and symptoms that indicate that alcoholism is an issue? Yes! Understand the symptoms that indicate that alcohol consumption is becoming or already is a problem.
There are resources available in a variety of ways that can help one deal with alcoholism stages and the serious consequences of this disease.
Alcoholism stages recommended reading…
Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp.
Journalist Knapp started drinking soon after becoming a teenager and kept drinking until checking herself into a rehab clinic at the age of 36.
While she had managed to graduate from college and have a successful career as a journalist, few people knew she had a problem with alcohol and the alcoholism stages.
Here she tells the story of the years of denial that helped her rationalize the blackouts, hangovers, broken relationships and family tensions characteristic of the alcoholic’s story.
Knapp combines her personal story with information about alcohol abuse, including frequent references to the AA meetings she has attended.