Chronic Alcoholism: What It Is and How to Get Help
Alcoholism progresses over time and through various stages, with the most severe stage commonly known as chronic alcoholism. Understanding the different types is crucial to recognizing the effects of alcohol and if professional treatment is needed.
In this article:
- Types of Alcoholism
- Dangerous Effects of Chronic Alcoholism
- How to Cure Chronic Alcoholism
- How to Find the Best Treatment
Types of Alcoholism
The types of alcoholism identify different groups based on age, drinking patterns, and behaviors.1 The subtypes are:
- Young adult
- Young antisocial
- Intermediate familial
- Chronic severe
If you or anyone you know is suffering from any type of alcoholism, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to discuss your rehab options with a caring treatment advisor.
Young Adult Subtype
A young adult subtype of alcoholism refers to the late-teen or early-twenties person who participates in binge drinking. Binge drinking consists of a male consuming five or more drinks in two hours and a female consuming four or more drinks in the same time frame. Binge drinking ultimately raises the blood alcohol level to above .08%, which is the legal limit.
Most young adults feel binge drinking is a rite of passage, a way to reduce stress, a social event, and ultimately, harmless. This is true for many, especially the drinkers who have not inherited the alcoholic gene. The more mature a person becomes, the less binge drinking occurs.
However, some have the alcoholic gene and an environment that does not support sobriety. Because the brain doesn’t stop developing until the mid-to-late twenties, continued drinking may move them into the next category.
Young Antisocial Subtype
The young antisocial subtype refers to alcohol drinkers in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties. Alcohol offers relief for reasons other than just relaxing and being social. Many in this group drink alcohol to feel happier and lower social anxiety, making it easier to meet new people and engage in social activities.
This is a critical sign that there are likely some underlying mental health disorders appearing, like anxiety, depression, poor impulse control, and bipolar disorder. Alcoholism often accompanies by mental illness. Drinking alcohol can become a form of self-medication among this group.
This type of alcoholism is not yet interfering regularly with completing work duties and taking care of home responsibilities.
A lack of treatment during this time frame can encourage a move into the functional alcoholic group.
A functional subtype is typically middle-aged drinkers who consume alcohol regularly yet still function at work and home. They appear to have the perfect life to those looking in from the outside.
Because they can maintain success in all areas of their life and don’t need to drink every day, the functional alcoholic finds it difficult to recognize they have a problem. They likely struggle with other mental health issues and find alcohol subsides those symptoms.
The more they drink, though, the more likely they will find themselves in the intermediate familial group.
Intermediate Familial Subtype
In this type of alcoholism, the intermediate familial drinker struggles with mental illness, self-medicates with alcohol, and possibly uses other substances like cigarettes, marijuana, or prescription pills. They may have other family members struggling with addiction.
Going days without drinking has become a problem at this stage, which also appears during the middle-ages. Slowly, alcoholism is interfering with other areas of life. The consequences of drinking are starting to create problems financially, at work, and in personal relationships. Yet, it is too hard to stop because the body is physically and psychologically dependent.
Eventually, alcoholism becomes chronic and severe.
Chronic Severe Subtype
Reaching the stage of severe alcoholism means relationships are falling apart, productivity at work is declining, legal problems are increasing, and health is failing.
It is imperative to seek treatment for the severe chronic subtype due to the dangerous effects long-term alcohol abuse can create.
If you or someone you love is dealing with alcoholism, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak to a treatment advisor about your rehab options.
Dangerous Effects of Chronic Alcoholism
Chronic alcoholism affects all areas of life. There are both short-term and long-term risks associated with alcohol abuse, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.2
Before chronic alcoholism leads to serious health effects or even death, get help. Call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to speak to a treatment advisor and get yourself into rehab today.
Below are details on the damaging effects of alcohol on the mind, body, relationships, and even the community.
The physiological effects of chronic alcoholism refer to the damage done to the body. No one who continually drinks alcohol experiences improved, positive outcomes.
Short-term effects of alcohol on the body include loss of coordination that can lead to falls and injuries. Vomiting from drinking too much can damage the esophagus. Further, impaired vision, elevated blood pressure, reduced core temperature can occur.
Chronic alcoholism weakens the immune system over time, leaving your body vulnerable to disease.
Long-term effects can include alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis of the liver, stroke, and heart disease. Alcoholism is associated with cancers of the throat, mouth, larynx, and esophagus. Alcohol can damage the stomach lining, producing more acid that causes pain and impairing digestion. It also inflames the pancreas, weakens bones, and interferes with reproduction processes.
All the seemingly minor symptoms you felt, in the beginning, become more intense with chronic alcoholism.
