Stages of Alcoholism [Guide]

Stages of alcoholism

Table of Contents

The Early Stage of Alcoholism

To be classified as an alcoholic, you need to have symptoms associated with the early stage.  Though it is called an early stage, the risks here can still be damaging. One of the detriments in the early stage is that it can go unnoticed by you and the people around you.  Because early-stage alcoholism can go unnoticed, you’ll be able to drink freely and develop a higher tolerance for alcohol. 

 A higher tolerance will lead you to drink more often while remaining functional.  In this stage, you won’t appear to have difficulties with everyday duties while you’re drinking.   

There are, however, a few detectable symptoms in the early stage. 

  • Drinking to cope with your problems. Self-medicating with alcohol for things like anxiety or depression is a clear sign of a problem.
  • Needing more alcohol to get drunk. As your tolerance grows, you’ll need to drink more.
  • Blacking out.  Blackouts happen when too much alcohol has been consumed.  Frequent blackouts are a sign of dangerous drinking habits.
  • Hiding your habit.  Even if you don’t know you have a problem, hiding your drinking is a subconscious clue that you know something is wrong.
  • Alcohol consumes your thoughts. The more alcoholism grips you, the more you’ll spend time thinking about your next drink.
  • Planning around drinking. When you begin planning your activities around whether you can drink, it might be time to get help.

If you have any of these symptoms, you might be in the early stage of alcoholism. It’s never too early to get help, even in the early stage.  Pursuing help now can save you from progressing to the next stages of alcoholism: the middle.

If you want help with alcoholism, we can find it for you

The Middle Stage of Alcoholism

The middle stage of alcoholism is where problems start to arise in your life. Your ability to function day-to-day deteriorates.  In the early stage, you could drink and maintain your responsibilities – no one was the wiser.  Once you’ve progressed to the middle stage, your performance at school or work will begin to wane.

This performance drop can come in many forms.  Your absences might pile up, you might find yourself at odds with coworkers, and your personal hygiene might suffer.  Additionally, you’ll start to have cravings when you go too long without a drink.

While it’s much easier to see you have a problem at this stage, here are some symptoms to look for.

  • Consistently drinking. Even if it’s not planned, you’ll find yourself in a daily routine of drinking.
  • Drinking when you wake. If you’ve replaced coffee with alcohol, you’re probably in the middle stage of alcoholism.
  • Playing mind tricks. Once you’ve noticed you have a problem, you might begin to make deals with yourself to limit your drinking.  This can make you think you’re not as bad as you are.
  • Personality changes. Alcoholism leads to personality changes and drastic mood swings.
  • Breaking promises. This can be in a personal or professional setting.  Either way, you’re breaking promises to drink.
  • Denying there’s a problem. Any time the subject of your alcoholism comes up, you flat deny that you have a problem no matter the evidence.

Of the stages of alcoholism, the middle stage is a great place to get help.  Getting sober now can save you from the end stage of alcoholism.

The End Stage of Alcoholism

The final of stages of alcoholism is the end stage. This is the end of the road in the progression of alcoholism. Most of what you will experience in the end stage directly links to a significant decline in physical and mental health.  You have completely lost control because you have become obsessed, and your body needs alcohol. 

End-stage alcoholism has such an intense hold over your body that you’ll need to drink to perform your daily activities. It could be the only way you’re able to fall asleep.  With late-stage alcoholism, you might not even be sleeping – you could be passing out.  

Trying to quit drinking at this stage is difficult.  Your body has gotten so dependent on alcohol that you’ll suffer painful withdrawal symptoms.  This can include shakiness and tremors, vomiting, agitation, and sometimes even psychosis or seizures.  When coming off alcohol in this stage, it’s best to do it under medical supervision.

At this point, not getting treatment at this stage could cost you your life.  You’re prone to a host of dangerous medical conditions from drinking: heart failure, fatty liver, hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, malnutrition, pancreatitis, respiratory infections, delirium, hallucinations, and brain damage. 

However, since alcoholism has taken full control in this stage, you may not be receptive to treatment, even if you are aware of what’s at stake. If you believe you’ve reached this level of alcoholism, do not feel hopeless.

  Alcohol addiction treatment programs will be able to treat you even if you are at this stage.  Many people have been at this stage and have fully recovered, so there is no need for you to feel like it’s impossible to recover.   

Understanding Excessive Drinking and Its Risks

Regardless of the stages of alcoholism, you may find yourself in, you should know the dangers of excessive drinking.  Heavy drinking is defined as more than four or more drinks on a given day.  

Binge drinking also leads to excessive drinking, which is defined as consuming multiple drinks in a given hour: four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men. 

 It should be noted that excessive drinking doesn’t necessarily have to be a regular intake of alcohol every day; it could mean drinking a lot on one particular occasion.  In either case, frequent excessive drinking is the start of the early stage of alcoholism.  

Excessive drinking is responsible for a high quantity of deaths in the United States.  Excessive drinking is responsible for 88,000 deaths in the United States each year, including 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults (age 20-64 years).

  It also accounts for a staggering amount of financial costs in the economy.  In 2006, the estimated economic cost to the United States was $224 billion. 

It can be shocking to see how damaging excessive drinking can be overall.  By getting treatment, you are not only keeping yourself alive, which is most important, but you are helping in the reduction of economic spending. Even if you don’t think you’re in any of the stages of alcoholism, you should always be wary of too much drinking.

It’s Never too Late to Recover

If you are still unsure which of the stages of alcoholism you are in, that’s okay. Self-diagnosing isn’t recommended – it can lead you to underestimate the dangers of your lifestyle. 

 Instead, if you feel like you might be in any of the stages of alcoholism, consider reaching out for help. Addiction is a powerful beast to struggle with, and there’s no shame in admitting you need help in the battle.

There’s no reason to suffer alone.  If you or someone you love is struggling with alcoholism, call us today at 1-888-906-0952.  We have a vast network of treatment options and professionals ready to help you.  A happy, healthy future is within your grasp – you only have to reach out.

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