Trusted Content

Stages Of Alcoholism

Joseph Sitarik, DO

Medically reviewed by

Joseph Sitarik, DO

February 28, 2019

More than half of Americans, 12 or older, have reported being ongoing alcohol consumers. Drinking in excess can lead to serious health consequences that include: liver damage, heart disease, hypertension, and fetal damage in pregnant women. Know the stages of alcoholism can help individuals recognize a drinking problem in a loved one and help get them the treatment that they need.

The stages of alcoholism can be put into three specific categories, and each stage should be taken seriously to prevent further developments. The stages are: early stage, middle stage, and end stage alcoholism or late stage alcoholism. Each one of these stages can take many, many years to come into the light. If early stages are caught, it can prevent the disease from spreading into deeper problems.

When alcoholic beverage consumption is creating havoc with physical, mental, social, occupational, and family interactions, then the disease of alcoholism is in play. In order to properly treat individuals before the late stages, one must recognize the signs early on. Alcoholism, a chronic brain disorder, causes more death than every drug addiction combined. In order to help prevent the final stages, there must be well-educated, licensed therapists, nurses, counselors, and physicians to step in and provide necessary treatments.

What Are The Stages of Alcoholism?

Early Stage

The beginning of the road to alcoholism starts with a person developing the need for alcohol to alter their mood. When problems arise, they reach for a drink to give them relief from their day-to-day issues. In doing so, their mind begins to reflect on alcohol more and more. Many times friends and family don’t even pinpoint that these individuals are in the early stages of alcoholism.

At this point, a slow trickle of tolerance starts to happen. Each time they need a mood change, their alcohol intake needs to be upped. This is the only way to create the euphoric effects they desire. Many times the person will consume heaping amounts of alcohol without seemingly being affected by it. Like stepping into a freezing lake, the body adapts to the slow increases of alcohol. This creates a “smoke and mirror” effect, making it seem as if the body is improved when alcohol is consumed.

The early stages will make it easy for said person to walk in a straight line, talk normally, or even think coherently without an issue. If left untreated, however, with continual alcohol consumption, the body starts to lose its capacity to function under high alcohol levels. If the individual ceases to drink large amounts, their blood alcohol level dips, and so does their thinking, talking, and walking functions, which will bring them into the next stage.

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Middle Stage

When an individual reaches this stage, the need to drink kicks into overdrive. Consuming earlier in the day, and larger amounts, happens much more frequently. At this point, the alcoholic is trying to grasp control over their drinking, but the body isn’t processing the consumption as well as it did in the early stage of alcoholism.

Now, the body’s tolerance has dipped downward, and they become easily intoxicated. When alcohol isn’t flowing in the blood, withdrawal symptoms show their ugly face. The individual may realize, under the surface, that they have a drinking problem, and other people may begin to pick up on it.

At this stage, the addicted individual is no longer capable of judging wisely how much their body can take. In order to avoid the deep, inner turmoil the drinker has, they will deny that they have any issues with alcoholism. Day-to-day the alcohol-addicted person is now experiencing physical symptoms such as hangovers, blackouts, and stomach problems. Soon, the middle stage of alcohol addiction is met with the end stage.

End Stages

At this stage, the alcoholic has jumped into a fast-moving stream, over which the individual has little control and becomes increasingly obsessed with drinking. Everything they do is tainted by the consumption of alcohol. At this point, loved ones, coworkers, and even strangers can tell there is a definite issue.

In the late stages of alcoholism, the physical and mental health of the drinker are being gravely torn down. The organs of the alcoholic have been damaged, creating an open door to disease. In every area of the individual’s life (family, social interactions, occupation, and financial) are becoming greatly damaged. The alcoholic, in this stage, will be undernourished as the alcohol affects digestion and the flow of nutrients into the bloodstream. The liver functions have been severely damaged, creating increased issues with nutrients aiding the body.

Each damaged cell, at the end stage, is no longer getting the correct amount of nutrients and can no longer repair itself in the way it was designed. Thus, the deterioration continues to unfold. As the nutritional damage remains, it creates linked issues. For instance, a deficiency of vitamin B-1, which is common in alcoholics, will create a loss of clear thinking appetite, fatigue, and emotional problems.

If drinking continues, the alcohol-addicted individual will have damaged much of their former selves. He may have hallucinations, grow afraid easily, and lash out from imagined aggressors. At this point, the body’s nervous system is under deep stress. If not treated, up to 25 percent of cases of alcoholism will lead to death.

In the final stages, the body can no longer handle low blood alcohol, and the accompanying symptoms, become increasingly agonizing. No longer able to hide the limit of their consumption, the alcoholic has to keep up with their body’s need to keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay. Suicide, accidents, and other injuries are commonplace as the body is under such strain.

Find Help Now For Alcoholism

Alcoholism affects all kinds of people. If you or a loved one is experiencing the different stages of alcoholism, reach out for a helping hand. Contact us today at for more information and help in getting the alcohol treatment you deserve.

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