Short-term psychological symptoms of alcoholism include memory problems, trouble concentrating, poor judgment, and mood swings.
Over time, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can traumatize the brain. The gray and white matter in the brain dramatically diminishes, leading to memory loss and an inability to stay focused. Chronic alcoholism makes learning challenging and leads to induced psychiatric disorders.
Co-occurring disorders are common among those with chronic alcoholism. Meaning, addiction is accompanied by mental illness.
Early in addiction, relationships may not be affected too much. Occasional arguments may happen, but reconciliation is easy. Before long, it becomes harder to give personal relationships the attention they deserve because alcohol becomes the number one priority.
Chronic alcoholism can destroy friendships and family bonds. Behaviors needed to maintain an addiction are often hurtful to friends and family. Stealing, lying, cheating, and abandoning loved ones becomes necessary to continue drinking alcohol at this dangerous stage.
Functional alcoholics find a way to succeed at work and still rely on alcohol. Not forever, though. A functioning alcoholic can quickly move into chronic alcoholism.
Behaviors like skipping important meetings, missing deadlines, recovering from hangovers, and making excuses to co-workers and the boss are common. Eventually, you lose the job. Because it is too difficult to stop drinking at this point, obtaining new employment can’t happen.
Financial woes set in and cause further damage.
Many chronic alcoholics will say their drinking doesn’t affect anyone else. That’s not true, especially when learning about DUI statistics provided by the Department of Transportation.3
In the United States, one person dies every 52 minutes from drunk driving.
There are even more haunting statistics.4 Two out of 3 people will be involved in a drunk driving crash at some point in their life. Young adults between the ages of 21 and 24 make up 27% of drunk drivers. This group is followed by those who are between 25 and 34.
Also, the older a person is, the more impaired they are when stopped for a DUI.
Sadly, 17% of deaths of children under the age of 14 involve alcohol in some way.
Effects of chronic alcoholism in any area of life will begin improving when you decide to stop drinking. But to do this, don’t quit cold turkey. Stopping drinking alcohol when the body has been dependent on it for years is dangerous. It can lead to seizures and fatalities, depending on how the body’s organs respond to a lack of alcohol. Plus, the withdrawal symptoms can be devastating.
Instead, follow the plan detailed below. It is a proven way not only to quit drinking but to maintain life-long sobriety.
How to Cure Chronic Alcoholism
Detoxification is the first step in your journey to stop drinking. This must take place under medical supervision since alcohol withdrawal can cause serious problems. Detox in an addiction treatment facility allows a doctor to provide medicine to help cope with negative withdrawal symptoms, making it easier to focus on the second step, inpatient rehab.
For long-term sobriety, treatment and education provide more significant results. Inpatient rehab is where you learn why you became a chronic alcoholic and the skills necessary to maintain recovery. It gives you a place to practice new sober skills, gain support from peers and professionals, and allow your brain to heal.
Once inpatient rehab is complete, treatment options become modified to meet your needs. Intensive outpatient, outpatient, sober living, and support groups are a few options.
The key to success is to spend as much time in treatment as possible. The more distance you put between you and alcohol, the more capable you become of overcoming addiction.
How to Find the Best Treatment
Every treatment facility can have different programs, making it seem harder to choose the right one. It doesn’t have to be complicated, though, and you have more choice than you may think.
Treat it like hiring someone to help you with an important project—interview the call center counselors.
Here are some sample interview questions:
- How does the program treat chronic alcoholism?
- Does the program treat family members too so that I won’t be returning to a negative environment when I go home?
- What is the program’s daily schedule?
- Does the program offer medication assistance to help with withdrawal symptoms?
- Does the program treat mental health issues as well as addiction to alcohol?
- How long do the programs last?
- What types of activities supplement the program? Are there holistic or alternative therapies available?
- Is follow-up care available?
- How much does the program cost? Are insurances accepted? Are scholarships available?
Before you begin interviewing treatment facilities, make a list of questions. Then, make the call or reach out online. You can also check out reviews online or talk to people who have completed programs.
If you are struggling with chronic alcoholism or any other type, give us a call 800-839-1686Who Answers?.
Counselors are available 24/7 to answer all the questions on your list. You do not have to wait another day to start reversing the damages chronic alcoholism has had in your life, and you don’t have to do this alone. We are here for you. From medicated-assisted detox through successful completion of the program, we can help.
- National Institutes of Health. (2007). News release: Researchers identify alcoholism subtypes.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Alcohol use and your health.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (2019). Drunk driving.
- Kopestinsky, A. (2021). Policy advice: 18 drunk driving statistics that will make you sober.