What Are the Stages of Alcoholism?
Alcohol use disorders, the correct term for alcoholism, are comprised of many layers which ultimately culminate into complete physical and psychological dependence to alcohol. The many stages of alcoholism are typically identified by the symptoms expressed in users. There is some disagreement in the number of stages alcoholism has, ranging typically from four to five accepted brackets. In short, alcohol use disorders have four unique echelons:
- Early Alcoholic
- Middle Alcoholic
- Late Alcoholic (sometimes subdivided into late and chronic alcoholism)
Although these descriptions may seem limited, with each increasing stage one with an alcohol use disorder will progressively become more dependent on alcohol as a means to function normally. Alcohol addictions may start out casually when one indulges in binge drinking, especially in social settings. The development of alcoholism typically begins with drinking to reduce stress or calm anxiety- which in turn creates a psychological dependence for alcoholic substances to achieve these effects, because those under the impression alcohol calms them down after a long day at work will continue to turn to alcohol for stress relief.
As the condition progresses, early alcoholics will begin to fear their dependence on alcohol, and will attempt to hide the number of drinks they have from their family and loved ones. At this time, one’s tolerance for alcohol will become more established, requiring more and more alcohol to become besotted, or inebriated.
In the later stages of alcohol use disorders one’s drinking problems typically become apparent to loved ones, as their addictions typically have measurable effects on their professional, home, and educational performance. Physical ailments also begin to develop in the later states of alcohol use disorders, and may include weight fluctuation and stomach bloating.
Permanent damage may manifest in the form of liver diseases, dementia, and paranoia.
The Way Alcoholics Think
Many don’t quite understand why some people just can’t stop drinking. If it’s adversely affecting one’s ability to function, maintain healthy relationships, and keep a steady job, stopping should be easy, right? Unfortunately this is not so. Alcohol use disorders are in part caused by a genetic predisposition for abuse; meaning if parents or grandparents also had substance use disorders (not limited to alcohol) the chances their children will develop substance use disorders are high. For instance, even if a teenager’s mother is a heroin addict, her predisposition for addiction may result in the eventual development of cutting- an addiction very different from her mother’s.
Addiction is hard-wired into the brain, and whatever the “addiction” is, users believe their substance of choice is the answer to cure all ailments, including psychological and physical pain. Those with alcohol use disorders, commonly referred to as alcoholics, believe alcohol is their go-to solution to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and anger. Eventually their physical dependence to the substance begins to take over, and they require alcohol to function normally and avoid withdrawal.
But how do alcoholics think?
Typically alcohol use disorders take root long before an alcoholic will acknowledge the condition. Many are in an acute state of denial, and will justify their consumption of alcohol tooth and nail. Many believe they are different from other drinkers, and will not lose their lives to alcohol, or develop the disastrous conditions which are espoused with the disease. Among the stages of alcoholism, denial is consistent throughout the disorder.
In fact, alcoholics do not typically acknowledge the profound effect alcohol may have on them psychologically. They down play that they need alcohol to relax- and insist drinking is their choice, rather than a compulsion they are compelled to satisfy. Some convince themselves of dangerous delusions, like “I drive better when I’m drunk,” or “I am happier when I’m drunk.”
If you or a loved one are experiencing any similar thinking patterns akin to those with alcohol use disorders, the time to get help is now. By getting treatment for alcoholism early on, recovering drinkers may avoid permanent damage.
Did You Know?
Untreated alcohol use disorders precipitate cell death in the left lobe of the hemisphere which is responsible for logic. Additionally, alcohol forces premature aging, and can result in the loss of 10 years of life. Getting treatment now can avoid the need for seniors and older adults alcoholism treatment.
Stages of Alcoholism
To identify the stages of alcoholism look for the following telltale signs:
I. Early Stages of Alcoholism
- Early exhibition of drinking to relieve stress
- Exceeding 3 drinks in an hour
- Exceeding 7 drinks every week
- Developing cravings for alcohol
- Ceasing to spend time in social settings where alcohol cannot be purchased
- Ability to ingest large amounts of alcohol without signs of inebriation
- May feel depressed or anxious without drinking
- Asserts drinking is a choice (this is the stage wherein an intervention is most effective)
II. Middle Stages of Alcoholism
- Decline in professional and academic performance
- Drinking at inappropriate times; driving, child rearing, at work
- Mood swings; irritability; profuse arguing
- Attempts to stop drinking are ineffective
- Physical development of symptoms: facial redness, stomach bloating
III. End Stage Alcoholism
- Withdrawal is apparent when not drinking
- Drinking in seclusion
- Development of liver disorders and other health effects
- Job loss
- Organ failure
- Delirium Tremens
Symptoms of Alcohol Withdrawal
When alcohol use disorders are in full swing, abstaining from drinking causes many adverse side effects. Without going to alcohol detox at an accredited addiction treatment center, recovery may be compromised, and even result in death, as alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances to withdrawal from. It’s critical those with alcohol use disorders seek treatment immediately to avoid potentially fatal complications and successful recovery.
The following are the common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal:
- Body tremors, convulsions
- Delirium Tremens
- Chronic headaches
- Heightened heart rate
- Auditory, visual,and tactile hallucinations
- Aggression and irritability
- Waking nightmares
Getting Alcohol Addiction Treatment for the Stages of Alcoholism
No matter what stage of alcohol abuse you find yourself in, alcohol addiction treatment will help prevent detrimental effects to your health. During treatment, recovering drinkers learn to become powerful and effective communicators to help allay the underlying causes of addiction. By remedying underlying feelings of depression, anger, self loathing, and laden traumas, the need to depend upon alcohol can be eliminated.
During alcohol addiction treatment users work hand in hand with addiction counselors to redress the physical dependence and psychological dependence to alcohol.