Stages of Alcoholism: Symptoms of Early, Chronic & End Stages

However, if a person has an attachment to drinking, such as relying on it to “have a good time,” they may develop problematic drinking habits and eventually develop an AUD. If alcohol dependence sets in, it will likely be more difficult to stop drinking because of the presence of withdrawal symptoms and possibly cravings for alcohol. The most common warning sign of alcoholism is a change in drinking pattern or behaviors.

As others begin to realize you may have a drinking problem, you start to realize it too, although you may still be in denial. You begin hiding your drinking habits from friends and family members, spiking your coffee or soda, hiding empty bottles throughout your home, and lying about your whereabouts when you’re out drinking. During end-stage alcoholism, a person may struggle with involuntary rapid eye movement (nystagmus) or weakness and paralysis of the eye muscles due to thiamin (vitamin B1) deficiency.

What is considered 1 drink?

Early-stage alcoholism is the beginning of the person’s chronic use and pathway to abusing alcohol. Studies investigating the effects of low-dose alcohol (i.e., less than 10 mM) on the brain also are of interest. Regardless of which stage of alcoholism you or a loved one may be in, it’s still possible to get your lives back on track to sobriety. Males who drink more than 15 alcoholic beverages a week, and females who drink more than 12 drinks a week are more likely to get addicted to liquor. Their body may begin to rely on the artificial influx of neurochemicals to feel normal.

  • We’ll explore what’s the difference between the various stages, as well as what it means to be an alcoholic.
  • Treating the alcohol use disorder, along with the health problems caused by chronic, heavy drinking, may be possible.
  • If you’re concerned about someone who drinks too much, ask a professional experienced in alcohol treatment for advice on how to approach that person.
  • Some chronic alcoholics develop a condition called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which results from a thiamine (vitamin B-1) deficiency.
  • The person struggling with alcoholism is rarely without a drink but thinks no one notices.
  • The body can become distressed even when a person stops drinking for a short time.

However, during the end stage, the addiction has taken over, and the person may no longer be able to control their drinking impulses. Repeated exposure to alcohol contributes to liver damage through several parallel processes. Alcohol exposure increases gut permeability, leading to leakage of microbes and microbial products, including lipopolysaccharides, into the liver and into circulation. The altered balance between NADH and the oxidized form of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) results in oxidative stress that also damages host tissue.

The 3 Stages of Alcoholism

The presence of scar tissue also impairs the body’s ability to clean toxins from the blood, control infections, process nutrients, and absorb cholesterol and certain vitamins. In addition to chronic health diseases and conditions, persons in the end stage of alcohol abuse may be at a heightened risk of falls and other accidents due to balance and coordination problems. Most often, when death occurs after a fall, it is due to bleeding in the brain and not the fall itself.

For a person who drinks occasionally, this adaptation is distinct and temporary. But for a person who drinks heavily, the body adapts the majority of the time. This can make it more difficult to show the effects of intoxication. Eventually, their tissue cells may become dependent on alcohol to function normally. A person with early-stage alcoholism may also exhibit a high tolerance to alcohol.

DNA damage

When the normally high level of alcohol in a person’s body begins to drop, they may feel physically ill. They may only feel well when they maintain a consistent level of alcohol in their bloodstream. When casual drinkers move into early-stage alcoholism, their tolerance begins to rise. They may appear to maintain coordination and motor skills to some degree. A person with a higher tolerance may not look intoxicated, despite drinking a large amount of alcohol. Others who have had less to drink may look more intoxicated than a person with a high tolerance.

3 stages of alcoholism

Understanding what the stages of alcohol addiction look like can help you or a loved one decide whether rehab treatment is necessary. When a person with alcoholism reaches end stage alcoholism, they have reached a point that is dramatically different from the initial stages. During the early stages of the disease, the person may drink heavily and may experience hangovers in between drinking episodes.

Speaking with a healthcare or mental health professional can be a positive first step. They can recommend treatment for AUD, which may include medications and behavioral therapies. A person with severe How to Stop Drinking Out of Boredom: Tips and Advice for a Sober Life in 2023 Lantana Recovery: Addiction Treatment Rehab Center AUD will almost always experience symptoms of withdrawal when the alcohol in their body begins to wear off. Healthcare and mental health professionals may describe this stage as severe AUD.

  • During the late alcoholism stage, the mental and physical health of the alcoholic are seriously deteriorating.
  • Men, due to their physiological differences from women, are considered to be at risk if they partake in more than four drinks a day or more than 14 per week.
  • People at the end-stages of alcoholism will need a tremendous amount of care at an alcohol addiction treatment center to recover.
  • Support groups can be a highly effective form of help at this stage.
  • A review of the 11 factors set forth in the DSM-5 regarding severe alcohol use disorder (i.e., the presence of six or more factors) provides additional insight into this condition.

Despite efforts to hide their addiction, their drinking problem is quite obvious to others. Work performance usually suffers at this stage, and impairment in the workplace is common. Middle-stage alcoholics may become irritable or angry if confronted about their drinking. Mood swings, depression and feelings of guilt and shame are common. As alcohol consumption increases, the liver adapts to break down alcohol more quickly. Over time, repeated alcohol exposure also alters a person’s brain chemistry.

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